Do you know how the tradition began? I first celebrated Michael’s birthday eight years ago with his family, band, crew and friends on board a small yacht in Sydney Harbour.
It was an idyllic Saturday evening and the first occasion all had come together since Michael’s funeral some two months before. Conversations tried to centre on normalities, as the mention of Michael’s name was still extremely delicate and emotional for everyone. Most of those invited had gathered in the late afternoon at Kell and Susie’s top floor apartment in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill. Refreshments where served amid conversations of escapades over the holiday season, discussions of the splendid harbour views from Kell’s balcony, the weather, current world events, and family anecdotal musings. There was a kind of expectancy, as if Michael would be arriving late at any moment and life would once again continue in the direction that it had taken before the horrible shock of November 22nd. But Michael didn’t arrive. So as the day faulted, the group moved on to a harbour pier where they waited until the yacht, “Ambience” moored to afford an easy boarding. A beautifully carved, polished, wooden urn containing Michael’s precious ashes was carried on board, the only indication that this was a party with a different mission. I remember the irony of the bystanders on the pier who continued lazily fishing, totally unaware of what they were witnessing.
We commenced our journey around the harbour under engine power while a small professional catering team immediately made everyone feel at home. Jimmy Barnes and Tim Farriss sat at the bar and chatted while other small huddles sipped wine and reflected. Every now and then an outburst of laughter broke the sullen air as one group found common cause to reflect on an endearing moment with Michael.
Erana Clarke and I moved from group to group, hoping to offer some comfort. I stopped to talk with Andrew Farriss, Kell and Susie Hutchence, Jenny Morris, Hiraani and husband John, Rhett and Mandy, and Richard Lowenstein who was now busy recording the event on a small DV camcorder. As the sun began to set, the party of twenty five people came together on the deck to complete what they had set out to do, say good bye to Michael Kelland Hutchence.
It was now my responsibility to speak, bring the people together and set the tone of what would follow. What did follow was beyond anyone’s calculations. The wind that had been forcefully blowing ceased, a settled calmness prevailed as the whirring of marine engines also came to a stop. In that embalming stillness a beauty adorned the skies, as shafts of blazing pinks and reds filtered through stoic clouds in the western horizon. Soft, gentle weeping, the lapping of waves against the bow below and the cries of sea gulls above was the poignant canvas that Erana commenced her hauntingly beautiful tonal painting, a Maori lament that crescendoed into the healing warmth of Amazing Grace. And so a father and a brother dispersed all they had physically left of a son and a sibling. Rose petals fluttered gently down to accompany Michael. It was the end of a day… the end of an era.
Knowing words can be powerfully healing agents, I reminded those gathered that the human spirit is eternal and the hope of eternity certain to those whose rest is found in the grace of God. A phoenix experience then transcended and transformed their spirits as they lifted their glasses to toast Michael. All who were there would scarcely forget that moment. The patriarchal Kell, ever the strong and encouraging soul he was, lifted his glass first. “Happy Birthday”, he said with a smile, “Happy Birthday, dear Michael”. And so began a tradition that celebrates an amazing man with an amazing life.
So… “Happy 46th Birthday, Michael!”… from all your family, friends and fans.
For Susie Hutchence, Mario and Jacqui Ferrari
Co-Directors of the Official Michael Hutchence Memorial Site.