DéPENDRE: Sarah’s Story - Calling Out To Your Brother
Many of us lose something each day. Connections, friendships, jobs, sports, and belongings just to name a few. Loss is possibly one of the most severe emotions to feel. When you become accustomed to a certain way, and then lose it, it can play around with human nature, and we are then expected to readapt once again. It shakes us up, and many of us struggle with that concept.
For Sarah, her loss was much greater than a simple game on the netball court, or misplacing her phone. She was born into a family of three; she had a mother, a father (whom divorced in 2007) and a brother, who was four years older than her. I think for girls, having an older brother often stands out as something they’re thankful for.
It means protection, and assurance that there will always be someone there. Sarah said that her brother “had the kindest sibling affection ever, he would always push me around in carts, and just love me. To him, I was a princess, and he would go as far as sacrificing his own life for me.” As Sarah and her brother grew older, she described their relationship as increasingly distant, “we didn’t talk to each other for long periods of time, we fought more, but just the normal sibling banter that most households experience.” she said. Although they weren’t as close, she still says that he was hilarious; a sort of ‘life of the party’ type of guy, and admits that family gatherings would have been terrible without his presence. “He didn’t suit school, and luckily my mum’s side of the family were much the same, and understood.” Her brother dropped out of school a few days into year twelve, and became an apprentice electrician. He began going to parties, and she kept tabs on his whereabouts because his friend and Sarah’s friend were sisters. She said she “got all the ‘goss’, but not once told on him.” Although their parents divorce hit him harder than Sarah, she doesn’t think that it had any influence on this behaviour.
On the 7th of April 2010, when Sarah was thirteen, she woke for what was meant to be a regular school day, and heard her brother’s steel-capped boots on the tiles. They both headed off – Sarah, to school, and her brother, to CIT (Canberra Institute of Technology). He had been a popular kid at his school, but struggled to fit in amongst the others at CIT. Some of them had been rude to Sarah’s brother and his friend all morning, and so his friend left at recess time. Sarah’s brother decided to stay and finish the remainder of his classes and Sarah finished her day at school, to then be picked up by her father. Sarah attended a ballet class, and from there her and her father carried on to her grandmothers for dinner. “I heard her phone ring, she answered it but in a way that my father and I disregarded at the time. I heard her reply ‘no, no, sorry you’ve got the wrong number,’ we carried on home and my dad attempted to call my brother, but there was no answer which was very unusual.” During their ride home, Sarah said jokingly, “he’s probably dead in a ditch somewhere,” which she now regrets and in a sense, feels like her saying the sentence lead to what happened after. They returned home to find her brother’s car nowhere to be found – it was officially worrying. “My dad received a call from mum, and all I heard him say from that moment was, ‘no, no, no Tommy, no’ he then collapsed on the floor hysterically and tried to explain to me ‘he crashed, he crashed, he’s gone’ I fell onto the floor and completely lost it, I was so angry and sad.” Sarah’s dad was hyperventilating on the stairs in which she had to calm him down the best she could. “His curled up body resembled a vulnerable six year old, and I will never forget that.”
Sarah’s family had to organise a funeral for her seventeen-year-old brother. “I never cried so much in my entire life and I didn’t eat for three days, my mum fell into deep depression and still hasn’t fully recovered.” After Tom’s classes, he had driven to the coast, without telling anyone – his car was found crashed, after hitting a tree head on in an unsafe car. “I’m sorry that part is a little emotionally unattached, I just struggle with talking about it sometimes” Sarah told DéPENDRE. “Life now is completely different, my dad has got a new family, who we moved in with five months after Tom left us. You’re not meant to make major life decisions within six months of a tragedy, and I know he regrets it. I don’t get along with them at all and have moved in permanently with my mum. I‘d say life was pretty normal now but there are things that still sting. Family events are hard, especially when he’s mentioned.” Sarah is now days away from getting her Probationary License, and says that the rules have been set, and she understands them completely. “The road is notorious for being dangerous, I’m not allowed to drive to the coast, but I don’t want to drive to the coast. To future drivers, I would just say concentrate and stay safe. It’s difficult because my brother wasn’t drink driving, speeding or anything like that. The only real thing is to get a 5-star ANCAP safety rated car, because Tom might still be alive if he had one.”
Looking back now, Sarah says “I don’t think it hit me for a while, I had to be strong and help my parents in the way that they didn’t want to leave the house, or cook, or do anything so I really had to step-up. It hit me later on, I think I had just avoided thinking about it, I occupied my time with other things, I saw a therapist to talk about it and kept a diary for a while where I would write letters to him, I’d also occasionally pray to him at night time and tell him about my day even though I’m not at all religious. I still like to pretend they got the wrong guy and he’ll walk through the front door any second now.”
A very modest and respectful Sarah, was very clear about her struggle when sharing the story. “I feel selfish when I talk about this stuff but it’s how I feel. I feel like there’s no one to call when a boyfriend dumps me or someone treats me badly.” The protection that Sarah felt is lost now, but it has caused her to strengthen in many ways – teaching us all a very large lesson about adapting and learning to cope. “I feel stronger than I was because I’ve adopted the role of the son and the daughter. I do a lot of activities with dad like quad biking because he doesn’t have a son to do it with anymore. I’m the handyman around the house at Mum’s house, and I build all the furniture because no one else can. I feel stronger but it’s hard to say that, ultimately I’ve now got a lot of minor weaknesses but I’m stronger overall.”
Sarah and her family’s story is inspirational, and teaches many lessons about being thankful for what you have and the people around us. On behalf of DéPENDRE and all of our readers, we wish to extend sympathy and thankfulness to Sarah for sharing her story with us, and may her wonderful brother Tom live on in all of our hearts forever. I am honestly certain that he would be extremely proud of the young woman Sarah has become.