March 22, 2007

Bad things, good people

You may be feeling a bit more emotional than usual, Flip. Tender feelings are likely to surface at this point and it may be hard for you to concentrate on just the facts. It might be tempting to get caught up in an ensuing drama that doesn't necessarily pertain to you. Keep your nose out of other people's business. Be nurturing and empathetic as opposed to inquisitive and sarcastic. No gossiping today.

A light went out in Broome this week, at the same time I discovered my heart still breaks a little at times. My horoscope has rarely felt truer than today, when I read it through red-rimmed eyes and fresh from taking a few deep breaths.

Sam died this week. Of course, most people outside Broome would shrug their shoulders or furrow their brow at the name, thinking idly that they may have heard it before; in Broome, however, this event represents the passing of hope, the careless flash of lightening from a vengeful god - and a reminder to live each day to the full.

I have never done a death-knock before - the term used by journalists for the unpleasant task of phoning a family in bereavement to coax answers from their numb lips. I wanted to steel myself for this one, because Sam was important. On the outside, he was just a teenaged kid - I didn't know him personally. Long-timers did though - stories swirled about his antics at football, his family's shock at losing a wife and mother to illness, and of course Sam's own illness - deadly leukaemia.

Sam was a special kid to the town, a proper Broome mongrel breed with nationalities coming out of his ears. People spoke of his beatific smile and enduring cheeky spirit despite his pain, which turned out to be considerable. His plight saw the whole town rally round in a blood drive to find a match for his marrow - no mean feat - in an initiative which spread to the Northern Territory and beyond. Then, the mood was buoyant ... people were convinced that such a gleaming display of human fortitude could only lead to happy results.

But Sam's blood grew sicker and his chances faded with each lab result. Last month, it emerged that a real foreigner - a Bolivian! - had marrow for Sam. The town rejoiced and waited for their son to come home.

Four weeks ago, Sam's body turned on itself again, and he began to die, finally passing away on Monday this week.

Sam was determined to fulfill a huge list of wishes before he died and his dad assured me he got through most of them. He cooked up a feed of crabs and oysters on hot coals on a fire he built himself. He did a naked raindance in the middle of Chinatown in the early hours of the morning, after which the heavens cracked open for days. He had friends around him, lots of them, every night of the week.

Sam's dad later found out he secretly went to Subway and bought six to eight rolls at a time, taking them down to the old blackfellas on the oval, because "they were suffering more than him".

When Sam died, he was lying on the bed wrapped in the love of his father and high school sweetheart and smiling until the light went out. Today was the first time I cried through an interview, but probably not the last. Rest in peace, Sam, and may your example be a lesson to us all.