Mark Baker
About Mark Baker

Mark Baker is Director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation and Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the School of Historical Studies at Monash University

ABOUT THREE DAYS before Johnny died, as his physical strength was waning, he signalled with his hands that he wanted to talk to me alone. Everyone left the room and we closed the door to his study.

I sat on the leather chair on his side, his body perforated with contraptions called butterflies, from which drivers and needles could easily be injected to ease the unbearable pain caused by the cancer that was rapidly burrowing through his bones. What did he want to say?

He just looked at me, his eyes already hollow but strangely sparkling with that look I’d come to recognise over the past ten months—a mixture of bewilderment, of bemusement, of bereavement, the latter less for his oncoming fate than for his family and especially for my parents.

He shrugged his shoulders. ‘Do we have anything to talk about?’

Umm, I thought to myself. How do you answer that question?

‘Talk to me,’ he urged.  ‘What do you think?’ His voice was croaky from the primary cancer in his lower oesophagus which miraculously never affected his appetite; if anything, it enlarged it, and summonsed meals from Ilona Staller to his hospital bed be it in Cabrini, Prahran hospice or his study.

In that one second before I answered him, I looked at him lying there, and then at the framed picture behind the bed of Johnny standing with our great-Uncle Wiociou, an old behatted man.

READ OBITUARY IN FULL (Speakola)

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Mark Baker
Posted by Mark Baker 3 weeks ago