Today I have taken a break from the Back to the beginning series for a special post – Happy Birthday Nick! It’s March 16th and instead of being sad about it, I choose to celebrate Nick’s life, in the same way I have since his passing.
Today is also the Melbourne Grand Prix and if you knew anything about Nick, it was that he had a crazy love for the sport and luckily enough, it nearly always landed on his birthday! (Not so great for any photos we might have tried to get on his birthday, he was always bright red and sun burnt from being at the track!)
(* on a side note, you’ll see how old this photo must be, when you look at how ancient that phone next to him looks!)
One of his last memorable birthdays was his 30th, being that it was on a GP weekend, it was only appropriate that it was also Grand Prix themed, as noted by the invitation below:
As you’ll notice Nick’s favourite team was McLaren, but he also was very passionate about the Panasonic Toyota Racing team (whilst they were around), due to the loyalty he felt in being an employee and loving his job at Toyota for the last 13 years of his life! There was even a Toyota fancy dress competition he entered once, where he went to the GP dressed as Captain Toyota, no photo evidence of this, but believe me, it was funny! And for wearing his undies over leggings in public, he only got second place, he was devastated, because 1st prize was a trip to the Monaco GP. (If anyone has a photo of this, please send it to me!!)
On a less humiliating note, being that he worked for Toyota, he was also privy to tickets to races and even meeting drivers, as below, in these pics with their driver, Jarno Trulli.
If you’re a friend of Nick’s, you won’t need me to tell you how much he hated Ferrari. I think it was more about the friendly rivalry to ‘stick it up the spags’ as he’d say. He loved the GP so much, that he would stay up all night, to watch it live throughout the season. From my bedroom, I could clearly hear him calling around to all his mates, also watching, and giving them a ribbing for how their teams, but namely Ferrari, were going! After Nick’s death, I remember a couple of his friends saying how difficult it was for them to watch it and know he wasn’t going to call.
He also loved the GP so much, that he planned our holidays around races. While he would have loved to cross a few more of the international circuits off his list, it wasn’t to be. On our last trip to Italy before his passing, he desperately wanted to go to the Italian GP, but his health wasn’t so great and it was a far distance from where we were at the time.
In also keeping with my, ‘never say no to your dying husband’ plan, we booked a trip to Malaysia with our friends John and Natalie to see another GP in April 2011, but he passed away before then.
At the time of planning, we’d all be looking at each other thinking there’s a good chance he won’t be around to go to this, but he was so persistent, all we could do was agree and book tickets. Nick was so determined to see another Grand Prix race live before he died, that I just let him do whatever he wanted, regardless of the consequences.
Once he passed away, we were able to get our money back on airline tickets and I even managed to sell his Malaysian GP ticket to my mum’s neighbour who was going to be holidaying there at the same time, what a fluke!! So, in all, it made him happy planning it and there was no harm done.
He did get to the Malaysian and Montreal races, before his illness, also travelling with others who enjoyed the Grand Prix as much as he did, we went to Malaysia with my sister, Franca and brother in law, Eden and met up with a good friend of Nick’s from Toyota, Nick & his wife Sophie, to go to the Montreal race.
Nick loved driving and would often say that he would have been a gun Formula One driver, I believe him, but as his well weight was over 100kg, we’d always joke he’d never fit in the narrow cars, when he got sick and started to shrink, he would say to me, he was now the perfect drivers weight. But, too bad, by then, I was the closest thing to a grid girl he was going to see!
One of the things i’ve stored away for our daughter, is his collection of Formula One race passes. I’m sure a few have gone missing over the years, but I look forward to the day, when I get to talk to her about her Dad’s obsession with these as proof, oh and the other 200 photos of Nick posing with grid girls, he never got bored of that!
The last birthday that Nick planned was for his 33rd birthday, knowing he probably wasn’t going to be around much longer, he thought he’d throw a huge party at his friend John’s restaurant and invite everyone who meant something to him. These were the last invites he ever sent out:
Nick died 5 weeks before this party, so I did the one thing I knew he’d want me to do, I continued on with it. Instead of it being just a birthday party, I made it a celebration of his life instead. After the heaviness of his funeral, and feeling like there was nothing of Nick there, I needed to do something that was Nick. A party was just what he’d want!
I think most people would have thought I’d cancel the party, but the thought never crossed my mind. It was a gathering of all our favourite people, who meant so much to us and had been such a support over the past 7 months, even his Doctors and some of the hospital staff, who he’d left an impression on, made it. I had such a good time that day, being able to thank everyone for their support, i’m sure some of our guests expected to see me a broken woman dressed in black, but I was anything but, I spent the day talking about the man who meant so much to me, there were no tears, just happy memories.
My friend, Margaret, put all his photos together and we played this during the day, I have vivid memories of laughing out loud at the pics, and saying, ‘oh..remember that day..’, it was the best good bye I could have given Nick.
Another nod to his love of the GP is visible on his headstone. I had no doubt in my mind, that I wanted something to reflect his love of the sport and so I had the racing flags etched on it for him. Some might think it’s a bit much, but I thought it was the perfect touch! (Much better than the Toyota symbol, some people suggested!)
So, today I wish Nick a very Happy Birthday, wherever he is, looking down on us, though i’m sure he’s really track side watching the GP!
Thanks for everything Nick, we’ll never forget you, you were one of a kind!
Til next time, Michela x