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Samuel Johnson: "The note from Connie I found two weeks after her death."

I get why people believe in ‘signs’. After I lost a loved one years ago (she loved butterflies), I seemingly ran into hundreds of butterflies in the days after her death. Signs are coincidences, says the pragmatist in me; there weren’t more butterflies fluttering by after she died, I was just more perceptive to them. So if ‘signs’ are generally just heightened coincidences, then how’s this for one?

Connie’s death prompted our ‘deepest run’ yet. By that, I’m referring to those deep runs that one commits to to meet a particular deadline or goal. Whilst we had years to prepare for this time, nothing could really prepare us for the onslaught.

Love Your Sister has always had a small team and when Connie died, we had a lot of people willing to help, which was nice, but Connie’s two services and the campaigning for cash around her death still took us deeper than ever before. The five of us somehow did 14 consecutive days without any real rest.

Samuel Johnson recounts the very human moment Connie was awarded the Order of Australia Medal, before she passed away. (Post continues after audio.)

Anyone in not for profit work knows what exhaustion feels like, indeed anyone who is passionate or obsessive about their work knows that delirium beyond the fatigue beyond the threshold, but this one took the cake for us. Not a moment for grief. Not while Connie’s symphony remained incomplete.

It wasn’t really a choice to take a week off after Connie’s public memorial, rather a necessity. Foggy days of endless clothes-washing cycles after a month of not being home, long sleeps in ignorance of night or day, shitty excuses for meals and blind stumbles to and from the toilet, fuck the air freshener, citrus whatever.

No sense of time. Not much sense of place. Still mostly too numb to feel much. Not much appetite for rest even. A listless haze after six years of solid focus.

I somehow decided to take a bath after what must have been five days. Connie loved a bath. So did Dad. Would do me good. Which lead me to a book. Would be good to read something for once; take my mind off ‘things’.

The week has been foggy. Mindless. Numb. 

I had so many choices. So many books waiting for 'when I find the time' (cough), and I reach for 'Smarter, Faster, Better', I'm not sure why. I run my bath, pour in ridiculous amounts of bath salts that I really enjoyed buying off an interesting florist recently, I slide in and I open up my book.

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I open it to a message in my sister's handwriting. Connie gave the book to me as a gift. She'd written me a message on the inside cover. It was the first book I reached for after she died.

Coincidence? No. Meant to be? Not at all. A kiss from the grave? Blurgh.

connie johnson note to samuel johnson

A beautiful case of the subconscious remembering Duhigg's first book, which changed my life, which Connie also gifted me. A ripe reminder to finish the second part of another informative stroll with my big sis Cottonsocks. Given that I was such an able student of hers, Connie's anything but gone, both to me or our cause, and I'm starting to get excited about taking all that she continues to teach me to beyond even her blue sky.

Samuel Johnson opens up to Mia Freedman about Connie's last days, how he's holding up, and what happens next. (Post continues after audio.)

Beyond my 'beyond the grave' wafflings however, lies the actual moral of the story. Go read a fucking book. They're wonderful. Connie and I always thought so. And find a bath if you can.

You can support Love Your Sister by visiting, donating and buying from their website, or check them out on Facebook.

The award-winning podcast Mamamia Out Loud is doing their first live show. There will be laughs, disagreements and you can meet the hosts afterwards! We’re also donating $5 of every ticket price to Share The Dignity so grab your friends and come along to share the love and laughs, get your tickets here.

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