THE STORY OF 2902150713: The question that changed my life.
I am in a cafe and I am looking out the window in East Melbourne. Outside the sun is shining through the leaves of trees in giant pot plants. Who knew East Melbourne could be magical! I look around the cafe and everyone, curiously, is sitting at a table alone. I wonder what their story is today. What are they thinking about and what brought them out today. To sit at a table alone.
Is it anything like my story. What I am thinking about and what I am doing here. I wonder what they see when they look at me. Can they see a dark cloud above me, despite the sun, and despite being inside. A little dark grey cloud, storm brewing, above me. I wonder if they see through to my brain, and see a number scorched on it. A series of meaningless numbers: 2902150713. Very most likely, they will be thinking of something completely different. And quite confidently, I can say, they don’t see me at all.
This is what I am thinking as I sit here with a cloud above my head. And this number scorched into my brain.
On the day this story starts I was driving my car. I had no clue, that on this day, my sister would reveal herself to be a motherfucking superhero.
Here, I present to you the photo I most hate in the world. Not because it contains a red-eyed tired me in front of McDonalds in Bell Street. But because it is the last picture my sister took of me. And it is a reminder of all the last things we did together. We had snuck out of hospital. The last cafe visit, the last ride, the last song we heard on radio was Boy and Bear singing,”I got my whole damn life”. All these memories of the last time. Now I can only recall the sweetness of it all, if I accept the bitterness as well.
Sophia turned to me. Levelled me with a stare and said, “If you died tomorrow, would you be happy with the sum of your existence?”
It was one of those moments that you feel completely knocked off your feet, by the simple words of another person, but delivered with all their heart and soul. Is this some kind of superpower!?! To strike a person down like that. And shift who they are in such a cataclysmic way?
I remember feeling confused and dazed by this question. Because, if I were to be honest with myself, if I answered truthfully. My answer would be no. And I realised that that answer made me feel like the saddest person in the world.
So I tucked it away. This sad feeling. Folded it over and over inside of myself until I forgot about it. My response every time this question unfolded back into my life, was to fold it, over and over again.
Looking back, I now recognised that I had already started grieving for my sister. Going through a depression that had crept up on me, while I was busy trying to be strong. Trying to be (stupidly) ok. How extraordinary, that even in the midst of losing her life, she found time to remind me, I still had mine to live.
* Sophia holding up her bike with one finger, like a superhero boss :)
A week later, at roughly 3am on August 10th 2012 I was up with my brother Marra. We were each sitting on either side of our younger sister Sophia. Holding onto her hands. In hospital.
Her body was going rigid, in pain. No amount of morphine was working anymore. My brother and I were both panicking, feeling powerless to protect our little sister. We were the youngest three of ten kids. And so I did what we always did when we were kids. We wished for things together. Futile? Perhaps to most. But not to us. I held her hand more firmly, and scooted closer so she could hear me. And said,
“Tell me where your safe place is, escape from your body, and in our imaginations, Marra and I will meet you there. Tell us where it is.”
And through her pain we heard her whisper, “I’m at a beach, the sand is white and the water is crystal clear, the colour of turquoise. We are sitting in hammocks drinking watermelon mojitos and our nieces and nephews are playing in the sand”.
And as she was speaking, we noticed her body slowly relaxed. A big sigh, like all the pain, left her body. Rigidness left her fingers and hands. We knew she was in her safe place for now. I looked across her body at my brother and saw fear and tears.
Five days later, we found ourselves still fighting to hold her onto this world.
And we lost.
* Marra and Sophia Saly 2012.
That day still rings in my head today. When Sophia left, it was 7.13 am on August 15th 2012.
The number that has been scorched into my brain and my soul: 2902150713, stands for, 29 years, 02 months, 15 days, 07 hours and 13minutes. And it is the amount of time, given to my sister, to live her life.
We all have our own numbers and no-one knows when our time comes. We just know that it will. Understanding this about time and having the memory of my sister scorched into me, has helped to set me free. I hope sharing this story, will help set some people free too.
When my final day comes. And I once again get to meet my sister. And she asks me,
“Koky, are you happy with the sum of your existence?”. I will answer, with a bold and confident, “Yes”.
* In Sorrento 2012. Sophia's last trip.
Exactly seven years ago today Sophia left this world for the next. I choose to celebrate and honour her life by sharing stories about her that moved me to be a better person. So here is to reminding you, that in your life amongst you, are people who are motherfucking superheroes.
And then double-down and remember this. That motherfucking superhero, could be you.
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