Twice the life… A motto I live by, and the hardest lesson of my life.
I have 2 older brothers. There is only 4 years between the 3 of us so we were super close growing up, it was us against the world. I talk in the present tense, but it always confuses me how to say you have 2 brothers, Danny and Casey, when Casey has passed away. So I have 1 brother still living and one who has passed, for me I still have 2 brothers.
My mum left my dad when I was only 2, and we moved straight in with our step father, Warren. Warren had grown up in an orphanage and was straight from the school of hard knocks. His childhood residue impacted my brothers and my upbringing. We grew up in an environment where “children were to be seen and not heard” and a bag full of other rules and regulations we were forced to live by, and when we bent the rules there were hard consequences. Holidays with my dad were the best! Danny, Casey and I would climb into dads Jeep and dad would put on a slim dusty cassette and we would sing all the way back to his farm where things were so different to our life at home with mum and Warren. There was laughter, fun, playfulness and adventures.
The experiences of our childhood drew my brothers and I very close and our tight mateship naturally followed us into our adulthood. I felt the full force of this when the police knocked on my door the day Casey died. Casey had me listed as his next of kin despite our mum and dad still being alive. We were a gang and we could trust each other so deeply that the 3 of us did not need anything outside of the triangle. The police told me “Casey has been electrocuted, he was found dead at the foot of a brick saw on a job site in Airlie Beach”. Nothing will ever prepare you for news like this and I cannot put into words the feeling that rushed through my body that day, 10th January 2007. The first call I made was to Danny, then mum and dad. I felt an uncontrollable urge to be with Danny and within 15mins I had a bag packed and was driving like a mad woman over to Danny’s house. As soon as I arrived at Danny’s he was packed too and we started driving towards Casey. We both could not stand the thought that Casey was alone in a morgue in Airlie Beach, we had to get there and be by his side. Bring the triangle back together, this is when we were the strongest. Mum and dad decided to stay home and wait for his body to be transported back to NSW.
About midnight, 16 hours later Danny and I arrived in Airlie Beach police station. Walking into that station I noticed a poster on the wall of missing people. I had a new found deep empathy for the families of these faces. At least I knew where my brothers body was. The policeman handed over Casey’s hat, sunglasses, phone and wallet. A few meaningless items to represent the life of my brother, but they were his. There was a slight hope in me that the police had made a mistake, but then a knowing that if that was the case then someone else would have to face this horror, no good outcome. We headed back to a cheap hotel and didn’t sleep a wink that night. Up early, Danny and I decided to head over to the job site, where Casey had died, escorted by the police. Things did not feel right from the minute I stepped onto the site. Firstly, the site was not shut down or taped off and the brick saw that apparently electrocuted Casey was not present. I took a look around and could see where the brick saw would have been from the sediment on the dirt to the left of the site. But there was blood around 10 meters away on the house concrete slab. We asked questions about the exact location of Casey’s body when ambulance arrived, and the police could not answer. Confusion was setting in, we were getting more questions then answers.
We left the site and headed to Proserpine hospital where Casey’s body was being held. Danny and I walked into small hospital room where Casey lay on a stainless steel table, covered with a white sheet from mid way up his chest to his ankles. He was still in his work boots and work clothes, with his khaki shirt open to reveal his chest. The nurses had made an attempt to “present” his body with a token daisy flower on his chest. He had a white towel placed like a veil around his head and he was still dirty from his days work labouring. Stepping up to Casey’s body, I was shook by the amount of blood around his head, caking his eyelashes and splattered down his clothing. I reached out to move the towel veiled around his head and his long hair was black red with dried blood. In the background I could here Danny screaming “what happened to my brother? He looks like he has been 10 rounds with Mike Tyson”. And he did. Danny kicked the wall and this snapped me out of the trance I was in, I remember turning to the policeman and saying what happened? and he shook his head and said he didn’t know. I have never seen a body that was electrocuted but I knew this was not what I thought it would look like.
What followed this day was 3.5 years of unanswered questions, fuck ups and confusion. Nothing aligned, the refrigeration in morgue where Casey’s body was stored for 5 days was broken and instead of preserving him, his body was affectively “cooked”, with temperatures inside the morgue reaching 45 degrees. When his body was handed over for his autopsy, it was reported his body was accelerated in decomposition so much that it was likened to a body left in the heat and elements for 3 weeks. Casey’s boss on the day of his death went to ground and would not communicate with us at all. The boss had called the ambulance but did not know the address of where he was which lead to the ambulance taking 50 mins to find them. Ambulance tapes show the boss refused to touch, roll over or give CPR to Casey. He even continued to “work around” him as Casey lay fighting for his life. When the ambulance finally arrived Casey was showing the final signs of life and died there on the concrete as their efforts to save him failed. So many other things went wrong during this time that listing them would take a long time.
Casey’s autopsy came back as inconclusive and his toxicology report clear. We were issued with a death certificate the listed cause of death “Unknown”. By this time we had cremated his body, and this will still be one of my biggest regrets, I wish we had got an independent autopsy and investigation. There was a coronial inquest into the events of that day, which ran for around 3 years. Things revealed within the inquest led to more mystery around his death, with the potential of suspicion and foul play. Witnesses had reported seeing 2 men stand over another man (who we believe to be Casey) on his haunches holding his head. I became obsessed with finding out answers and finding ways to prevent other families experiencing what we were going through. I literally studied autopsy procedures, interviewed everyone present on the day and put myself forward to be the primary questioner of the witnesses during the inquest and stood in court fighting for answers. Casey’s death consumed my life, I found myself talking about the events surrounding how he died more than I spoke about how he lived.
With the conclusion of the inquest and we were no closer to answers. I made a conscious decision to turn my focus to talking about how Casey lived instead of how he died. I had a realisation that by being consumed with grief and anger I was almost ‘insulting’ Casey’s missed opportunities at life. I decided I have an opportunity he doesn’t have and that is LIVING my life, I am alive, he isn’t and I should make the most of this opportunity. I decided, to live a life full enough and rich enough for both of us. From that day forward I made a pledge to live TWICE THE LIFE. I have this as a tattoo and a promise.
From the mud lotus grow.
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