Lisa Wilkinson: Sam Ballard's Funeral Was A Deeply Moving Tribute To A One-In-A-Million Bloke
Sam Ballard was laid to rest today.
And for every one of the more than 500 family and friends who gathered for his farewell at Macquarie Park this afternoon, among its gardens bursting with November roses, it was a moment that they had been dreading for eight long years.
But Sam was a young man who liked to defy the odds, and do the unexpected.
He defied the odds and did the totally unexpected, when, on a mock dare with his mates eight years ago, a 20-year-old Sam shocked them all by actually eating a common garden slug -- which, unbeknownst to any of them, was actually infected with deadly rat lung worm disease.
He was expected to die quickly. Against the odds, he survived.
He might have been expected to be angry either at his mates who’d dared him, or fate, which had sent this one in million chance barreling into his life. But he never was. He knew it wasn’t their fault. As to fate, he wasted no energy cursing this devastating destiny.
He defied the odds on every one of the 765 days he spent in intensive care at Royal North Shore Hospital.
He defied the odds every time he survived the regular seizures that shook his ravaged body to the core as a result of the eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis he’d been left with.
He defied the odds in, despite everything, regaining some joy in his daily existence, largely due to the incredible love, devotion and hour by hour care of his angel of a mum, Katie.
But as we heard today in the many incredibly moving tributes made by his mates, family members, former teachers and myriad of carers inside the Palm Chapel, while Sam had fallen to a one-in-million chance, he also just happened to be a one-in-a-million kind of bloke who could bear such hardship, with such stoic courage and undaunted spirit.
And before tragedy struck, he really had lived a wondrous life.
He’d gone from the sweet little tearaway kid with the freakish running talent, to the good looking rugby-playing teenager whose spark for life charmed all he met. That included all those teachers who always addressed Sam with their backs to a wall lest Sam would be otherwise distracted by something or someone else. Yes, he was that kind of restless spirit, but everyone loved him for it. Because that was Sam. Feisty, funny, fearless, and fantastically adventurous.
And there is no doubt, listening to the many wonderful eulogies today, that Sam inspired everyone lucky enough to come across him, from people like me, who only knew him in the latter stages of his too-short life, to his band of faithful mates who were always by his side.
And those mates were never more there for Sam than today, as seven of them, along with Sam’s younger brother Josh, vibrating under the strain of grief, carried Sam’s coffin into the chapel towards Katie, preparing as best she could to say goodbye to her beautiful boy.
Following close behind, scores of others of Sam’s mates, strong, able-bodied, still resolute in their devotion and need to be close to Sam.
But if there is one image I will never forget today, it is the one of a four-year-old Sam on the screens above us, knees scuffed, holding his toy guitar on the front verandah at home, bright-eyed, life still holding so much adventure before him.
Sam, you were truly loved.
It’s time to rest easy now.