Charlie Pahlman Memorial

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Family Statement ] Pam's Speech ] [ Andrew's Eulogy - Charlie's early days ] Cate Buchanan's Speech at Charlie's Memorial Service ]

Dear Family and Friends of Charlie
It’s wonderful to see you all here, though I wish it was under happier circumstances. Charlie has been there for the entire 42 years of my life. He was a wonderful brother and I can’t quite imagine life without him. Today I want to share with you some stories and memories about Charlie, particularly his early years, and some of the events that
shaped his life.

Charlie was a content and happy baby with an infectious smile who hardly ever cried. With such a good baby my parents’ social lives hardly missed a beat. They would put him in a straw box and check him at the hotel cloak room and then go dining and dancing (photo on page 3 of booklet). They mistakenly put his good behaviour down to
the good upbringing they gave him. That illusion was subsequently shattered by me, because unlike Charlie I cried a lot as a baby.

As it turned out it was one of the few times in life you could put Charlie in a box. He became such a wonderful “out-of-the-box” person.

As a young boy Charlie grew up in the Nordic weather of Sweden where the Viking inspired custom was to cut a hole in the ice to swim in or roll in the snow after a sauna. Throughout life Charlie loved the water and would strip off and go swimming even in the middle of winter. Perhaps it all seemed warm compared to those early Nordic

“Gosta och Anders” (Charlie & Andrew) was his response when asked his name at 4 years old. I was his 2.5 year old brother and we were one. Our young lives were full of change. We moved across the world. We did 8 schools together in 12 years. He waited for me to catch up and in the final years of high school we were in the same
year. And it was a pleasure. After school we travelled and worked our way around the world together.

Charlie was very advanced and had his mid-life crisis in his early 20s, while studying Agricultural Science at Hawkesbury Ag College (now University of Western Sydney). This was a terrible time. He was depressed, slept a lot, and felt that life and the world were quite irrelevant. From this darkness came his transformation. He left his studies after the first year, and started to roam and explore the world and himself. He farmed avocados on the NSW north coast. He was a stock rider on a mega huge cattle station in northern Queensland. I remember some great letters from that time.

They would ride around the massive cattle station for weeks on end, working with the cattle and sleeping under the stars in their swags. This was a rough environment and, while Charlie was an excellent horseman who could hold his own in the saddle, he was clearly quite different from the bunch. They called him “the Professor” because he was
the only one amongst them who had done his High School Certificate. On their 4 days off the men would drive into Mt Isa to spend their money on booze and prostitutes and get into fights, and arrive back in the morning of their next ride out. Charlie preferred the seclusion of the station and spent time contemplating and writing beautiful letters. He remarked on the beauty of the outback away from city lights and noises. He loved the power of the moon and stars. He wrote of a conversation with a fellow stock rider. He was sitting in the camp at night in awe of an amazing starlit night sky and an absolutely beautiful full moon. He remarked: “look what a beautiful moon” to which the response was: “get fucked!”. Apparently it was one of the deeper conversations there. While very different from these rough men, he forged a strong bond of mutual respect and talked of them fondly. He developed a gift for relating to people of different backgrounds, cultures and personalities.

He later went to Sweden and looked after his grandparents (mormor and morfar). My grandfather (morfar) was sick in hospital and Charlie stayed with mormor for 6 months and took her to the hospital every day to see morfar. Charlie was there when morfar died and said that he felt the strength of his spirit in the room after he died.
Later Charlie returned to HAC to finish his degree. He flourished under lecturer Richard Bawden who had a very enlightened approached to education. He emphasised systems thinking, learning how to learn, and encouraged exploration and personal development. Charlie’s final thesis was an amazing piece of work that dealt much more with philosophy and spirituality than it did with agriculture. Somehow it still passed all the requirements for Agricultural Science.

During this time Charlie with some friends ran a vegetarian restaurant on the Hawkesbury called Curlys Café. With great food, live music and a wonderful atmosphere Curlys Cafe drew a cult following and provided support for a women’s shelter on top of the restaurant. Charlie lived at Wheeney Creek in an idyllic bush cabin which was self-sufficient with natural water, solar power and a wood stove. I never quite got used to cold showers in winter so Charlie used to heat a bucket for me. Wheeny Creek was a place for contemplation, friendships, music, ideas, debate usually accompanied by great vegetarian food and red wine.

Through this time his I saw transformation. He found his inner strength, his vision and his spirit. It charted his life and he never looked back. He became committed to helping others and making the world a better place, not because he thought he “should”, but because it was everything he wanted.

Charlie travelled extensively throughout the world and loved exploring, meeting people and learning about cultures and languages. He liked to meet up with friends on his travels. Mum still talks fondly about the special time he took her hiking in Kashmir and their visit to the Taj Mahal.

In the mid-80s he was travelling through Asia when he met the head of CUSO (a Canadian development organisation) in Thailand. They hit it off and found a shared view of the world and of development. He asked Charlie to work for CUSO in Northern Thailand. This began Charlie’s love affair with the Mekong region and the people of
Thailand and Laos, which has been so central to the latter half of his life.

Charlie was an amazing brother. I feel so lucky, so privileged and so proud to be his brother. We were so different in many ways and yet so close. He gave me a fresh perspective and helped make sense of the world. He had energy, enthusiasm and amazing generosity. He always greeted me with that great playful bear hug, with the warmth, the smile and the infectious laugh.

His death has been devastating for the whole family and all his friends. It has been hard to be the bearer of bad news. Every call has been heart wrenching but also very touching - the depth of feeling, the depth of sorrow, the depth of love. How can someone inspire so much love in so many people?

We’ve been overwhelmed by the huge wave of support, warmth, love and practical assistance from everywhere. It is very comforting to know that Charlie was so loved by so many in his life. I thank you all for being there for Charlie in his life, and for being here with us today.

I’ll finish with a quote from Ted Kennedy at his brother, Robert’s funeral: 
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

We will now see some pictures from Charlie’s life accompanied by a song called “I hope you dance” by Ronan Keating. Charlie’s good friend Felicity heard this song on the radio after hearing of his death and was struck by the relevance of the lyrics. This could be Charlie’s song to us.

This will go to Andrew (Charlie's brother) and Anna-marie (tech support). 
Mailing address: 36 Upper Cliff Road, Northwood, 2066, NSW.