Les Kennedy

Les Kennedy: Got a yarn for you.

The news that highly respected ABC journalist Paul Lockyer died in a helicopter crash with pilot Gary Ticehurst and cameraman John Bean has devastated many Australians familiar with his work.

Coming on the heels of Wednesday's funeral for well-regarded Sydney crime reporter Les Kennedy, I have no doubt it's left a few people in the media and beyond pondering their health and mortality.

More than that, I'd wager there are a couple of journos wondering if their legacy and obituaries would be as shining as the ones left by these two blokes.

Lockyer and Kennedy, from all reports, were very different men, but shared a passion for getting the story, burrowing into the truth of the matter they were investigating and reporting it with integrity.

Listening to Lockyer's grieving colleagues interviewed on Adam Spencer's ABC breakfast show this morning, I felt desperately sad for his friends and family, but then also for the toilers of the world who'll not be remembered so expansively.

Not all of us have high-powered mates in the media who can reminisce about our deeds on the airways, but then not all of us inspire respect, admiration and loyalty like Paul Lockyer - and Les Kennedy - did.

It brought home to me once again that the little choices we make along the road of life eventually add up to who we are, and subsequently how we'll be remembered.

Listening to Ray Martin talk about Lockyer this morning - how his friend had given up drinking and "looked 45 instead of 61", it also struck me that the personal decisions we make about our health and well-being can be just as important as any we make about our careers.

Kennedy fought his battles with the drink and there's little doubt he'd have lasted longer than his 53 years if he'd been a more temperate person.

Tragically, for Lockyer, Ticehurst and Bean, all the right decisions in the world could not compete against fate.


I reckon most of us would like our obituaries to be positive affairs and not be filled with hoary cliches such as "he was a man of large appetites" (i.e. obese and/or alcoholic), "he was not always an easy man to live with" (he beat his missus) or "he was a free-spirit" (couldn't hold down a job to save himself).

As I've written before, every day we make choices about who we are, but often don't realise it.

We get out of bed early or 10 minutes too late, so we're rushed and our shirt is unironed and we look like a homesless person.

We smile at strangers or not, lose our tempers or control ourselves, cheat on our wives or remain faithful, keep promises or never turn up when we say we will.

This is who we are.

I reckon a lot of people spend more time thinking about if they'll become a vegetarian than they do about fidelity, honesty and integrity, and these virtues (or lack there of) are what we'll be reading about in their obituaries, not how their hair looked or what sort of car they drove.

It's not a bad thing to think of now and then as you consider betrayal, illegality, immorality or some other questionable action: how will I be remembered - and would I really want that on my tombstone?

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.