Friday, 6 November 2015

No Good Bye.

Today marks two years and twenty-two days since my brother Cameron took his own life. Where he took his life I have no idea. He's gone somewhere I couldn't follow, couldn't drag his hand and heart back from the void.

I was talking to my mother on the phone last night .. we often go through the what-ifs and should-have-dones. Which is entirely fruitless because what's done is done, we can't change what happened. Hindsight is the perfect science. But the people left behind after a loved one suicides .. well we're just scrambling and aching and charred, trying to make sense of the insensible. Understand the inexplicable.

My brother was such a thoughtful, sharp, deliciously quick-witted, capable, beautiful man. Oh he was beautiful! He was alone when he died which breaks my heart into a trillion million tiny pieces. Pieces that keep getting broken again and again until the shards turn to crumbling dust but the dust keeps breaking too because everything broke when he died. I broke. His death broke me .. as it should have. I'd expect nothing less from a love like that.

Death can shake us all up like a snow globe. Cracks and crevices become caverns, too wide to jump over. Too big to ignore. There are layers we're left to unwrap and unravel as we navigate grief in relentless stormy weather on a creaky old boat. With no map - christ not even a rudder. There's no set guide or rulebook. We let the days happen to us. It's shit. It's the absolute shittest of shit of shit. SHIT. #shit

C.S. Lewis once wrote: "Nobody ever told me that grief felt so much like fear." Oh it's true. I witnessed the birth, life and death of a person I love with my whole soul. How can that be? It's all so wrong. And frightening.

Thirteen days ago 24-year old Rhys McNaughton took his own life. His death has shocked and shattered his family and loved ones to the core. It was unexpected, nobody saw it coming. A bolt from beyond the blue. Right now this second there's a whole other family and set of friends and loved ones hurting, keening, in complete shock at the death of their beautiful guy. Rhys was smart, strong, incredibly good-looking. A magnetic personality ... he shone. People clamoured to be near him. He went to uni, was a talented footy player. I never met him - I never will. A close family friend of his reached out to me. We talked on the phone, laughed and cried together. And swore a lot. I listened to the immense pain in her words and heart. How could this happen? What? Why? Where are the answers? Where's the rulebook? WHAT?

It's difficult to talk about suicide, especially navigating the minefield of it on a public forum like this. But our boys are leaving us. Our girls too - but the statistics of young men taking their own lives are huge. What's going on? Why were there no warning signs? How could this happen to a beautiful Soul like Rhys? Did he not have everything society and the world has to offer? What's going on in people's minds and hearts that they see suicide as their only option?

I borrowed a book from North Sydney library when I was in my early twenties. It was called "Suicide: The Forever Decision." I never returned it, and often wonder if the librarians wonder what happened to the person that borrowed that book. I'm still here - scrambling, surviving, fighting. Cam is not here. Rhys is not here.

This is an epidemic. Tragedies are being playing out again and again, every day. Different stories but the same narrative.

Rhys has an incredibly large network of friends who are shocked and bereft and grieving hard, real hard. Often people want to to something meaningful after one of our own has died, to try make some sense of it. I became a spoken-word artist after my brother left, to honour him. I even bought a new set of brown and aqua cowboy boots to perform in - to help keep me going. It worked. We need to keep going.

Every single one of us goes through hard things. Life pulverises us all .. at times I have felt such pain. Surely nobody on the whole planet could ever have felt such pain? But they have. I am not alone in my humanness. Feelings subside, things change, time moves on. We're not stuck in a moment forever. Everything ebbs and flows with the moon. It's going to be ok sweet ones. I promise you! Hold tight, bunker down. Let the waves crash over you. Storms eventually stop and I know this for a FACT. I have lived it. I've felt the darkest black feelings anybody could possibly feel and I'm still here, completely battered but tapping away at my keyboard regardless, shining a bit of light on Rhys.

This is Rhys.

Photo: John Bortolin

His heartbroken friends have rallied and banded together to raise awareness of suicide and depression. To REALLY raise true awareness. Conversations, dialogue, The loss of Rhys has shaken and devastated so many people, right to the core. Young people are looking at each other in bewilderment and shock .. how could this happen? If it happened to Rhys .. it can happen to ANY of us.

His mates, his people, his tribe, they're hurting. And crying and questioning. They've banded together, using all of their social media platforms and voices to speak up, to say: "Look what happened to our friend. How could it be true? What can we do?"

Barely two weeks on they've started a wave of change, conversation, bravery among their pain. We can learn from them. They've taken up the baton and doing things their way, fuelled by the intense pure love they have for Rhys. They want to get the word out. They NEED to. Rhys had such striking features so similar to young celebrity Zac Ephron that his mates affectionately nicknamed him "Zeffa." A letter has been written to Zac. It's beautiful. ".. I'm pretty sure Rhys could make friends with a tree." 

They've set up a fundraising page on the Movember Foundation website.  The Movember campaign happens every year in November, drawing critical attention to the mental health of young men. Rhys's friends "Hotter Than Zac Ephron" page is now the highest fundraising group for Movember in Australia. I'm so proud and in awe of these young people. Please spare some thoughts and possibly a few coins for the family and friends of Rhys. Please share what his mates are doing to honour him, they are so numb and heartbroken from shock and immense loss.

Hotter Than Zac Ephron Movember Fundraising Page. 

We never "get over" the death of people we love .. but we get through. Together. We have to live our lives together.

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