Message from Yvonne Bradley - Sister|
GEOFFREY WAYNE WRIGHT (1949 – 2003)
“Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man,” said the Jesuits. In some important ways that’s true. Geoffrey Wayne Wright at seven years of age had many of the talents and character traits that we saw in Wayne Wright the man. He was from birth a placid, easy going, likeable child. From a very young age he was tuneful, with excellent pitch and a natural sense of harmony. We used to sing duets together when we were very small, our being just a year apart in age, with a song made famous by Harry Belafonte, “The Jamaican Farewell” being our particular forte.
Yet in one significant way, Wayne Wright, aged seven, was not Wayne Wright the man. You see, at seven he was a failure. At seven he couldn’t read. The educational philosophy of how children should be taught to read in Primer One changed in the year Wayne started school, and somehow the latest way of teaching reading didn’t connect with him. At High School he still could barely read, so the whole experience of schooling for him was an experience of failure. How extraordinary that is for someone who became a wordsmith, a lyricist, a poet. But it also explains that quiet sense of determination that characterized Wayne the man. He taught himself to read when he left school at the age of 15.
He was largely self-taught musically, too, taking up the guitar in his early teens, playing in church bands, singing in groups and solos, with a natural, intuitive musicality.
Besides being naturally gifted, I like to think that another reason for Wayne’s ability with words and with music comes from his name. He was named Geoffrey Wayne Wright. I was named Patricia Yvonne Wright. He was called Wayne and I was called Yvonne. My mother’s explanation for putting our Christian names in this reverse order was that it was all a question of rhythm and balance. They just sounded better that way. So from a very early age we not only had a keen understanding of rhythm and the way words should balance each other in good poetry and prose, we were also left with the need to constantly provide lengthy explanations to every organization, large and small, as to who we really were and why we were not called by our first names. I think that task ultimately served us well and Wayne never tired of explaining this parental idiosyncrasy. He can still be found in the phone book as G.W. Wright.
Physically, he was an early developer, so in his early teens he was quite a strapping young man and not a half bad athlete. He did well at rugby. Lock was his position and I have a clear recollection of watching him play for Mt Roskill Grammar School, resplendent in that leather head gear so loved by the tight five in the scrum. As well as getting much of the lineout ball, he scored a try that day, I recall. He was bigger and stronger than most of them so he just plowed right through the opposition, Jonah Lomu style, and touched down near the posts.
It was a nice symbol of the way he approached life. Wayne was one of those rare people who could see the try line; he had vision; he decided how to get there - but, most importantly, he got there.
In his early twenties, Wayne made one of the best decisions of his life. He married Linda, a delightful and highly capable girl who suited him perfectly. And throughout their marriage they have been a great team in so many ways.
Many of you here will know Wayne as a gifted, creative composer of musicals and songs, as a lyricist and a dramatist. Many of you will know him as an entrepreneurial, ethical and successful businessman. Some of you will know him as a relational and forward thinking youth pastor. He was all of those things.
Yet Wayne himself would be the first to say that none of those accomplishments and achievements really matters. That is not what life is about. And it is not what we will remember when we think of Wayne. We will recall not Wayne Wright the composer, or Wayne Wright the businessman, or Wayne Wright the pastor. We will recall Wayne Wright the man. And I am sure that is how he will want to be remembered.
So, who was Wayne Wright the man? He was a man of faith, a man of hope. He was, simply, a Christian man. But not in a narrow, legalistic, judgmental or pious sense. I think Wayne was one of those rather rare Christians who actually understood the gospel. He understood that Jesus taught and modeled acceptance, tolerance, love, generosity and contentment. He understood that his mission in life was to seek the welfare of others. Those were the essential gospel values that Wayne actually lived by.
He was a keen observer of human nature and was warmly understanding of his own and other people’s foibles. It was that perceptiveness and capacity, I think, that gave him the dry sense of humour that was so much part of his character.
There was no trace of pretension about him. Despite his many achievements, he cared little for status or image or money or fame.
Though by nature quite reserved and a sometimes solitary person, he was at his very core a genuine, open-hearted, kind and generous man.
So, when it comes to remembering my brother Wayne, I give him the highest accolade that you can give to anyone – he was a good, decent and honourable man, a devoted husband and father, a lovely son and brother. Because he lived, we have all been blessed.
He died too soon. He had much more to give, much more to enjoy. Yet he died in the prime of life. I don’t claim to understand why. Nor will I attempt to diminish the horror and pain of such an unexpected and tragic loss.
But we have to give him up now - into the hands of the loving God in whom Wayne trusted and whom he served with such consistency and honour. In that spirit we who are left in his birth family – my father, my twin brothers Neville and Garth and I - bid him a loving farewell. As long as we live, he lives in our hearts and in our memories – until that day when we will all meet again.