It’s December 15th 2017.
I step off the pedestrian crossing, and right in front of me on the footpath, I see a faded pink heart shaped piece of paper. Lying there at my feet. I stop and stare at it. For the first time ever, I hesitate. I know this heart.
There’s a story behind this heart. But not just one.
About six weeks earlier my friend Jo and I had just finished checking out my local market and were heading back to mine when I saw something taped to a telegraph pole. It was a pink heart with the writing; “For Elise. Justice for you today at last. We love you more. L.I.S” I got a rush of adrenaline and a jolt of sadness when I realised what that must have meant. Did Elise die near here in a car accident? Who is Elise? I pictured Elise was one of the local children, and L, I, and S were the initials of her school friends. I created the back story and wrote a narrative for this note in my head, just as I do for all the notes I find. That’s part of the beauty. I took a photo because, as you know, I find handwritten messages to be a wonderful thing. However, I told my friend at the time that I wouldn’t post it on my Found By Laura page because it doesn’t fall into the category of what I classify as a real find. I didn’t find it in the gutter, on the street or crumpled up in the bushes. It wasn’t out of place. It was exactly where it was meant to be. Serving its purpose.
Every single day for six weeks I walked past that heart. Each morning I’d look for the telegraph pole. Some days I’d walk right past it, only to realise later that I hadn’t even noticed it. Other days I’d take pause and read it again. Elise became a fixture of my daily commute to work.
Six weeks later, there I am standing at the end of the pedestrian crossing looking down at this very same heart. It was completely faded. Only a dapple of red texta could be seen. This time it was not where it was meant to be, so I picked it up.
I didn’t have the same sense of curiosity and intrigue though like I normally do when I find a good note. You see, I knew this one. There was no mystery. This was the note about Elise. The kid who died in a car crash. I knew Elise’s story. So I thought.
I posted the photo of the blank heart alongside the original photo of it taped to the pole to my foundbylaura facebook. A day later someone commented on that post and said, “Oh wow, that’s my note, and sadly my Elise”.
I would later realise that back in 2016, when I was living in Glebe, I had seen an article posted on a friend’s facebook page about Elise’s death. I distinctly remember sitting in my lounge room and being moved to tears by the story. I never would have thought that almost two years later I would buy my first apartment and live only a few doors down from her. And I never would have imagined I’d be walking that same pedestrian crossing every day.
Elise was a 40 year old mother of two. A Sydney inner west Tempe local.
Monday February 8th, 2016 was like any normal morning. A couple of weeks earlier Elise had given birth to her daughter Skylar. On this particular Monday, Elise decided to take her older daughter Ivy to preschool, leaving Skylar at home with her partner Lara.
When Elise wasn’t home after ten minutes, Lara wondered what was taking her so long. After all, the school was only minutes down the road. When Lara looked outside, she saw police tape and then panic set in. After rushing to the school, it was there that one of the teachers broke the devastating news to Lara. Elise had been hit at the pedestrian crossing. In that moment Lara’s whole world changed. How do we even begin to understand her pain?
Elise was Lara’s wife. They had been together for over ten years. They lived in a little house in Tempe, had a mortgage and two kids. However, because this was early 2016, and Australia was still a long way from legalising same sex marriage, it made all the painful logistics of dealing with the death of a loved one even more difficult and heartbreaking.
After Elise’s death, Lara wrote on facebook: “I had to ask policemen if I was ‘allowed’ to write ‘spouse’ on incident reports.”
“I had to cross out boxes for husband on the death certificate and boxes for father on our new baby’s birth certificate (both on the same day).”
“I had to yell out in a busy, crazy emergency room, ‘She is my wife, I know it’s not legal but she is my wife!’”
Reading this broke my heart.
The crossing where the accident occurred is the same crossing I walk every day. To think that the note was fastened to the pole then journeyed down the street, only to land at the end of that crossing…gives me pause. I feel there’s some kind of serendipity in that. Almost like it wanted to be found.
I now know what “For Elise. Justice for you today at last. We love you more. L.I.S” really meant. In November last year, 21 months after Elise’s death, the accused finally admitted guilt and was sentenced with ‘Dangerous driving resulting in death’. Not exactly the justice Lara would like, but it was something. L, I and S are Lara, Ivy and Skylar.
This has made me realise, once again, that life is very fragile. What we wouldn’t do to have another moment in time to tell someone we love them.
No doubt it has been a long two years for Lara. Not only losing her wife but also having to witness our country vote on whether we see her marriage as legal or real. I find it a little sad, that Elise and Lara missed out on experiencing their life and marriage being validated. In fact I’m not a little sad, I am mad.
I saw close friends be beaten down by the vote. Friends who after 30 years of being in a loving relationship, finally marry because they are now “allowed” to. I am delighted beyond words that they are finally free, but it shouldn’t have been such a struggle for our government to grant them the same rights as everyone else.
I lived 32 years of my life in a place that took away my liberty. They controlled who I could love and who I could marry. This was an institution of men telling me how to live, giving me strict guidelines. They had complete control of my life. The thought that as a community, we had complete control over others’ lives astounds me. We had the power to give or take the right of marriage away from people. There was no way I was going to deprive that of another. For me, it was a simple yes vote. Everyone should have the right to marry the one they love.
Since finding this note, Lara and I have corresponded by message. She told me how wonderful her community have been and what a great support they were to her and her girls during that tragic time two years ago. From her public thankyou on facebook Lara wrote, “thank you for allowing this tragedy to bring us closer together and for opening your hearts to my little family then and now.”
Reading that made me proud to be a part of this hood. The hood that I have already fallen in love with and now call home.
Lara, maybe one day we’ll meet passing on the street. Until then, know that your faded pink heart is safe with me.
Please check out these links for more info on Lara and Elise’s story.
Below is the article I read in my house in Glebe.