The Koch family volunteered with Palms in Fiji during 2003 and 2004. Those at their Orientation Course might remember the participation of the Darren and Jenni. They will certainly remember that of their children. Emily at age 14 shared deeply and intelligently in every session.
From 2005, not long after returning to Australia, until April 30 2009, the family battled with the leukaemia that invaded Emily’s body. Emily however always attempted to look beyond herself as her father’s eulogy to her below testifies.
It was last week when we heard that the Leukaemia was back. Em and I were sitting in her lounge room.
“Dying really sucks,” she said.
She said, “You know I’m really disappointed, because I wanted to be Great.”
I said, “But I think you are Great!”
She gave me an irritated laugh and said, “No, Dad… I mean really great! Like Martin Luther King or Veronica Guerin or Jesus!”
“Well… Darl… Jesus is out of your league. But the others were great because they were who they were… just like you”
Emily was not Martin Luther King. She was just a kid who had dreams she wasn’t able to live out. She wanted to make the world a better place. She was passionate about the environment and the poor in the third world.
But she was a pain in the arse about it!
At Uni she learned that the farming of meat does more damage to the environment than cereal crops. Also if humans didn’t eat so much meat, there’d be lots more food to feed the hungry.
So once she moved out of home, she turned vegetarian.
I mean she loved meat, but took it on with her usual earnestness. The trouble was, when she had to move home at the beginning of last year, it meant that Jen and I had to cook a separate vegetarian meal for Em.
Emily also did a thing called “compacting.”
In other words except for food, toiletries and underwear, she only used second hand things. As you can imagine the op shops did a roaring trade.
Oh my God! Have you any idea how hard it is to find a second hand washing up brush? Jen and I resorted to secretly buying new things and bringing them to her house. Whatever you do… don’t tell the eco-Nazi!
As a parent, you always want to live your live vicariously through your children.
Many times this year, I wanted Emily and Dub (Emily’s husband) to buy a car so they could go for drives together. You know drive out in the country… park somewhere …
Em would say, “Driving a car just for entertainment damages the environment for no reason. We can take public transport.”
She drove me nuts!
I want to tell you another story. This happened in 2006. The Leukaemia had returned after the bone marrow transplant and once more it looked like Em was about to die in the next few weeks. At that time I was praying for a miracle.
We were driving along Cranbourne road and Em said, “Dad, maybe I should just stop sooking and suck it up… I mean Jesus didn’t complain at Gethsemane.”
Well firstly, Jesus did so sook at Gethsemane. And secondly if God thought Jesus had a sook, he ain’t seen nothing yet. I intend to sook all the way to my bloody grave. No one’s going to get me to carry my cross up to Calvary. I’ll be clinging on to every light pole saying No…. NO… NOO!
Of course I didn’t say that. As a parent you’ve got to try to have a little bit of dignity sometimes.
I said, “Darl, I’m not praying because I don’t want you to die… I mean everybody dies. I honestly believe that you’re important. I think your life can make a big difference in the world. I think we need you.”
I’d said this before and she was ready for me. She said, “Maybe by my dying, other people will start living their lives differently. Maybe people will start to care.”
I didn’t say anything. But she would have seen my mouth. We’re not going to change. We didn’t change when Jesus died. We didn’t change when Martin Luther King was murdered. We didn’t change when Mother Teresa poured out her life for love. We’re not going to change just because some teenage girl dies of a disease.
But… I was thinking this week… How am I going to live without her?
And I thought… I think I might eat less meat. I mean I’m still eating meat! Don’t get me wrong! But instead of buying 350grams of mince, I’ll buy 300grams.
And maybe I’ll buy less crap at the shop and buy second hand things instead.
And maybe…Oh I love driving my car and I hate public transport… But maybe I can drive a little bit less and walk if it’s close enough.
Thank you Darren and Jenni. Emily was great and we are proud at Palms to have shared some of her life’s journey.