When Connie proposed setting up a charity in the immediate aftermath of her terminal diagnosis 7 years ago, I was reluctant to say the least. I harboured serious misgivings for many months. Mostly, I didn’t want to be unicycling around the place while my sister was sick, but I was also repelled by the prospect of marketing my sister’s illness.
As I told her at the time, it’s like Pandora’s box. If you choose to ‘go public’ then you can’t shut up shop when shit gets tricky. It’s not the way it works. Having lived a public life for many years to that point I had a fairly acute sense of what the rules were. All in or fold, basically.
One day, almost a year into me and Connie organising the long-distance unicycle ride that would form the bedrock of our new charity, I hurled all of my misgivings at Connie. It all felt private and I didn’t want to air our laundry. I was upset enough to be angry.
Connie killed my argument with two of the most perfectly weighted sentences I’ve ever had directed at me. She said…
‘Sam, this is bigger than us. Besides, we’ve said all that we have to say to each other.’
There wasn’t much I could say. I had to commit at that point. Connie was right.
I unicycled for a year and the rest is history.
Except now that fear from so many years ago has returned.
Let me be honest. I’ve marketed the absolute shit out of my sister’s illness. And now I’ve got to market the absolute shit out of her demise.
It was always going to come to this. I knew it then and now it’s here.
How do you monetise and market your own sister’s death?
You’ll see, I suppose.
It doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Not like the prospect of it used to. It’s bigger than me and Con, I accept that, even more than I did initially.
I wouldn’t have it any other way now. Nothing great can be achieved easily, and I consider a 10 million dollar take for research from her diagnosis to her death, to be a little bit great.
If it wasn’t bigger than me and Con, there wouldn’t be ten million bucks in the hands of our country’s brightest scientific minds. That‘s direct proof Connie was right.
So now I really get that it’s bigger than us. And now, we actually have said all that we have to say to each other.
And in her name, I will simply keep on shouting, from every rafter I find…
‘Our mums matter.’
It’s already been sung and it can’t be said enough. All you need is love. At the centre of love? Family. At the centre of family? Mums.
It’s down to that.
So the flag I wave, and will far beyond Connie’s grave.
I was full of befuzzlement before this trip. Things got on top of me. I was spent. Love Your Sister, The Stick, the BHP (Big Heart Project), the Logies nonsense, our structural issues, our desperate lack of operational funds; it all became too much, again!
Whilst I wasn’t in the best shape for the flights from Melbourne-Sydney-Buenos Aires-Santiago-Ushuaia, I somehow managed, courtesy of the resilient Meg Hall from Chimu Adventures, who must’ve wondered what the hell she was in for.
All of my baggage lifted once aboard the MW Ushuaia. Nestled in my bunk in my cute little cabin, as we rolled our way through Drake’s passage, it all just left me. None of it mattered here. For the first time since Love Your Sister began, I actually felt some peace. Some space. I listened to music, I read. Connie’s deterioration became clearer to me as the space grew, so I cried a fair bit. All good stuff.
I was aided perfectly by ‘The Big Mother’. That’s how I refer to Mother Nature. In Antarctica, The Big Mother doesn’t just reign supreme, she rules with impotent fury. Everything you understand and know to be important vanishes under her contemptuous eye. Survival is the only thing that matters. Here, she is at her most tempestuous, sure, but she’s also at her most magnificent. But don’t get lost in wonder, she can turn on a dime and leave you with no chance. The beauty, scale, harshness and wonder of the place are poorly served by our shitty photography and lame languages. They simply can’t do the place any justice at all. It really is the ultimate ‘you had to be there’.