Not just fishing knots

A drawing of a fishing hook tied to fishing line about to enter the water with sky in the background

Took mum to her childhood home Sunday just gone to see Papa.

We walked in and mum saw Nana and they both started to cry.

Papa, Alan, Alby, my grandfather was quite sick.

The room was quiet and somber but had an unshakable aura of warmth and love.

Everyone was there for the same thing.

To share in the feeling.

One of our younger cousins was too upset to walk into the back room.

I don’t blame her. I’d never been in this kind of situation either.

I kept walking and went through the doors I’d ran through as a kid.

I remember Papa being the tallest person I’d ever seen.

Always looking up and confirming giants were real.

My gazes to the sky filled with blue, clouds, ceiling lights and a smiling face looking back.

I still remember him that way.

He laid in bed with blankets on and his trademark yellow and green Wallabies rugby beanie.

For a moment there we were alone.

Me sitting on the walker chair and Papa laying in bed.

I started to talk about rugby, one of his biggest loves.

My Dad’s old team won the match the day before.

What do you say in these moments? I thought.

Words are magic but there are many things their spells are ineffective on.

And so I kept talking about anything.

But really just sitting there.

I held Papas hand. Put my hand on his shoulder.

A way of saying thank you for everything and I’m here without saying it.

As soon as I walked into the room he put his hand out to shake mine.

And even later as the priest walked in he said, I didn’t realise I was that bad! The heavy artillery is here.

In pain and dying and still cracking jokes.

That’s how I’d like to be. In the present. And in the future.

His children entered the room (my aunties and uncles), his wife (Nana) and the priest kneeled by the bed.

We held hands and the priest started to pray.

I no longer adhere to a single religion (don’t tell Papa).

But I’ll never forget that moment.

Present with three generations.

Quiet and talking to God.

Where nothing else mattered except for being there.

I stood up from the chair. Said I love you Papa, hugged mum and walked out of the room.

It was the last time we spoke.

Papa (and Nana) called every birthday. Saying happy birthday Danny Bourke. I’ll miss those words.

He came to our rugby matches, our graduations and almost every other important event.

He used to sneeze so loud it would scare the younger grandkids.

And most important, got us in contact with good accountants.

Papa taught me how to tie fishing knots.

We were floating on a boat offshore and my lines kept coming undone. He showed me how to wrap one piece around the other, twist a few times, loop the loose end through the hole in the base and pull it tight.

A skill I still use today. I’d like to get better at it too.

And one day teach my grandsons or granddaughters.

It’s a helpful skill.

To be able to tie a knot.

To connect something to something else.

And that’s what Papa has done his whole life.

Connect the unconnected.

Bringing communities together, rugby teams, families, cousins and siblings and sons and daughters and generations on generations, raising children who’ve raised children of their own who’ve now started to raise children of their own.

Making those with less feel as if they’ve got more.

That’s the feeling I get whenever I’m around or think of Papa.

I’m sure everyone who’s met him would agree.

Any time you were with Alby for while and you go, you always feel as if you’d left with more than you came.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from Papa it’s that you can never lose giving more than you take.

He was a Chartered Accountant for most of his life, a career he treasured deeply. Making sure the big guys were accountable for their work. A career my younger brother William has taken on and in turn made him the favourite grandson (not that Papa would ever admit).

Legend says he used to tap the photo of his children on his desk and tell fast hand executives, I’ve got seven kids at home, so make sure you pay.

Financials aside, I’m sure we’d all agree, on the final balance sheet (and not that Papa would ever keep score), what Alan, Alby, Papa has given us is as about as far in the positive as you can get.

A comforting giant who never looked down on anyone and instead encouraged us all to look up.

I love you Papa.

Thank you for everything.

I promise to keep tying knots. And not just while fishing.

Papa asked for there to be no speeches during the funeral other than the eulogy by his eldest son Michael and the normal prayers one would say at mass. I imagine Papa saying don’t fuss too much over me, go and party instead.

I said a prayer of intercession at the funeral but wrote this as a tribute, a way to mourn and words I would’ve said had there been more speeches.

Alan (Alby) Taylor was born on 10 December 1932 and died on 22 March 2024 at 91 years of age. He and his wife Margaret were married 62 years and have 7 children, 18 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

My mum gave him a short description of triple F. Family, Faith, Football. And the order depends on the season. There was a beautiful tribute article on the Queensland Rugby page to highlight Alby’s services to Rugby (and many other communities).

Three people standing in front of balloons. Two younger men on the outer sides and an older gentlemen in the middle with a walking frame.
My younger brother William (left, the unannounced favourite grandson) and myself (right) with Papa at his 90th birthday. 10 December 2022.
Two men sitting at a table, older man on left smiling and younger man on right smiling. Both are holding each other around the back.
Papa and I at my mum’s birthday. He had a comforting smile that would always make you feel like everything was going to work out. 4 July 2016.