NOWRA School of Arts was overflowing on Friday for the funeral of 27-year-old North Nowra man, Matthew Sykes, who was tragically killed in a boating accident Thursday, January 24.
Few mourners wore black with the hall a sea of colour in honour of the young drummer who impacted many people’s lives through music and a love of the ocean.
Friends and family from all over Australia and from the UK paid tribute to a life lost too soon.
It was not called a funeral, rather a service of remembrance by celebrant Dale Wells, who welcomed mourners to the school of arts on an eerily dark and wet afternoon.
“We know the sun will shine again,” she said; words which rang with deeper meaning.
Matthew’s girlfriend, Bethanie Jolly, took a brave step and performed publicly for the first time at the service.
“Matthew was always begging me to play, it seemed too scary,” she said.
“I’ve faced the scariest thing of all now, so I’ve got to sing.”
Matthew’s parents, Andrew and Catherine Sykes, shared tales of their son’s short life, bringing laughter and tears to mourners’ eyes.
Mr Sykes spoke of his son’s passion for percussion, which began around age 13.
“He’d drum on pots and pans and even on his chest,” he said.
Matthew went on to study jazz percussion at university and travelled to Ghana to train with a drumming master.
He taught drumming privately, made his own instruments and played in numerous bands.
Just prior to his death, Matthew had been invited to play with musician Paul Greene and the Other Colours.
“He defied convention,” Mr Sykes said, explaining the way Matthew bought his clothes from op shops and never wanted a desk job.
“He packed so much into every day of his 27 years.
“Losing Matt has been my worst nightmare. My advice is hug your kids every day, no matter how old they are.
“He wasn’t ours to keep; now he is God’s for eternity.”
Matthew’s mother, Catherine, spoke of her son’s spirituality and perceptiveness.
“He was one of those rare, deep, insightful people who could see what others couldn’t,” she said.
“He grew up fast and I can see why – he didn’t have much time.”
Many other friends and family members also shared their memories, poems and tributes.
Music, of course, featured heavily throughout, with the styles diverse – a Coltrane sax solo, hymns and spiritual songs.
A musical celebration, which extended into the night, was a fitting farewell for the popular and loved musician and friend to many.