Something I wear quite openly in most of my blog photos is a small tattoo on my left forearm. It’s the logo from a bottle of perfume from the 1920’s, which shares the name of my late sister, Maja (pronounced: May-ah). Often I find that when people spark up a conversation with me about the tattoo, they become apologetic when they realise it’s related to her death and they feel bad about talking about it, but it’s something that we really, really need to talk about.
My sister died from complications when she went into a labour. We lost both her and her unborn son Oliver. She had been married for under five months. She was 21 years old, a month out from her birthday and a week out from her pregnancy due date. She was at home alone in her house in Fremantle, her beautiful husband was at an airport in Johannesburg, waiting to fly home to her. She had refused offers to stay with the family we had in Perth in the last weeks of her pregnancy. We were thousands of kilometres away from her on the other side of the country.
My parents picked me up early from a Karate class I was teaching that night. No one could get in contact with her. I sat quietly in the back of the car as we drove home, under the weight of that surreal question: ‘where is she?’.
Her husband’s best friend ended up forcing his way into the house. The Landlord had refused to open the door. My dad was discussing it angrily with him on the phone. ‘Just break the damn door down,’ he had said. ‘Find my daughter.’ The Landlord relented. And then there was silence. The calls stopped. It’s odd looking back on those minutes now. Dad ringing her husband’s mate. Him not answering. Us hoping that was a good sign. Hoping he was helping her if she was hurt.
Dad then took a call from Maja’s husband from the airport in South Africa. I was standing in the kitchen when he told Mum and Dad in a detached voice that Maja was dead. His best mate had been too destroyed by the discovery to tell Mum and Dad himself. He’d called her husband first. I cannot imagine what it would have been like for her husband, standing in that airport alone, surrounded by the noises and smells and colours of an airport, hearing the sound of that horror being delivered to my parent’s hearts, as his own heart was grieving for his wife and son.