From a very young age I had always wanted a brother and I had wanted Mum to have another baby so much so, that I would cut out pictures of babies and how to look after them out of the Women's magazines and paste it onto paper and give it to Mum so that she would know how to look after a baby if she had another one. The fact that she already had 4 daughters by this stage did not enter my head given that I was only about 7 or so. As I got older I always thought an older brother would be great because you could date all his friends however as Paul was 9 years younger than me it probably wasn't going to happen like that but I did love the fact that we had a new baby brother. Being the only male child with 4 older sisters he certainly was going to have a lot of girls to look after him and we all loved him.
I even remember bringing him home from hospital. Paul was born on the 11th September and my birthday was on the 15th September so that made me 9 years old. For my birthday I got a beautiful doll that I wanted called "April Showers" which came with a little bath tub with a shower piece where you would wash your doll in the bath and it was a bright yellow colour. I was so excited to get April Showers and took her everywhere with me. Paul was born in the Royal Brisbane Hospital and I remember that Dad left myself and my three sisters in the car outside the hospital (probably in a no parking for visitors section as that was his thing) for what seemed like us for hours. So that would have been a 7 year old, 9, 10 and an 11 year old alone in a car outside the hospital. It was different in those days (I think) but I had my doll and my 3 sisters and we waited until Dad brought Mum and Paul out of the hospital. It seemed like hours and hours that we were there waiting but luckily I had also been given a packet of caramel popcorn called Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs for my birthday from my Aunty and we shared these while we waited. It was pretty exciting to be given a packet of this fancy popcorn and it didn't take long for girls to finish the packet which was probably only 50 gms. Back then there were no seat belts in cars and the baby would be in a huge basket bassinet on the back seat or Mum would be breastfeeding in the front seat while nursing him. These are my memories of bringing Paul home from hospital.
So what happened on the 25th November, 1989? My girlfriend from work and I had planned to go and visit a friend of mine in Sydney for the weekend and it had been booked about two months in advance with the airfare around $550 with no chance to change the flights. This was actually a bargain because back then I think it was about $800 to travel to Sydney and we got a really good deal. We flew down on the Friday night and we went to a play that my friend had organized to see, had a lot of laughs and went to bed that night. Back in those days there were no mobile phones and my whole family knew Stephen who we were going to stay with however, I didn't give anyone his phone number as we were just going for 2 days and coming back. To me now it seems really strange but without mobile phones people just waited until they were home again to talk.
On the Saturday morning Stephen's phone rang early about 7.30 am and he called out that it was my mother on the phone.......my heart sank immediately because we were going for two days, she didn't have his phone number and why would she be calling me at this time. By the time I got to the phone no one was there and it had hung up. So I waited with huge butterflies in my tummy knowing that something was wrong. I don't remember too much about what happened but by the time Mum did phone back she told me that Paul had been hit by a car the night before and that they said he probably wouldn't make it. I remember her saying "he just looks like Paul". She said don't come home, stay and enjoy your weekend and we will see you the next day. The whole weekend was a blur to me however I just kept having to go to the toilet with the runs as I was feeling so sick and couldn't keep any food down. We did stay until the next day and when I was on the plane coming home and I just didn't want to go home to face what had happened. I remember the plane hitting the tarmac in Brisbane and I didn't want it to be true. I didn't want to face my family knowing what had just happened.
When I arrived home Father Mills our local priest was there and I honestly don't remember too much else.
I found out that Paul and his friend went to the shops to get a drink late at night and they were crossing the road and a hit and run drunk driver ran into him obviously throwing him up in the air and doing more damage than you can imagine and he was taken to the Gold Coast Hospital where he died the next day. I was told that when the police came to the house to inform my parents that they only wanted to speak to my father (this was back in 1989) and wanted to inform him. Unbelievable to think they wanted to speak to the man of the house and not both parents or even the mother of the child. I don't know too much about the police visit except that little bit. My two sisters in Brisbane and brother in law and Mum and Dad went to the hospital as soon as they were told so I'm not able to share in their memories as I was in Sydney at the time. I think that is both a good and bad thing. My other sister was in Perth and she flew over to Sydney and I know we were both at my Aunty's place in Sydney (my Mum's sister) so Michelle and I must have flown home to Brisbane together.
The week before this happened I had taken the day off work to be at his Grade 12 Graduation. My Mum had a computing exam so unfortunately couldn't be there for that day even though I took heaps of photos for her. It is one thing I wish that could have been different but unfortunately the exam was on that day and Mum had to attend. In the evening Mum and I attended the Graduation Dinner at The Sheraton Hotel with Paul and his school mates and their parents. I took a photo of him outside my office building with his two friends on that evening in 1989 and that was the last time I saw or spoke to him. I wish I could find that photo but it will be in some box somewhere. It is etched in my memory even without the photo.
I know when I told people at work that I was having the day off to attend my brothers Graduation they were having a little dig at me saying it was just school and I said he's my brother and I'm taking the day off to support him. I even sewed a new outfit to wear to his graduation (back in 1989 you could buy a pattern and material to make your clothes cheaper than store bought items but in 2013 that is very different). Here's the outfit that I wore to his Graduation. After the news spread around at work that Paul had been killed by a hit and run drunk driver every single parent I worked with attended every piano, Christmas Carol or school activity of their kids that generally they might skip because it was just another Christmas Carol or piano concert. I think it reminded them that you just never know what might happen in your life and to be there for your kids.
Sometime before the funeral I was out in the car with my Mother and she wanted to stop in at the Marist Chapel to see if Paul had arrived. I was very uncomfortable with this and just didn't want to be anywhere near the Chapel. It's almost as if you were expecting a package to arrive however it was her only son in a box from the Gold Coast Hospital. Just such an horrific experience for my mother let alone what a sister might be experiencing. My mother lost her only brother when he was 17 due to tragic circumstances and it was unbearable that she would now lose her only 17 year old son. I just didn't want to be near the Chapel because I didn't want to think my brother was now laying in an expensive wooden box inside the building.
The thing that got me the most was that this drunk driver had not considered anyone else but himself when he got behind the wheel and I remember thinking that for lousy $30 or $50 or even $100 cab fare he changed our lives forever. I remember thinking this is such a small amount of money and now you have killed my brother. The fact that it was a hit and run also made it more difficult although this person did end up handing himself into police. I wished I could have given this person the money to pay for a cab instead of him getting behind the wheel of a car. It is just so selfish and for what........a few dollars.
The days between Paul dying and the funeral are difficult and the anticipation of the funeral finally coming. I remember walking into the Chapel with my family and it was overflowing with the entire Grade 12 Graduation Boys and family and friends and I remember walking into the front seats and seeing the coffin for the first time and I just about collapsed on the floor the pain, the shock, the loss I just wailed and I remember looking over at the Partners and staff from my Office who were sitting at the front on the side and just howling. I'm in tears as I type this account of that day right now. I know it has been many years since this happened but in a heart beat you can be back there in that moment in a split second.
We loved Paul very much and when people say "it was meant for a reason" or "you a learn a lesson from this" or some other profound saying, in my opinion..........I just don't get it. Why at the prime of his life was he taken from our family who needed him. We love you Paul and miss you. I talk about you to my beautiful children James and Sienna who you never got to meet but they know you were my brother and that I loved you very much.
This is Paul and I on my sisters Wedding Day
This is Paul wearing his Marist Walkathon Tshirt as he would have just completed the walk.
This would have been Christmas 1987 or 1988
Paul was buried in the same grave site as Mum's 17 year old brother (so my Uncle John whom I had never met) and I have never been back to the Cemetery in 24 years to see him. I have thought about going a few times but I immediately think of the pain of that day and having to face it over again and I'm not brave enough. I know it happened, we have lived through it and we talk about Paul but I'm not strong enough to go there and face it and I may do so one day but for me it's not how I remember my baby brother.
Another one of Paul Christmas either 1987 or 1988.
I was into photography since I was 17 and as time went on Paul got roped into being my model on more than one occasion. Sometimes he was happy to pose and other times he wasn't happy to pose. I remember one time I drove him out to Redcliffe with his pushbike in the car to take some silhouette photos of him and a new filter that I had purchased. I had a Canon AE1 and I loved that camera. On this particular occasion Paul was a bit cranky and when we got his bike out of the car it had a flat tyre so he thought it was a dumb idea since he couldn't ride the bike that I wanted to take photos of him on it. I suggested we go down onto the sand and that way you wouldn't notice the bike had a flat tyre. I did take two of the best sunset silhouette photos of him on that day and they are printed out at Mum's place but this is one of them of him on his bike hoping his annoying sister would hurry up and finish her photography fluffing about...........so fast forward to 2013 and things are no different only it's my kids in front of the lens and not my brother.
Paul died at 17 and he will always remain a 17 year old boy. Last year at one of our Saturday football matches I was having a conversation with one of the Dad's about schools etc. and we were talking about where we went to school and the year we graduated. I discovered that this Dad went to school with my brother and his son was playing football with my son James. This was a grown up married man with two children and yet he went to school with Paul. He had also said he was just talking about Paul in the last week or so with Paul's best friend who he was down the coast with. Paul won't grow up to be Husband, a Father, an Uncle and he will always be 17 years old.
Helping renovate and paint my sister's first home.
Myself, my sister Lisa and Paul and red hair was in back then.
There is a plaque on the wall at his school and March last year was the first time I had been back to see it as I was photographing my nephews school formal and when I took the kids over to look at the plaque I had to get James to read it out because I was in tears seeing it written.
To all those families who have lost loved ones way to early my heart goes out to you.