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  • Writer's pictureDonné Restom

A letter to my brother 21 years after suicide

On the 21st anniversary of your death, I'm finally ready to write.

This article originally appeared on Kidspot.

Trigger warning: This post may be upsetting for some readers.

Dear John,

21 years ago today, we got the visit from the cops. With mum on the sofa and me at her feet, an officer came in to tell us that you were dead. You'd jumped in front of a train. Redfern Station. Platform six. It happened very quickly.

It wasn't their first visit, and I guess that's why the news came as such a shock. We were in shock - all of us. You'd succeeded, you'd been trying to kill yourself for years. Except every time you got your hands on too many drugs, drove like a mad-man, or did whatever else it was you did, the buggers kept catching you. You saw too many hospitals and barred windows for someone so young, I get it. Something had to give.

I don't remember much about our grieving time - who does? Our aunt sat us down in her living room with cups of thick, Lebanese coffee and read us a story. She'd seen you cross over with the Zulu warriors, in their boat that sailed for the moon.

A lot has happened since you left

I'm officially older than you now. I remember the birthday that marked me passing you, and as I celebrated with friends I saw you in my mind's eye. You who has always been 10 years older. I looked more and more like you.

We would have been mates, you and I.

I'll never be able to say that I know what went on in your head, but I can say I know some. I followed you, for a while. Through the dead sea and into the consciousness of hell. I've travelled down the spiral staircase and into the worlds of the shouting subconscious, where every whisper turns to a shriek and the voices that mutter of confusion and conspiracies fill every waking moment with fear and nightmare.

But I never once thought of joining the Zulu boat. I'm sure I have you to thank for that. For while the question of whether your death played some part in my fall from grace is completely up for debate, I have no doubt that your leap showed me to pick myself back up.

You were my light

And you still are.

I have a son of my own now. He turns two in two weeks and I can't deny that I get scared when I think of what his future could hold.

But I wish for him all of your qualities. The fire, the rebelliousness, the quest for travel and freedom, your fearlessness when it came to water and catching the perfect wave (we're still working on that).

Your ability to paint - the incessant, maddening creativity...

Yesterday my son stood at his chalk board. He'd called me over to watch. And with a startling flourish of colour drawn by a wild arm he scribbled. Then, pausing he got in real close to that chalk board, poised in focus and intent, and made a few more scribbles - tiny; precise. He stepped back, appraised his work and, with all the confidence of Dali said, "Mummy ... BOAT."

And it felt there should have been a firecracker, or at least a dropping of some kind of red velvet curtain. So sure was he of the integrity of his work. Such surety reminds me of you. I hope it never fades.

And I hope you get to read this letter

It's on the internet now (did you even know the internet?) so it's basically immortal. And I hope you don't mind that I put your picture up. These private things are shared by the world now - willy nilly really - and you dodged an odd future if the truth be told.

But I've gone and done it anyway. So you can have a look any time you like.

Just hop on a boat, a Zulu canoe, and visit us back from the moon.


Your little sister xx

For those seeking support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.


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