"EULOGY" Delivered by Michael's wife at his funeral
Eternal rest….hmmmm….Michael Kennedy ….eternal rest…. No, not fitting at all! Michael was not one for resting…and I can tell you now that even though he’s moved to the next spiritual realm he is not sitting down and he is certainly not lying down!
Michael loved life and it’s surprises, it’s twists and turns ...he was passionate about baking bread, growing a garden, looking after the bees, singing, cycling, teaching, bush walking, potting, woodworking and taking photographs of our beautiful bushland treasures. His gift lay in ‘making’ and ‘creating’ in the physical world and this allowed him to be truly present and grounded when searching for meaning in his song writing…the words that made his music live and breathe amongst us all.
And how appropriate it is that we are gathered here today on Agitation Hill. This place reminds us of the stirrings in Michael.
Michael was extremely passionate about politics, spirituality and social justice. There was no such thing as mundane conversation at our kitchen table! Grappling with ideas and turning the world on it’s head was all part of a nights conversation!
Michael took his vote very seriously and would be quite miffed that he can’t vote in future elections. Election time was always a very tense affair at home. Michael would pace up and down, suddenly announce that he couldn’t listen any more, but then would return to his seat half an hour later. There would be grimacing, swearing and then hopefully elation given a good result. However as you know, historically…there hasn’t been a lot of elation.
When the conservatives were in, a fury would flow in Michael’s veins and songs would burst forth. Thank goodness for Folk Festivals! Michael detested conservative views, locally, nationally and internationally. Views that didn’t let humanity in, views that served the rich instead of those in need, views that put ‘progress’ before ‘people’. Michael was here and still will be here, to challenge our thinking, push us to question and search for our humanity in all situations. Michael was not relaxed with the status quo or how things ‘should be’ and was in endless pursuit of what was real, what was life giving and life affirming. If anyone was privileged enough to see Michael’s performance of ‘Til the Fire Comes’ a few years back at the National Folk Festival, you would have felt the power of Michael’s spirit calling for a better time.
As you can no doubt appreciate, writing about Michael is not an easy task….he has never been easily captured and can’t be pinned down by words or images…he was many different things to many different people….however, we’ll give it a go….
Bryan and Mary’s son. Damian, Kathryn and Carmel’s little brother. Eating his mum’s much loved lamingtons and Sunday roast. Cycling to school, around that Echuca cycling track, training every night and beyond for cycling competitions….a medal winner! Ballroom dancing…more medals! His favourite pastimes were drawing with pencils and paper, listening to 1970’s music – ‘Fox on the Run’ an absolute favourite. Watching the cricket and the Tour De France were mandatory and of course playing his guitar. Heading to Launching Place to see his Gran at his most favourite place on earth….the farm. Collecting the eggs. Playing in the hay shed. Fishing in the Little Yarra. Eating trout for tea…cooked up lovingly by his beautiful Gran. Tinkering away in the shed with Damian. Doing up the EH ute from the chassis up. Being outside from dawn to dusk. Mary remembers that every evening before dark, Michael took a moment for himself outside, to think…to reflect…
Michael’s amazing hands. A dedicated artist who had command of the wheel and the beautiful shaping of clay. The building of kilns, wood firing, salt glazing. A practice that possessed him as a young man and that followed him relentlessly throughout his life…a symbol of his connection to the earth.
Michael so admired artistic form and function. In older furniture, the shellac had to be removed to reveal the beautiful wood underneath. Creating with wood was very important to him. He loved the process and intricacies of guitar making and could be found in the back shed well into the wee hours…stripping back, sanding, carving and polishing.
Michael brought great wisdom to the classroom. He insisted on challenging his students…in their thinking and in their actions, especially in Religious Education! He provoked, questioned, supported and guided. Although he has been away from teaching for quite a few years a great many students from the Sacred Heart Days still keep in touch with him. A testament to the power of his teaching and what he meant to his students.
Michael’s empathy for others who were suffering, treated unfairly or cruelly ran deep. His songs were in support of others and their plight… farmers in drought, the Yorta Yorta, seekers of asylum, the East Timorese… the list goes on…and through song he continues to be an advocate for the land and the abundance it offers us.
The voice. The voice… that lifts us, the words that shape us. A voice for our humanity, a voice for the Earth. Michael’s presence on stage when he sang was masterful, beautiful and silenced us all. When he sang he brought us closer to God. How lucky we are.
The Family Man.
As a couple Michael and I travelled to Ireland. We walked the length of Falls Road in Belfast with an ex P.O.W from the H blocks, explored the stillness of the Burren, Michael sang acapella at a Singers session at Spancil Hill Pub in County Clare, we searched through cemeteries in County Leitrim and Tipperary to find family of old and experienced the wonder of celtic catholic traditions. Such a meaningful trip for Michael that he spoke about often whether on stage or with friends and family.
Welcomed into my family Michael and I married and later we became the proud parents of a beautiful daughter. Living in the Australian bushland was a dream come true for Michael…a quiet place that brought a freedom for thinking, writing and loving his family.
A Gracious Man.
Michael treated everyone he met with respect and kindness… he found people and their worlds fascinating …he had a great ability to listen to their story and remember it years afterwards. He was always first to hear ‘how you were’ or hear about ‘what you’ve been up to’….his own news always secondary.
Michael’s most used words were ‘thank you’. There was little point in trying to thank him…he just wouldn’t have it! And by God didn’t we all try! Ten years ago when he received a double lung transplant he began to awaken in intensive care at the Alfred hospital. His eyes were still closed and he could not speak but he took my hand and with his finger wrote thank you into my palm over and over again and pointed towards the nurses and doctors that stood working beside his hospital bed. Throughout the last months of his life he would not stop thanking his family and his friends. Michael would like to thank you right now for being here and for being a part of his story.
So Michael our dear and generous friend, it is time to thank you and honour who you have been for each of us….
You have always listened intently to our stories, now it’s time for your story to be told…. to go out into the world…. for your music and words to live on. We love you and we will miss you. That little bit of cheek, your wit, your insights, your intellect, your poetry, your voice and your spirit.
In the last days there were prayer circles praying, singing for a miracle…but in the intensity of those moments we had forgotten that the miracle was before us….Michael was and is the miracle, reminding us to live well…to live our lives fearlessly, passionately and not take for granted, each and every breath.
Carla J Kennedy