Monday, 1 December 2014

The Day I Took All Of My Dead Brothers T-Shirts To Uganda.

So my brother took his own life a little over a year ago. Which is just a really nice way of saying he lost the will to live. I’ve struggled so hard to be on the planet without him but hey, I’m still here. I don’t know if it’s resilience or strength or a certain kind of  doggedness and one day I even told my therapist that maybe my low-self esteem has kept me alive, whereas my brother Cam always felt kind of ripped off by the world. I don’t expect much.

Anyway so a few years ago he came to live with me and I kissed him and loved on him and MADE him laugh and helped him get a job and we talked and we talked and talked, well into the night. It was interesting for me because he was as glued to his computer as I was, so we’d sit side by side, on our own laptops. Stopping to say stupid things. He wanted to start his own t-shirt business. So he did. He sourced the shirts from Bangladesh and got them printed with really cool designs and I helped when I could and he’d talk to me about laser printers until my eyes glazed like Krispy Kremes, so boring but he was so METICULOUS. He poured a lot of thought and hard work and energy into his t-shirt business. Registered the logo and trademark and website and EVERYTHING like when that guy did something, he did it all the way. Especially his own suicide.

So the shirts started arriving and I was SO proud of him, tried to put my marketing hat on but I’m not really good at that type of stuff and neither was he. He had a full-time job and was doing this in his spare time and just really wanted them to succeed, all he ever wanted to do was MAKE something of himself, not even knowing that he himself was enough. He was enough. We are enough. The world tells us we should be all these things but we are enough.

Eventually he kind of gave up, flogged the t-shirts at Bondi Markets for $20 each and he wasn’t a market flogger guy he was the guy who should be in charge of market floggers. I understood and empathised and was sad about his situation, but he announced new plans to go work for the mines in WA and the rest is history because that lifestyle is not good for a man like him. At all. He spent so much money flying back and forth to Sydney to see girlfriends that he didn’t save properly. He thought he was such a failure but he tried so hard, I cannot articulate the unfairness of the unravelling of such a beautiful man.

At his wake last year one of his friends said "Oh remember Cams t-shirt business!" like it was a funny joke and I wanted to punch him in the face. Still do. 

A few weeks ago, one big final box of his t-shirts arrived at my doorstep. Now I’ve had some PEARLER hard days since he’s been gone but nothing like this. It was excruciating, to see the stickers and his writing on the box and the shirts that he had rolled up in it. His failure. I couldn’t stand to see the box of his shirts just laying around the house stagnant so I put them in the back of my car and they came with me whenever I drove somewhere. On the move. Going somewhere.

What the hell will I do with my dead brothers t-shirts? Seriously can somebody pass me the rule book for this pls? 

You know what the answer was? Give them away in Uganda is what. Because people here wear filthy rags.

When it came time to pack to leave Australia I couldn’t take the t-shirts out of the box I had to ask Dave to do it and I just walked away. Could not watch. I asked him to count how many there were. 

“Nah hon.” 
“NAH hon HEAPS more .. there’s seventy-five!”   

Seventy-five Straight Racer t-shirts! The most limited edition shirts in the WORLD. All different patterns and colours and designs, but all a size small because obviously the small didn’t sell. So I ripped off the part of the cardboard box where he wrote “small” and kept it. I wish it was a different word, because Cam thought he was small. But he was so big.

I didn’t witness it that often because I was always his last port of call in his personal storm but I KNOW he lit up a room, his presence was felt.

So I packed up all of the seventy-five shirts and lugged them in my suitcase to Sydney airport. They were HEAVY and I didn’t ask World Visions permission in case they said no. It’s easier to do something wrong and apologise than just flat-out know you're not allowed to do it.

I’ve had all these shirts since I’ve been here, burning a hole in me. 

C.S. Lewis says that we must give away the things we love to make them truly ours. So I called all the girls to my room the other night and showed them the shirts and told them I would cry as I explained the shirt predicament but I don’t need condolences because there is nothing anybody can do. They were SO AWESOME and decided to tell one of the local World Vision managers, maybe do them as  Gifts in Kind project because there were so many.

So instead of me randomly standing on street corners handing out free t-shirts to people,  we visited the outdoor polio and measles and baby-weighing clinic … and my brothers t-shirts were handed out to an entire community of people who really needed them.

I was fine. I was proud. Did not cry. It felt good to let them all go. Cam and I never knew four years ago that the t-shirts he was creating would end up in a Ugandan village called Namundolera near Kampala, Uganda. After he DIED. Because he’s dead. Did you know my brother died? Yep. Gone. It goes over and over and over my head, every day.

I got to meet all the people and the head World Vision guy gave out some shirts but told the rest of the people that whoever arrived at the clinic early the next day would receive a shirt. Incentive. The man turned to me and announced to everybody that I was to thank my brother for his kind generosity.

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

BEST photo by Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

I said I would. Then I walked away.

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

It wasn’t until hours later that I JUST had cracked open my chocolate icing that I looked up at my computer and there was the last photo I had been staring at that day.

I lost it. Could not eat the icing, could not sit anywhere because everything was on fire with my pain and I wailed and walked around for about a full hour, the deepest pain and asked Cam if he saw what happened with his t-shirts day. Maybe he even did. Who knows.

Rocco came up to me last week and just calmly said, “Mum, I know when you’ll see Uncle Cam again.”

And I said, “When sweetie?”

He simply said, “When you die.”

And walked off, without a care in his six-year old world.

Maybe. I would love that.

So. My brother helped an entire village. That’s pretty cool.

I cracked open the icing the next night. Things are happening deep inside of me. Maybe I'm turning a corner. Man I hope so, because this is just brutal.

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