Anniversary of loss stirs up emotions

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser

Watching Jay Muscat’s friends celebrate birthdays is bittersweet for his parents Mark and Sheryl.

It has been three years since the couple lost their son Jay, who was killed by a suspected great white shark while spearfishing off Three Stripes near Cheyne beach in December, 2014.

Jay would have turned 21 next month.

Sheryl Muscat said her son was a very loving, cheeky, life-of-the- party and funny kid and losing him was heartbreaking.

“You never ever think that your kids will go before you and when we lost Jay, it had a huge impact on our family life,” she said.

“When you go from being a family of four to a family of three, life is very different. And sending our daughter back to school was one of the hardest days after losing Jay, as well as her 18th birthday, which was hard as Jay never got to reach 18.”

Mark Muscat and Jay Muscat.
Camera IconMark Muscat and Jay Muscat. Credit: Sheryl Muscat

Mrs Muscat said the third anniversary of her son’s death was a difficult time for the family.

“The first year was tough but we had a lot of people around to support us,” she said.

“We have come to realise that life moves on but it can be quite difficult seeing Jay’s mates having birthdays knowing that Jay will never get to celebrate these milestones — we love all his mates though, and love being a part of their lives still three years on.”

Since Jay’s death, Mr Muscat has launched his own business, King George Sound Safari, in honour and memory of his son, who loved the water.

The business was launched in November, 2016 and was up and running almost two years after Jay’s death.

Mr Muscat said his son’s love of the water had lived on through the boat and his new business.

“I had thought of doing it before when he was around but it didn’t really happen,” he said. “I just talked about it, and when he passed away, I sat around for a fair while until I worked out I’ve got to do something,” he said. “I just want to be on the water — it’s what I want to do, and in a way, he’s with me.”

“We don’t have him around anymore and that’s a hard thing but it’s been pretty great that when I go out fishing, I go out fishing with Jay.

‘The boat is named after him and he is with me, as close as he can be.”

Mr Muscat said Jay’s 21st birthday would be celebrated with family and glasses would be raised in his honour.

“It never gets easier but it does get better to deal with in time,” he said. “Every now and then, we still have a cry and everyone grieves differently but I think Jay would be proud of us.”

Mrs Muscat said she knew Jay would be proud of his family.

“I feel Jay would be extremely proud of his family, proud of his sister graduating from high school and turning 18, and I am absolutely sure he would be so proud of his dad getting off the couch and turning his grief into something so productive and in memory of his son,” she said.

Mr Muscat said he found it difficult to celebrate Christmas after losing his son.

“It was around Christmas when we lost Jay, so I’ve found I don’t really like Christmas anymore,” he said. “It doesn’t really seem like a time to celebrate but we always get together with the family.

“I miss my son, and I miss the father-son banter we had.”

Last October, Mr and Mrs Muscat took part in a pilgrimage walk — the Camino — an experience Mr Muscat said helped his grieving.

“For the first eight days, I hated it and then one day, I chatted to a couple and it was so insightful — everyone was there for their own reasons,” he said. “I went to support Sheryl but at the end of it, I probably got more out of it then she did. I was angry after I lost Jay but after the Camino, I was finding peace with what happened.”

Jay Muscat's coffin is moved by his pall bearers after the memorial service held at Middleton Beach's Ellen Cove.
Camera IconJay Muscat's coffin is moved by his pall bearers after the memorial service held at Middleton Beach's Ellen Cove. Credit: Laurie Benson/Laurie Benson

Mrs Muscat said the Camino was the most amazing experience. “All you do is walk and you have no time restrictions and the pressures of everyday life,” she said. “You have time to think, cry, yell, shout and talk to other people who have their own stories to tell. It was a very spiritual journey and I could not recommend this walk enough.

“It did not only help with grief but with my marriage. As time goes on, we were grieving at different times and in different ways and you can feel very lost.

“Without a doubt, I would say the Camino saved our marriage. I can’t explain this — it just did.”

Mr and Mrs Muscat said they were overwhelmed by the community support after losing Jay.

“Three years on and we still miss you like crazy, Jay. Our lives are very different now and wish you were here to share our days. We love you always,” they said.

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