Friday, 28 September 2012

I know this to be true

Today was to be my return to the blog. After a recent bout of unwellness, which has laid me low and kept me from posting for much longer that I had hoped, I had wanted to come back with something lightly amusing and entertaining for you all to ease you into the weekend.

But, like many Melbournians today, I'm feeling quite deflated. For those of you who are interstate, or if you choose not to follow the news — and after today, I'm thinking more power to you — I'm talking about the tragic death of Jill Meagher.

I haven't known what to do today to channel my sadness. Then I was in the shower a little earlier and I thought: write it out, Aaron, just write it out.

So here I am.

Firstly, I talked with my Mum today, and that helped us both. Mum's a bit of a homebody, and so she's been following the case all week on TV. She needed to talk it out, too. Now I need to encourage her to step away from the TV and radio a bit to get some perspective.

You know — and I know this sounds a bit macabre, but go with me on this — Ma even got me to check the fenced-off alleyway, which runs down next to our house, early in the week. It hadn't even occurred to me, but we're not that very far from where Jill was abducted. Like me, Ma was worried for Jill, but realistic enough to know that there was little likelihood after several days that she would be found alive. She wanted closure for Jill's husband and family. It strikes me as incredibly sad that closure could come from something like checking an alleyway. But somewhere out there in Melbourne in recent days, a series of good, helpful people checked and re-checked things and places, and asked the right questions, and now Jill's family has closure, tragic as it is.

My partner's been busy at work today, and we won't get a chance to chat until tonight. When I do, I'll be saying to him the same thing that I said to my Mum earlier: I love you. Because that's all you can do; actually tell the people you love that you love them, and then hope for the best for them in life. I can only imagine what Jill's husband and family must be going through. The only consolation I can think of is that she knew she was loved, and that she loved them. They will always carry that love with them.

As I sat on the tram on the way to college today, it started raining. I thought that even Melbourne's weather has been affected by the sadness of Jill's death. I could feel it in the mood of people on the tram and at college.

I managed to chat with a couple of friends and a teacher at college today. That definitely helped. It was some consolation that other people are feeling like this; that vague sense that all really isn't right with the world today, and a great tragedy has occurred amongst us. Moreso, that the many people who knew Jill are now in unspeakable pain, which will take a long time to leave them. To those people, I send whatever good metaphysical thoughts and love that I can.

At the end of class today, my teacher made the excellent point that, in 2012, in a capital city, in Australia, any woman should be able to walk down the street at any time of day and feel safe. Hell: she could be naked, and she should still feel safe. To think that a woman isn't safe like that is part of the enduring tragedy of Jill's death. As a gay man, I know that it's not even necessarily safe for a man to walk down the street on their own in certain circumstances.

I don't have any easy answers for this. I wish I did. Instead, I encourage you to have a quiet word with your sisters and girlfriends and wives, your mums and aunts and grandmothers, and remind them to take that little bit more care when they venture out. Walk your friend to their tram stop or to the train station. Ask your friend to text you as soon as they get home safely. If they don't, then text them to check. For the rest of us — guys and gals — also remember that if you see anyone being hassled, or if you see something not quite right, be the one to step up and say something. You could help to save a life. It's like they say on the many motivational blogs that I follow: be the change that you want to effect.

We lost one of our own today. A bright, lively, intelligent, beautiful woman, who was loved by many, and whose memory is now known by many, many more. A vibrant, young Irish woman, come to Melbourne with her husband for a new life. I can only hope that she found great love and happiness in her life.

If you are as sad today as I am but you can't shake it, then talk to someone — talk it out — and soon. A friend, a colleague, a neighbour, a relative, your partner. Or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Don't ever be ashamed of reaching out for help.

Now go and tell your family that you love them. Do it: right now.

Vale Gillian Meagher.

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