On 22nd January while fans gathered in the Hard Rock Cafes in various cities of the world or linked together on the Internet, Rhett, Mandy, other close relatives, Andrew and Shelley Farriss, Tim Farriss, Kirk Pengilly and Garry and Jodie Beers were arriving at Kell and Susie’s Sydney apartment. After drinks and re-introductions to Erana, and some final planning with the minister, the party made their way down to the harbour side jetty where they were joined by others including Jimmy Barnes and his wife Jane, Jenny Morris, Michele Bennett, Richard Lowenstein, Kell’s sister Iris Croy Magee, Michael’s cousin from England, Sonya Hutchence, Paul Ellis, Greg Perano (Michael’s close friend), INXS tour manager David Edwards, Paul Horton, Andrew Young, Gary Grant, Tony Woodall (Michael’s personal security man), long-time friend Hiraani (whose name Tiger bears) and John Clapham. Fishermen arriving at the jetty could hardly have realized the significance of the gathering before them as sun-glassed mourners, unnoticed, quietly boarded the vessel that would carry Michael’s ashes to a final resting place.
Kell was not sure where to locate the boat to carry out the service but as they solemnly headed off out of Rose Bay he saw that the wind was fairly brisk and as they passed the point of the Vaucluse Peninsula, he asked the skipper to turn right and go into the lee of the hills away from the wind and there luckily he spotted a mooring right opposite Milk Beach near to where Michael had once considered purchasing a house. He loved Australia and particularly the beauty of Sydney Harbour. The Pastor called the group to the bow of the boat. Rhett held Michael’s ashes in a beautifully fashioned wooden urn, made from the same timber as Michael’s casket. There was an awkwardness in the silence as the mourners gradually made their way out from the vessel’s cabin.
The Pastor was the first to speak, welcoming the group and re-assuring them that this was to be a sacred and special time. “I didn’t know Michael like you know him”, he said “And so I have given a lot of thought as to what I can tell you. I thought it best that I tell you what I really believe Michael would want me to say… so I want to tell you what heaven is like and how you find your way there.” The Pastor continued through a series of humorous INXS anecdotes, illustrating what heaven was like and not like. He referred to a man who two thousand years ago, was about to die and cross over into the spiritual world. He wanted to comfort his closest friends and so he said,
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going… I am the way, the truth and the life. John 14:1-3, 6 (NIV)
He firstly referred to a story told by Tim. The band were in Australia travelling to an outback gig in a light aircraft. The pilot had forgotten his maps, they had lost their way and so they were trying to follow roads to get back home. Andrew is somewhat apprehensive about flying, so the situation became challenging to say the least, when the pilot fell asleep on Andrew’s shoulder, leaving a very nervous Andrew with the controls as the plane continued through the darkness. This was to illustrate that there is no fear in heaven for those who are trusting in Jesus and that He is the good pilot who leads us safely to our final destination.
The second story referred to how during a show one night, the backing vocalist, Jenny Morris was wearing jeans that were not quite tailored to her size and so in front of an audience of thousands, the jeans split.
“Heaven’s not like those jeans,” the pastor continued, “heaven is our perfect home… tailor made… a place where we fit and it fits us.”
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. John 14:2
“Heaven is not like the sky rocket either that the band attempted to launch in a US desert one night. They waited months to launch that thing and it ended up a “fizzer”. Two thousand years in preparation… heaven is worth the wait. ”
The final INXS story referred to the night the band were throwing each other into the audience. Up until the point that Kirk was thrown in, the audience obligingly had been cushioning their fall. But the crowd, seeing Kirk coming guitar and all, parted, leaving poor Kirk to land heavily on the floor. “Heaven is not like that. We are not thrown out into the unknown only to land painfully. We are lovingly led there. It is certainly true all pain is taken… there are no tears in heaven”.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their
shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Rev. 7:17
The Pastor concluded with a challenge, “Michael is probably regretting he couldn’t be with us. Let us not waste this moment, but let his death motivate us all to dig deeper spiritually.”
At the conclusion of the pastoral address, Michael’s family and friends prayed “The Lord’s Prayer” which was followed by a brief pastoral prayer for the committing of Michael’s ashes. This was a most reverent time as Rhett and Kell scattered the ashes, followed by Susie and others who cast bright flowers onto the waters. A minute of silence was then observed in honour of Michael. People were now openly weeping. In the stillness of that moment , the harbour sounds and the weeping were like a requiem for Michael. The weeping became the prelude to what was to follow next. Erana Clarke raised her shoulders and began singing a crying lament, sounds known perhaps only to a native Maori. Those sounds were haunting yet strangely comforting and they seamlessly rolled into a celebration anthem… “Amazing Grace”. The power and the beauty of Erana’s voice reverberated around the harbour. Like the purity of a church bell it continued to ring out, changing key through every stanza until the final crescendo of
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.
Only the singing voice could have portrayed the sorrow for Michael during that poignant moment… and as the sun retreated behind the horizon a day and an era had come to an end.
The silence was broken by Pastor Dennis Patterson, who now invited family and friends to informally eulogize Michael.
Kell spoke first, words from a father whose heart was broken. He faulted through an anonymous poem by an INXS fan, his voice breaking with deep emotion. Yet he spoke with thankfulness for the privilege of being a father to Michael. Rhett followed, expressing his love, sorrow and deepest respect for a unique brother. Others were to follow including Jenny Morris who also offered a song and then Andrew Farriss, still struggling with the loss of a dear mate. Andrew spoke of Michael’s genius with words. He related stories, funny stories of their school days. He thanked the pastor for reading from the Bible. “Michael would have liked that” , he said “I don’t care what anyone thinks now, but Michael and I loved the years we spent together as teenagers in a church youth group.”
Gary Grant, INXS Tour Manager, had his story to tell too. During a tour of Japan, Michael and he were in an upper room of a hotel listening to the chanting of fans below. “Watch this,” said Michael, “And he stuck his head and torso out the window, much to the delight of the crowd below.” What happened next is typically Michael. He said to Gary “Hey, come and see what it’s like to be me.” He then set about taking of his shirt and sun glasses, so he could use them to disguise Gary. Now dressed as Michael Hutchence the rock star, Gary stuck his head out the window and waved to the crowd. Again there was an instant uproar of delight. When a stunned Gary withdrew back into the room, Michael smiled, “See, don’t they love me!”
By this time everyone aboard the vessel was smiling, laughing, crying, celebrating Michael.
It seemed now an appropriate time to continue celebrating Michael. It was 22nd January, Michael’s birthday. Kell called for glasses and drinks and proposed a toast to Michael. “Happy birthday, Michael!” was echoed around the vessel. The evening was still young as a buffet dinner was served. Family and friends grouped in huddles, comforting one another, exchanging stories. It was a sweet time with sweet memories of Michael. Many expressed feeling a great comfort come over them during the ceremony. “I have never felt such comfort,” said Jenny Morris. Jimmy Barnes gave the minister a hug. It was Jimmy’s way of saying, “Thank you.” Kell and Susie, Rhett and Mandy, Tim, Andrew, Kirk, Garry, and all of Michael’s dearest friends somehow found the grace and strength that night to say goodbye to Michael.
At around 10:00 pm the vessel weighed anchor, moved off from the memorial waters and continued on it’s journey.