Liz’s Journal – Entry 13
4 Weeks On 20/5/2013
It’s now been 4 weeks since Connor passed away…feels like four months to me. I asked Nick last week how he was doing to which he said, “I’m OK “. I said, “are you really OK?” and he replied, “I’m not really OK but I’m OK”. I think that sums us all up perfectly. We are getting on with things: work, school, sport, obligations but we carry a heavy heart along with us. I noticed shortly after Connor died some people seemed reluctant to say his name in my presence. This was dismaying to me. I know people are sensitive and don’t want to hurt my/our family’s’ feelings but I can’t bear Connor’s wonderful spirit not being remembered and celebrated.
My way of coping (and I hope to some extent Scott, Nick and Hannah’s) will be to focus my efforts on doing good things in Connor’s name. It seems a natural way to keep his spirit alive. I’m used to having 3 kids to think about and do things for…I have all the energy in the world to keep doing this. The last few weeks we have been very busy sorting out what we want to raise money and awareness for and also some ideas on how we will do this and properly structure it all. We will be taking $20,000 from the fundraising and donations for Connor to set up the Robert Connor Dawes Fund within the Australia Community Foundation. We can add to this as we raise more money. We will also direct what we want this money used for.
Marek, our 14 yr old babysitter when we moved here in 2000, now 27 yr old marketing ace has spent hours developing the look and feel of Connor’s website and “Connor’s Run”. Both these sites should be “live” within a few weeks. They look amazing! When I mentioned wanting to raise money for: research, support and education he cleverly suggested using Connor’s initials: RCD to frame this around: Research Care and Development. I know, perfect! He has been so enthusiastic and energizing he isn’t giving me much time to lie around and be melancholy. Don’t worry…I still find plenty of time for that throughout the day and especially at night. But its good to have goals and timeframes to keep me going.
Sarah Punch, Connor’s music therapist, has found a 3 yr old boy staying at the Ronald McDonald house in Melbourne that could benefit from doing music therapy with her. We will pay for a weekly session for as long as it seems suitable. I am confident that people who gave so generously to Connor will be happy to have us support this young boy. It makes me happy that we can do something positive and have her carry on her good work.
And wonderful things continue to happen. Last Saturday we had a very moving spreading of Connor’s ashes. My Mom had an idea to involve Connor’s rowing crew, the boys he rowed with in Year 11. I realised a few days after this I hadn’t been in touch with Craig Amerkhanian, the Stanford Men’s Rowing Coach to let him know about Connor’s passing. I met with Craig in Sept 2011. Connor had expressed an interest in attending University in the US with the possibility of rowing. I suggested we start at the top and work our way from there…why not?! Craig agreed to meet with me and then took an interest in Connor’s story and stayed in touch every few months. Below is my email to him and his response a few hours later to me:
On May 12, 2013, at 4:22 PM, Liz Dawes wrote:
You have been so supportive and kind from afar regarding Connor, I wanted you to know he sadly passed away on Saturday 20 April. He was amazing right up until the end…awe-inspiring comes to mind. I have written a journal along the way if you want lots of detail:
There was a nice article about him in the local paper if you want to see that:
On Saturday the boys he rowed with in 2011 did a ceremonial spreading of Connor’s ashes in front of the Mercantile boatsheds (where Brighton Grammar rows out of). They left his #5 seat empty and the school chaplain, Father Poole handed them each a small red bag filled with Connor’s ashes of which they placed under their zoot suit over their heart. They then rowed around the bend and slowly rowed back while a lone sax player (Connor played sax for years in the school band, big band) played a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Hallelujah (Shrek version). Once in front of the boatsheds they one by one emptied their bag into the Yarra River. When all completed the 7 rowers and Cox lifted their bag over their head…those of us watching on the shore (about 60 of us) released red & blue helium balloons we were holding. It was magical and such a fitting send off by his beloved crew at his favorite place in the world. It was the most moving and beautiful experience I’ve ever had and l know most of us felt exactly the same. I did have it filmed and will email you a link when available.
I know he never got the chance to even apply to Stanford but I am actually sure with his keen intellect and strength of character & will and passion for rowing he actually might have been accepted. Who knows, now we just dream! We’d like to do something small and meaningful in his name for Stanford Rowing. Have a think about it and we can talk in time. We are having a memorial service for him on June 29th in Wisconsin and I’ll be back a few weeks before that.
I thought you’d enjoy seeing a picture of him rowing…it was after Head of the River in March 2011, the boys slowly row past the spectators on their way back.
Also, I wanted you to know that when we met you gave me a list of three things that every successful rower needs: Iron Will Crushing Power Impeccable Technique. I shared that with Connor upon my return in Oct 2011 and he had that written on his white board in his room as a motivator to himself.
On May 12, 2013, at 9:40 PM, Craig Amerkhanian wrote:
Our hearts and thoughts are with you, Connor and your family. I shared your news with our entire team. We have been wearing warm up T’s with RCD and Aeternum Fortis printed on the back below our Four Stanford 2012USA Olympians- Banks, Stafford, Cornelius and Osborne. I have already received a note from our captain on your beautiful email about your beautiful boy. Thank you for sharing Connor with us.
My sincere sympathy and heart felt impact on a life well lived… we at Stanford Men’s Rowing salute Robert Connor Dawes.
Another “wow” moment! I find it amazing to think that on the Saturday Connor was dying the young men of Stanford Rowing were training with Connor’s initials on their backs along with Aeternum Fortis. That he has been able to inspire and motivate so many, along with athletes at this elite level makes me think Connor knew what he was talking about when he said to Patricia, his yoga instructor “I will be awesome”.
Below are the speeches given by Connor’s closest friends at the Sandringham Yacht Club following his funeral. They are so wonderful and heartfelt, I thought you might enjoy reading.
Some of the best memories of Connor stem from our early days, back when we both had only just started school. There is one thing ill never forget about him, and that is his genuine willingness to accept anyone, no matter what, with open arms. Before the end of the very first week, we were best mates, and our friendship only grew from there.
There is one time I’d like to talk about briefly. In grade 1, there was a boy in our class that was severely allergic to nuts and as a precaution; our teacher decided that 2 people in the class as well as the boy would eat lunch separately to the class. The first time this was announced, nobody wanted to take time out of their lunch to do so, nobody except for Connor. Out of our whole class, he was the only one to put up his hand to help out a fellow classmate. This is the Connor I will remember, helping out anyone, even if he’d never spoken to them before, and when no one else would.
I’ll always love you buddy, and I want to thank you for all the memories you have made apart of my life.
I’ve known Connor for 11, years and in that time we’ve experienced so much together that I could probably talk about him for hours. But today I want to share with you a short story; one that I think highlights the type of individual Connor was. It was back in year 4, when Connor and I were about 10 years old. One day Connor, I and a group of our friends were walking around the school at lunchtime. We were walking through the tunnel that connected the pond area to the foursquare courts, when one of my friends decided it would be funny if everybody ran away from me. Everyone agreed and ran off, or so I thought. Quite upset I turned around, and to my surprise Connor was still standing there. I remember asking him why he had stayed, to which Connor simply replied, “Because you’re my friend” and for the rest of that lunchtime, Connor and I just wondered around talking together and everything was ok.
In the last 14 months I’ve found myself reflecting on the memories Connor and I created, and this is one I constantly think about. I met Connor in 2002, and he was my first proper friend at Brighton Grammar and we’ve remained such close friends for the entire duration of our schooling. Throughout all these years Connor has been there for me and has played a significant part in my life and I think this highlights the type of person Connor was. A person who could make you laugh, a person who always had an opinion, a person who would always help you out, a person you just wanted to spend time with.
Connor was definitely a one of a kind individual, and everybody here should feel very privileged to have known such a bright, talented and all around good person.
Emma & Holly Lomas:
Connor, who did you love more?
Quite obviously me, not her.
Our facebook relationship
lasted almost a year
Ok, it was fake and maybe a little weird
But hey, you came over
when I bleached all my hair
And when I flirted with your brother
you knew you didn’t have to care.
And when I staggered
at the finish of the Mother’s Day Run
You picked me up and carried me
That’s when I knew I’d won!
“Well that’s the cutest couple of the day”
the announcer said
And where were you Big Sister?
At home? In bed?
So, Connor, who you loved more
is plain to see
Quite obviously it was never her,
it was always me.
Little sister, you know nothing
when it comes to Connor
I am the one he chose to love and honor
In fact, obeying my commands
was always his thing
Look, in Italy we went down the aisle
there was even a ring!
And all those times
he let me ride on his shoulders
I have no doubt
he preferred his women, older.
At the BGS formal
he was just so amazing
And it was into my eyes
that he was lovingly gazing
So Connor, who you loved more
is hardly a blur
Quite obviously me,
it was never her.
Robdog, we’ve loved you
since Pepper met Maddy
Five Dawes and four Lomas’
one big crazy family.
You held us together
with your big brother smile
your laughter, your madness
and it will take us a while
to not have you with us
to honor and obey
But your love,
that is something
We’ll both share
Many people have already spoken throughout the day of Connor’s immense strength and willpower. I want to just say a few words about the influence these traits of Connor have had on me.
The cliché “actions speak louder than words” is almost tailor made for Connor; throughout his life, his physical strength and apparent lack of pain threshold have mirrored his internal fortitude. From an axe to the leg, or a bottle to the face, nothing could break him.
Back in the year 11 rowing days, Connor and I were partners during the crew gym sessions. I remember feeling almost jealous of his natural ability to become so intently determined and even menacing, and then straight back to lighthearted and carefree.
This thousand yard stare, and it’s emotional manifestation throughout the last 16 months, has caused me to reflect on my own willpower in times of adversity; ones that seem trivial in the face of his rough battle the past year.
If Connor has gone through what he has, all the while without a mere wince or complaint, then I’m able to overcome anything in the future, no matter how big or small. I love you Connor mate, Rest In Peace.
Connor Dawes, a real superstar. The original LMC duo, we shared something special… and that was being, the lankiest son of a guns out there. A strong breeze could blow us over on a good day, but that didn’t phase us, nope not at all. We were the dynamic duo of the decade, Lilo & Stitch, Brian & Stewie, r2d2 c3po, Beavis & Butthead, didn’t stand a chance. I owe a lot of myself to Con, when I first came to bayside the likes of Jake Selleck & Ben Stonier took me under their wing, feeding me their Black Eyed Peas & Shannon Noll mix tapes and there’s no doubt about it, I accepted this as music… well that’s until I met Con. He was the game changer. Introducing me to the one and only, Eminem. And the unbeknown rap scene. Its cringe worthy but I honestly believe this changed my life, I mean I could’ve ended up like Jake or Ben like what the heck. We share many great experiences, from trips to the Murray River to New Zealand from catching rainbow trout to axing our legs. All equally as special.
So, Connor, they say you die twice… Once, when you take your last breath… and finally when someone says your name, for the last time…
Con, your journey is yet to end, so stick around, my friend, Robert Connor Dawes.
There is no doubt that every person in this room is here to celebrate the life of Robert Connor Dawes. His death has come as an absolute tragedy to this community as a whole, and whilst we all may grieve I feel it is important to remember some of the lighter sides of Connors life.
I’d like to share two stories with you all.
1. It was a year nine camp and we were travelling to Papua New Guinea via a night in Cairns, which was being run by Mr Bain. At the time we were all very intimidated by Mr Bain, as he was the head of detentions, and he was the law at Brighton Grammar…the school he ran with an iron fist… anyways When in the lobby of the hotel in Cairns I specifically remember Mr Bain saying to the group “don’t do anything dangerous or stupid, because the school’s reputation is on the line. Meet back in the lobby in one hour.”
So back in the room chilling out Connor asks Alastair and I to cut his hair short, like a number 4. Seeing as we didn’t have a razor we agreed on cutting his hair with scissors, except the only scissors we could find were the miniature scissors in my first aid pack…we weren’t fazed and we started to cut what was quite possibly the worst haircut I’ve ever seen.
Worried that if Mr Bain came in we’d get in trouble as there’d be hair everywhere, we decided that it would be much smarter to climb over our balcony and sit on the roof of the hotel in full view of the freeway and Main St of Cairns…sometimes I wonder what was going through our heads at the time. The haircut wasn’t going overly well, he had a gash next to his ear that was trickling down his neck and his hair just kept getting shorter and shorter until he had bald spots all over his head…
Sure enough the hour had passed and we were back in the lobby. We sat at the back to avoid Mr. Bain’s glare, but I’m pretty sure we copped the look of death. He sent everyone off down the street and asked Connor, Al and myself to stay behind. All I can remember him saying is that we are idiots and that Connor must wear a hat at all times in public view because he was “embarrassing”… I thought it was hilarious probably one of the funniest moments of my life!
2. My second story starts at pres for the going away party of Donald Beddoe. It was the start of year 11 and at the tender age of 16 Connor and I decided that it would be a good idea to share a bottle of Jager, as well as have a six pack of beer each… we only were at pres for 2 hours max before the going away party so we were downing our drinks pretty quickly, I think I had my six pack down in the first hour, and Connor was at a similar stage…
Now seeing as Connor and I were such good decision makers we decided that it would be too hard to share the bottle of Jager once we got to Donald’s. So Connor being such a nice guy kindly insisted that I should have my half first…by the time pres had finished I’d had my half first, straight of course and Connor had started his…again, sometimes I wonder what was going through our heads at the time because all that alcohol really was a ticking time-bomb. Pres had finished and we started the walk to Donald’s. By the time we got there I could barely walk…I’d never been so drunk in my life, ever…not even to this day. I sat down outside and didn’t say hello to anyone and was instantly sick, the world was spinning, I couldn’t stand up. I was so ill that Donald’s dad had to drop me home… it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet! I’d disgraced myself.
Now you see Connor wasn’t much better than myself, he had managed to get through most of the bottle until about ten o’clock he passed out on the couch and Scott had to come pick…it was from here on that mum would keep saying that Connor and I are bad influences on each other and would call us “DUMB & DUMBER”
On a serious note I miss Connor every day. He was a great person and a great friend, so I’d like you all to raise you glasses and have your half first!
I will always remember Connor for being the goofy, silly and happy friend he was. Many of my fondest memories with Connor involve him being dared to do something, him simply doing something silly for fun, or Connor doing something to put a smile on those faces around him.
One of Connors goofiest moments that I witnessed was at my 16th birthday party. Of course at this age we were too young to drink, but sneaky Connor thought he had a plan to get some alcohol into my party. He had a couple of bottles of beer down his pants, and had both hands in his pockets he was holding the beer. This plan was great, and I’m sure he was going to use it again if it paid off. Unfortunately when Connor walked in my dad approached him to say hi and put his hand out to shake hands. You can imagine what Connor must have thought at this stage. So, Connor, never rude, shook hands with my dad, but it was hesitant. A few seconds later, lucky that Connor was standing on the carpet, a beer feel out from the bottom of his pants and hit the floor. There was a small ohhh from the parents inside and Con looked shocked.
Some of you would think Connors plan had failed, but my dad ended up giving the beer straight back to Connor, as now the beer was not only warm from Connors crutch area, but was shaken up from being dropped.
Connor, you will be dearly missed by everyone here and many more people who couldn’t make it. We all loved the time we shared you as you could turn our frown upside down at anytime. Your fight was the strongest I have ever seen, and the courage you had to keep going at the toughest of times was immense. We all love you mate. Rest in Peace.
I could talk about so many great memories of Con, but right now I think it is right to recognise a remarkable, beautiful person, and mum, and someone I really do call a friend – Liz
Liz is extraordinary. During times of such adversity, where I’m sure most of us would simply break down, Liz was a rock. Not only a rock to Connor, but a rock to her entire family, a rock to her friends, and a rock to me. Even on Connor’s last day with us, Liz was actually supporting me, which I Just find incredible. It really is a testament to the beautiful person she is.
I have never seen a better mother – sorry mum! But Liz’s ability to run a business, manage charity events, and be a 24/7 mother and nurse is no easy feat. The way she looked after Connor was really wonderful to watch. Most mothers would never hear their child say that they have fun hanging out with their mum, but Connor did say this, which I think is something very special.
I personally would like to thank you Liz for your openness and generosity in sharing Connor’s entire journey with me. I will forever cherish the times in the last year and a bit I got to go with Connor to his chemo, walk him around the block, or just sit with him and maybe drink a cheeky beer or two. I also would like to thank the entire family for allowing myself, as well as others, to come and say goodbye to Connor on what was to be his last day.
I honestly cannot thankyou enough for letting this happen – I will never forget it. Although the mate I love is gone, he will never, ever be forgotten because the strength he displayed will flow through generations to come, and during tough times, he will get me through whatever obstacle that is in my way.
I love you Liz, I will always be here for all the Dawes family. I will treasure Connor in my heart forever. Aeternum Fortis
Once we have Connor’s website up and running I’ll send out a note on Caring Bridge with the link. Then we can continue to carry on his legacy from there.