A celebration of a wonderful life

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 03 Desember 2014 | 20.01

Phillip Hughes is carried out by his pallbearers including Michael Clarke, Aaron Finch and Tom Cooper

Rest in peace, Phillip Hughes. Source: Getty Images

WHEN Phillip Hughes arrived home in Macksville in 2009, triumphant after his debut tour of South Africa, the whole town of Macksville turned out at the rugby league field to raucously cheer him.

When Phillip Hughes returned home to Macksville, no one uttered a word.

In 2009, Hughes paraded around in the back of a great big, shiny green ute, waving and smiling as the crowd chanted his baby name of "Boof".

The car that carried him was a long black hearse with the license plates BL 954.

Keen observers will note that 9 plus 54 is 63, the total Hughes was stranded on last Tuesday. But it was not a day for numbers. This was a day for words – eloquent, perceptive, frequently humorous and endlessly moving.

The funeral, quite simply, was a beautiful occasion. Can a funeral be a beautiful thing? It can, and this one was. From the moment Phillip's coffin was carried into the Macksville Recreational Hall at 12.11pm to the moment he was carried out at 3.16pm, this whole event was a wonderful celebration of a wonderful life.

As it should have been.

Phillip Hughes' father Greg and Australian batsman Aaron Finch carry the coffin. Source: AFP

Local priest Father Michael Alcock set the tone by saying, "I do know the world is a better place for having experienced the love, vitality, passion friendship and energy of Phillip Joel Hughes."

Indeed it is.

Hughes' cousin Nino Ramunno (a cousin on his mum Virginia's Italian side) gave a wonderfully polished, poised oration, heaping praise upon his younger cousin but also poking fun at him.

His line about Phillip Hughes complaining about a lack of girls after day one of Year 12 at Homebush "Boys" High School had the audience in stitches.

So did his gentle jibes about Phillip's inability to calculate batting averages and his love of a good mirror.

But it was his generous, and wholly true, assessment of Phillip's character than rang truest. Phillip Hughes, as cousin Nino pointed out, never complained about being dropped from the Australian team. He never complained about anything.

Even if you met Phillip Hughes just a few times (as this reporter did) you could tell instantly he was at heart a cheerful person, an optimistic soul, never a tortured one.

But even if you'd never met him, the photos of Phillip Hughes on the walls for all to see at the funeral told you about his happy-go-lucky nature. Always there was that glint in his eye that said whatever comes next, bring it. Good or bad, just bring it. Bring it on.

Big brother Jason's letter to Phillip Hughes.

Phillip's elder brother Jason spoke second, with a beautiful and occasionally self-deprecating speech in the form of a letter to his little bro.

Never as talented on the cricket field, and never quite as hirsute as his little brother, he spoke lovingly — almost reverentially — of his little brother's influence on his life.

"I couldn't have asked for a better little brother, from a very young age you were destined to be a rock star. All I ever wanted was for you to look up to me as a big brother," he said.

"You have given me confidence, strength, supported me and given me a strong desire to succeed.

"You always had the good looks, you always had the hair."

Not that Jason wasn't prepared to give just a tiny serve back to his cheeky younger brother.

"I miss the regular calls and your text messages, just to check spelling of tricky and not so tricky words."

Phillip Hughes' younger sister Megan Hughes reads an emotional letter to her brother at his funeral.

Megan Hughes is an amazing young woman. She had so much poise all day, from the moment she arrived at the service to the way she comforted her distraught mother as she followed the coffin afterwards.

"I am standing to show my love and appreciation for the big brother I will never forget," she said.

"Phillip I am so honoured to call you my brother, my best friend and my hero. I know that wherever you are within this world, you will be looking down to shed light whenever times get tough. Your smile, the twinkle in your eyes and the humour you provided will never fade. I want to thank you for being the most amazing brother you could ask for. They always say you cannot choose your family but I would not want mine any other way."

There were more speeches. There was Corey Ireland, the cattleman with whom Phillip Hughes had hatched all sorts of plans involving his beloved Angus stud cattle.

And there was Michael Clarke, who in yet another assured appearance this week said "his spirit has brought us together, he always wanted to bring people together".

"We must play on," Clarke said. "So rest in peace my little brother, I'll see you out in the middle."

And then the procession. Wow.

The procession behind Phillip Hughes. Leading the way are Brett Lee, Shane Watson, Lee Furlong, David Warner and Candice Falzon. Source: News Corp Australia

To see that wave, that amazing vast street-wide wave of humanity surging through the streets of Macksville afterwards was incredible. Just incredible.

It was incredible to see the townspeople applauding, none of them with eyes for Warney or Lara or McGrath or any of the cricket royalty striding their streets, but with eyes only for the Hughes clan, the family that has given them so much joy and put their town on the map.

We haven't seen anything like this in Australian civilian life for decades and perhaps we never will again.

Why? Because Phillip Hughes represented something universal in Australian life. It wasn't just that he died playing the national sport that we've all played at one time or another, even if only on the beach or in the backyard.

It's the spirit of hope that Hughes had around him, the aura of optimism, the spirit of never whingeing. A little bit of larrikin, a lot of love for mum and dad and above all, a boundless sense of mateship.

Phillip Hughes really was everyone's mate. He had no enemies. Was incapable of making them.

That's why Australia stopped today, and why this event moved so many people. And that's why the people of Macksville and visitors to town will be drinking in both mourning and celebration long, long into this night and for a long, long time to come.

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