Rest In Peace, Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky

July 20, 2009 at 1:18 am (Uncategorized)

When I saw online that yet more suicide bombers had struck Australia’s near neighbour Indonesia on Friday, I sent Llew a text: Oh no. Terrorist attacks in Jakarta. An hour or so later, I was on the ferry into Circular Quay, but just before we crossed Sydney Heads, whales passed by, very near and very frisky. A pair of what I think were blue fins, heading straight for Manly Cove (they were off-course – they don’t usually come so far inside and around North Head). I’ve never been so close before. I was as excited as any tourist, and as I watched them rolling and spouting and waving, I thought about those poor people whose lives had just been shattered in Jakarta, and I stopped to appreciate that moment with the whales and be enormously thankful for it. I felt really emotional, watching the two whales play. They just seemed such a life force, and so much bigger than me.

Saturday morning I picked up The Weekend Australian, and there was a long moment of cold psychic confusion as I registered the familiar smiling face in the photo and then tried attaching its presence to the accompanying article. “Oh my god,” I said to Llew. “That’s Craig Senger. Oh no. Oh no.”

I rambled at him, but he was uncomprehending, unable to remember Craig, so I called my friend S and unfortunately was the one to tell her what was then the unconfirmed report that Craig was among the victims in Jakarta.

Craig Senger. I hadn’t seen him for years. The last time I did see him turned into a big night out with Craig, S, Llew and myself. S and Craig had reconnected at the 2003 wedding of a mutual friend, and when they arranged to meet up for drinks soon after, the invite was extended to us as S recalled I knew Craig from university days. The four of us met at Establishment for drinks, and then ended up at an Indian restaurant in Glebe several hours later. I hadn’t seen him in years, and I never saw him again, but it was great fun catching up with him that night, it was a real blast from the past, and there were a lot of laughs.

So to the past, when I knew Craig quite well. As university students, we worked together for years at the Park Royal Hotel in Canberra. We were both part of a large crowd of uni casuals who worked and socialised together on a regular basis. I remember Craig’s 21st birthday party vividly. His family pulled out all stops – it was held at an historic homestead, and was a lovely sit-down dinner with family and Craig’s many friends. I remember thinking, wow, imagine your family throwing you a party like this – an entirely alien concept to me. But here was an abundance of love and happiness, and they made being a tight-knit family look so easy. It was a great night.

I can see Craig so, so clearly in my mind’s eye. The first thing you need to know about Craig is that he was always smiling. I can see him waving down to us from the hotel’s Atrium Bar when we were down below in the restaurant. His cheeky, ready grin. I can see him spinning a tray, clicking his fingers, tapping his toes. He was always moving. One of those people who was so gregarious, so upbeat, that he never had time to stand still. There were too many things to do, things to see, people to meet, laughs to be had. Craig was incapable of malice or spite. He did not have a cruel or vindictive fibre. It just wasn’t who he was. He had an incredibly, notably sunny and warm disposition, and of course was someone who made friends easily and then treated them exceptionally well. A rugby enthusiast, Craig was a keen sportsperson but always retained an endearing gentleness. I don’t imagine any of these qualities changed in the years since I knew him. I can’t imagine that. They were such defining features of a person who was truly one of the good guys, and someone who adored being alive, and all the adventures and possibilities that living his life afforded.

Craig was a lovely guy, cut down in the prime of his life by fanatics. It’s not ever, will never be fathomable to me how one human being could do this to another, and it’s a foul thing, knowing how this good person and innocent civilian has died along with so many others around the world and across these long years of our collective history. It always amazes me that the bombers maintain enough rage to go through with it, and it amazes me because in the course of the everyday, just in the mundane dailiness of existence, people extend small kindnesses all along the way – surely these people receive such gestures too? It’s the basic decency of the majority that leaves me stumped as to how this deadly minority can maintain the rage and madness necessary to unleash these assaults  on innocent human beings with no opportunity to defend themselves. This is not righteous, and it is far from holy.

I understand Craig’s father died suddenly just weeks ago, and my heart just breaks for his mum, who must be trapped in the worst, darkest nightmare, some dread place beyond imagining. I am so sorry for his wife, his whole family, his friends – all his loved ones, of which there must be – have always been – so many.

I know bad things happen all the time, and the scale of some human atrocities mean that people are sometimes quick to point out that this death toll isn’t much compared with some other horror. But it’s not a score-keeping exercise, and that logic badly misses the point. Which is that every life is worth the same as every other life, and every loss is felt as keenly by those who are left behind with their sorrow. I lost contact with Craig after moving back to Sydney, but I remember him so very fondly. I know his family must be as proud as they are devastated, and so they should be. Craig Senger was a hell of a human being.



  1. Charlotte said,

    I am so sorry that you have lost your friend. He sounds like a wonderful person and it seems an an appalling and unnecessary tragedy.

    I relate to this: “It always amazes me that the bombers maintain enough rage to go through with it, and it amazes me because in the course of the everyday, just in the mundane dailiness of existence, people extend small kindnesses all along the way – surely these people receive such gestures too?” Fanaticism seems to remove people from their ability to be humane.

  2. doctordi said,

    It’s a difficult thing, Charlotte, because I don’t really feel entitled to call Craig my friend anymore, because we haven’t been friends in any on-going sense for a very long time, despite certainly being friends once upon a time and all our time together being characterised by friendly feeling. But I haven’t known him or shared his life as so many others have done, and so I hesitate to accept sympathy now. It just seems a bit wrong, I don’t know why, just that it makes me want to emphasise that I very much know the difference between what I’m feeling about this tragedy and what those who shared Craig’s life with him are currently experiencing. There’s no doubt he was a dear person when I knew him, and I don’t doubt he was that same dear person when he died, but I have no claim to anyone’s sympathy, although I know that like me, you and every other normal, decent person just genuinely feels bad and wants to extend sympathy in some way. So I thank you, and in my heart, I send your sympathy to them along with my own.

  3. Pete said,

    I’m so sorry about your friend. He does sound like he was a helluva nice guy. And I also struggle to understand how people can go through with something like planting a bomb to kill people. But then rage and hatred seem to have a life of their own sometimes and can make people really really ugly inside. (Was also horrified to hear about that other Sydney tragedy. Haven’t been following the news closely but it sounded very traumatic.)

  4. doctordi said,

    Pete, you must have been commenting at the same time…

    How to understand this level of rage and hatred? And the way it sustains itself? I really don’t seem equipped to understand it. I just don’t.

    And the other story? I can’t even bear to read it.

  5. Grad said,

    I shudder to think how evil the devil must be if people are this perverse. Maybe we don’t even need the devil anymore – it appears he’s being trumped. Thank you for telling us about Craig. You were fortunate to have known him.

  6. doctordi said,

    Grad, I don’t believe in the devil, but yes, sadly people are this perverse. I don’t really know why, except there is some dark part of our nature that makes it possible.

    And about Craig, that’s exactly how I feel. Just fortunate to have known him for the time I did – and I wanted to tell you all about him as a way, I suppose, of honouring those memories, all of them fond. He mattered. He matters.

  7. kate4samh said,

    Dear Di,

    I am very sorry for your loss. Just because others have lost more does not mean you have not suffered a loss, even if it is just the ability to recall times together characterised by friendly feelings without an accompanying sadness. I hope his wife, family and friends read your beautiful tribute to their loved one and the responses to it and know that Craig’s spirit lives on, even now touching people that he never met in person.

    It is good that you do not understand Di, it is a positive. There is no reason good enough.

    I read a quote from the Dalai Lama the other day; “There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilised as a source of strength’. No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”

    Yours in hope,

  8. doctordi said,

    That Dalai Lama, he’s very wise. Thanks for sharing that, Kate – I suspect he’s absolutely right. xx

  9. Lilian Nattel said,

    I don’t get it either Di. And you are deserving of sympathy even though this is not a personal loss the way it is for his family or close friends, because it brings home the pain and helplessness and insanity that happens in this world of ours. We all need to sustain each other in the face of that and hold each other up.

  10. Simonne said,

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, and obviously a very beautiful soul. I just don’t get it, I really truly don’t. Sending you lots of love x

  11. doctordi said,

    LIlian, I think that’s a very good way of putting it. It does bring something that often feels remote very near, and I think also knowing for a fact he was such a big softie himself, really a sweet guy, just makes it that much worse. I mean, we always believe and assume there are wonderful people lost to the world in these unbelievably awful incidents, but yeah, this time I *know* it to be true.

    Simonne, I was told once not to try rationalising irrational behaviour, but I do wonder sometimes if my mental shutdown is the best response, just because in a way it denies something very real and dangerous is afoot, and denial is rarely a good way of dealing with anything. But yeah, I just don’t get it either. I have tried, and I can’t make my thinking turn in this direction. It is literally unthinkable to me.

  12. davidrochester said,

    What a senseless, horrible thing. I’m so sorry you lost your friend … but glad you knew him to begin with. He deserves to be remembered lovingly.

  13. doctordi said,

    David, I know he will be, first by those who knew and loved him all his life, but also by people like me, who shared a small part of it. Senseless and horrible is right.

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