16 December 2022

How to make your mark permanently, in life as in death

| Sally Hopman
Start the conversation
sooty tattoos

For one wife, daughter and son, the memory of their loved one will be with them forever – in the best of ways. Photo: Sally Hopman

Don’t you think it’s a shame that most of us only meet up with the people we care about when we lose someone?

At a celebration for a family member’s life last week, I was struck by the vast number of people there, people who had heard through social media or word-of-mouth that this good man had died.

There were people from his past and present. There were people who he had made such an impression on when he was alive, that you just knew that the connection would remain despite his passing.

There were people who laughed at his terrible jokes, pretended to also support his soccer team – famous mostly for losing – and there were people who, just because they came, helped make his sudden departure just that tiny bit easier to live with.

When you see those friends and family that you haven’t seen for a while, you wonder why you haven’t.

READ ALSO Nurses need our care – and a decent wage

Why it’s been left until this sad time to be together and remind yourself why it feels so good to be in their company. It says a lot about caring for each other, but more about why the good people get it.

Maybe that’s why we manage to survive tragedy. By having such good souls about us, when we need them. The ones who seem to think and feel the same way as we do. They don’t have to know when or how to say the right thing. Some of us could captain Australia for saying the wrong thing – and if it garners a laugh or two, how can it be wrong?

There’s so much you don’t want to think about when someone’s life ends, maybe that’s why when good folk get together, after a time, only the positive stuff seems to surface.

Sooty puppet

The “real” Sooty waits to be introduced to the more permanent members of his family. Photo: Sally Hopman

You think you know people, your loved ones, your family, but I was wrong. My excellent brother-in-law had hidden talents. Involved in the theatre for most of his working life, he travelled the world with various shows, living a good, dramatic life.

What I didn’t know was that he was accompanied, almost always on his travels, by one Sooty puppet. You know that cute little yellow fellow, the creation of British comedian Harry Corbett who bought the cloth puppet on Blackpool’s North Pier for seven shillings and sixpence.

How did he become known as Sooty? Apparently Corbett’s wife covered the puppet’s nose and ears with soot – so he would stand out better on black and white TV. Who knew? My brother-in-law apparently.

READ ALSO Why this tail has a happy ending – as long as it doesn’t stain the carpet

Said brother-in-law carried his Sooty around the world, using his head to store his most valuable possessions. And if Sooty ever spoke out, it was only in a whisper so all secrets were safe with him. Sooty was perfect. A cute little bear, never making a hash of anything.

After he died, his wife, daughter and son came across a raggedy old Sooty, clearly showing the ravages of age and a rather splendid good life.

Within a matter of hours, the three – they left Sooty at home dreaming about said good life – were at the tattooist, each drawing on the little fellow to remember the husband and father they loved.

Blessed. Forever.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.