A town farewells three small brothers

IT WAS such a quiet funeral, despite the number of people who came: 120 in the sweet little country church, another 400 or so on plastic chairs under the spring sunshine outside.
People sat still and silent, even though the crying began long before the service did, with women wiping tears from eyes reddened for hours.
But at the end of the funeral service, the church exploded with the Farquharson boys’ favourite song – Holy Grail by Hunters and Collectors. The music thumped with life as 12 young men in dark suits rose from the congregation and walked grimly towards the three small white coffins, ready to carry them out. Then there came another sound: a high, thin wail. Bereft mother Cindy Gambino was keening for her boys.
The coffin of her eldest, nine-year-old Jai, was carried out first. Then the smaller casket of his middle brother, Tyler, 7. And then the heart-rendingly small box in which lay Bailey, the baby, who was 2. Each had his own small bouquet of red roses and baby’s breath.
Behind them staggered their mother in a long black dress, her face contorted with grief. She leaned heavily on the arm of her ex-husband, Robert Farquharson, the man who had driven the car in which their three children had died. He stared straight ahead with a dazed expression.
The rest of Victoria knows these children for the way they died: drowned in a dam after their father’s car veered off a road as he was returning them from an access visit on Father’s Day. All three were later found to be free of their seatbelts and child restraints, and police think that Jai might have struggled to release his brothers before they died.
Police have questioned Mr Farquharson about the circumstances of the crash, which left no skid marks on the road. The car was found to have its engine and its lights turned off. Mr Farquharson told police he had a coughing fit and blacked out, waking to find himself in the water. His ex-wife’s family have told media he was a wonderful father and that this was a terrible accident. His ex-wife spent the first few days after the crash sedated in hospital for shock and grief.
Yesterday, at St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Winchelsea, mourners heard of the boys that their family knew. Family friend Wendy Kennedy gave the eulogy. Jai “was generous, like his father; he always wanted to look after his younger brothers”. He was a footballer and a cub scout and had a red belt in karate. He loved acting out moments from movies – “it was always the adult jokes he liked, the ones he shouldn’t have understood”.
He also loved money and was happy to earn some mowing his Poppy’s lawns, but preferred the “Tattslotto chair” on his Sunday visits to his grandparents’ house, where he would raid his grandfather’s chair for the change that had fallen from his pockets through the week.
Tyler had his mother’s grin and loved hot dogs and mudcakes and his grandma’s vegie soup, strained. His mother said of him, “Have food, will travel”. He was a joker, best known for his cross-eyed faces and the plastic dog poo he hid in his grandfather’s bed.
Little Bailey called the family dog “Woofy” and the family cat “Puss”. The cockatiel was simply “my bird” and would sit on his shoulder while he fed it cereal. Bailey was old enough to protest against anything he didn’t like with “This is quack, mum!” When told that that was naughty, he would play his strongest card: “But me just a baby, Mum!”
Outside the church, as the three coffins were loaded into two hearses, Cindy Gambino and Robert Farquharson clung to each other. His lower lip jutted out and trembled as he struggled to contain his distress. Several times he hugged her in a helpless kind of way as she gazed blankly at the hearses, as if she could not comprehend what she was seeing.
They both looked shocked and disbelieving to find themselves in a world without their children.

First published in The Age.