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(The following story may be upsetting or distressing to some readers.)
Moments after this clip was filmed, no one could have predicted the devastation and heartbreak that was to follow…
I had spent last night with the Matthew and Susie Rae discussing the hard, financial impact three years of failed cropping has had on them and their business. In 2016 they were wiped out by devastating floods, last year was a dry year and now they are in the worst drought in the last century. Every year they’ve planted it costs them over half a million dollars to do so. With little to no harvesting of those crops through no fault of their own, the financial stress has taken its toll. The bank and machinery repayments never end regardless of the result of the harvest, be it good or bad.
Two of their three properties are currently on the market, in order to save just one; the property where their family home, a lifetime of memories and their security is. Their fate now lies within the decisions of others at the Auction in a fortnight.
“I have a responsibility to look after my family and some tough decisions had to be made because of that” Matthew told me. “We took a gamble to expand by buying the other two properties and it just didn’t pay off. I’ve gone over and over the decision to sell in my head many times.” I could tell the decision was extremely tough for Matthew but I also knew there hadn’t been a stone left unturned in his decision making. Yet again their future was now out of their control.
With all the pressures to keep their family home, nothing could have prepared them for what happened this morning…
Matthew headed out to the shed to start the days work as Susie showed me how nifty her Pianola was. Being musically inept, I asked Susie to film me “playing” the old, but beautiful instrument.
We laughed, both commented on how special it was and shared our love for its magic.
Whilst I was sitting at the Pianola, the phone rang. Susie headed into the kitchen to grab it and within moments ran straight back into the lounge in tears, screaming “Get Mattie! Get Mattie!”
Panicked, I ran outside and across the driveway in my bare feet to call for Mattie.
“Mattie! Mattie!” I yelled in a somewhat terrified yet controlled manner. “Susie needs you, there’s been a phone call!”
“I’m not too sure but I don’t think it’s good” I yelled out as I saw Mattie put his tools down and run towards the house.
“Are there tears?!”
“Yes”, I said, knowing full well that it was an emergency of some kind. In a moment everything had gone from laughter and happiness to complete chaos.
I waited outside for Susie to share her news with him.
“What’s happened?! What’s happened?!” He begged of her to just tell him through her tears.
“Sit down” she said, “I need you to sit down”.
Amongst her tears she shared with Mattie that his brother in law had just taken his own life.
Hearing this, I was overwhelmed by complete sadness. Sadness for them. Sadness for their whole family and I had never felt so hopeless. Part of me felt anger that there wasn’t enough help for people like his brother in law. Part of me felt guilty and I felt that I had not done enough to prevent the loss of another life. I had never felt so many emotions in such a brief space in time. Everything I felt was real even if I had known them for less than 24 hours.
I went back into the house to offer any support I could.
Mattie sat on the stool I’d only been sitting on minutes ago, happily playing the Pianola, just moments before the Rae’s life would change forever.
His head hung and his whole body seemed to clam up. He showed no emotion, made no sound and barely moved.
Susie sat in a chair she had only been telling me about minutes before that she picked up for a steal in Sydney. This chair had gone from a piece I saw as a bargain to a chair that held her up, straight backed and numb. It’s meaning had instantly changed. There was very little said and she just stared ahead.
It was almost like the pain of the news was just another battle. Another fight that they had on their already heavy hands.
I didn’t know how they should have reacted to the situation. I don’t know if I should have done something else other than listen and cry with them, but that’s all I knew at the time.
I heard Mattie mumble under his breath several times “I thought he was doing ok?!” And I couldn’t help but feel empathetic to Mattie and the guilt he’d already assigned to. Guilt that was not necessary but guilt that came from a place of being the protector and carer for his whole family. His sister and her children were now his responsibility as well.
As an outsider, the situation was traumatic; not in a sense of complete drama or emergency, but in a way that the emotional pain felt by the Rae’s on top of what they were already struggling with was completely overwhelming.
This drought is very real and impactful in more ways than just a lack of rain. This drought is taking homes, livelihoods and lives.
If you are struggling please reach out for help. Lifeline is available anytime on 13 11 14, as is Virtual Psychologist. To contact this service via PHONE on 1300 665 234 or TEXT on 0488 807 266.
*It is asked by the family that their privacy be respected at this difficult time.
More info @ One Bucket
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August 05, 2018 at 03:23PM