Our last conversation will forever haunt me. Not because it would become the last thing I’d ever hear from one of the most vivacious, powerful, caring and colourful human beings to have ever lived. But because it was my one and only chance to see that someone I loved so fiercely needed help. And I missed it.
I was tempted to make this anonymous on her behalf, but naming her, I feel, makes this real for me. And hopefully for you too. I want… no, NEED, this to be a lesson to me, and to everyone, that ignoring the signs that someone is calling out for help can have disastrous consequences.
My cousin Brit’s death was inevitable. I hate to admit that, but I fear it’s the truth. Yes, it came way to early, but with the pain she was in, she wasn’t destined to be part of this world for long.
She’d been suffering from chronic fibromyalgia for years, and was in excruciating agony every day. Fibromyalgia, for the uninitiated, involves widespread constant pain, stiffness, extreme physical sensitivity, fatigue, poor sleep, cognitive problems, headaches, IBS, dizziness, anxiety, and depression, just to name a few. And she’d had this for YEARS. Her twin sister sent me the below image after her death, which helped me to appreciate just how horrid it must have been.
We had a lot of family drama happen over the last 10 years, which made it difficult for us to see each other as much as we would have liked. But she knew I was always there for her, and I knew she was there for me. Yet I was nearly 10 years older than her, and I should have been the one who made sure we saw each other more. Ahhh, hindsight. It’s a bastard of a thing.
But we stayed in touch, and would update each other randomly on the happenings in our lives, and to have a whinge about family shit. It was a good relationship, really. And even though we didn’t see each other much, my love for her was fierce, and never ending.
Back in November of 2017, I invited her to my going away party before I left to live in Koh Tao, Thailand. She didn’t come, and messaged me the next day:
And do you know what I did next?
Nothing. I did nothing.
I was so wrapped up in packing, and goodbyes, and then living my new wonderful life in Thailand that I forgot to reply.
Then I spent the next 6 months living the dream. I was living on a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand, diving every day, making amazing friends, hiking and partying, and generally just being a chilled as mofo.
A few weeks after arriving back in Australia to sort out some visa stuff, it was 6 months to the day from receiving her last message, that my nightmare happened.
On Facebook, I started seeing RIP posts. For her. For my Britty.
She was gone.
I have never been that utterly destroyed. I was grieving harder than my body could handle. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t think. I just wanted to wake up from this insane dream, and go back to a world that had Brit in it. And her family and friends! Fuck, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what they were going through. It was just… Unimaginable.
Then I went to send her a message on Facebook, because, I don’t know. It just felt right. And there it was. The message I never got around to replying to. The one that ended with:
Reading that changed something in me.
I’ve always considered myself to be a caring person, and quite selfless. But in that moment, I realised it wasn’t entirely true. I’d let my life take priority, just as I had many times before, and I’d let someone down who so desperately needed me. Yet here was someone who spent every day in agonising physical and mental pain, and she was still looking out for me.
I swore from that moment forward that my life was never going to get in the way of loving my family and friends. And being there for them, whether they asked for it or not.
When I got back to Koh Tao, I had this promise to Brit inked into my skin, so I could never forget it. And every time I saw it, I’d remember my promise to my little chameleon to never abandon someone, and to always be kind.
I’ll end this with a quote from the wisest lil whippersnapper I’ll ever meet, and one I’ll live the rest of my life abiding by.