Content warning: this piece contains the death of a young person and profanity.
Disclaimer: The author went to elementary school with the Shaw twins from 2002-2009.
On Aug. 2, 2016, Logan Shaw heard a bang, which he thought was his twin brother Robin knocking over his television.
“I wish I got in there and I would’ve gotten mad like what the fuck did you do?” said Logan, now 22.
The evening before the twins had capped off their August long weekend by tuning in for the season finale of The Bachelorette.
After mocking the televised proposal, the twins split to their respective rooms to rest up for another summer day.
“I was about to go wake up early and go skateboarding…no problem right?” said Logan.
Not a problem since Robin, who had lived his entire life with chronic lung disease, was becoming more independent and no longer spent his days in a wheelchair, which gave both twins more freedom.
Then Logan heard the crash.
“I thought, motherfucker dropped the TV, like what the hell?’’ remembered Logan.
At the time only the twins were at home, and Logan — cozy in bed — was reluctant to crawl out.
“I thought well, he’s not saying anything, he’s probably mad,” said Logan.
After letting out a sigh, Logan got up, thinking he would have to help clean up the broken TV in Robin’s room. But when he walked over it wasn’t the TV on the floor — it was Robin.
Robin was unresponsive and turning purple in the face.
Minutes later the twins rode side by side in the ambulance. Logan, dressed in his pajamas and mother’s slippers, relayed Robin’s conditions to paramedics. He mentioned Robin’s ongoing dealings with bronchitis but couldn’t name all of his diseases.
“You think you have road rage?” asked Logan. “[The ambulance drivers are] like ‘Get the fuck out the way,’ honk honk. They could be fucking stunt drivers for sure.”
Once at Concordia Hospital’s emergency room, Logan stayed in the waiting room, afraid he would pass out.
Logan wasn’t too worried considering this was Robin’s third fall within a two-year span, and both times before the hospital had discharged Robin within two weeks, so Logan bussed home and went back to sleep.
This stay ended up being much longer but offered some hope: doctors were arranging a lung transplant for Robin.
After two months at Concordia Hospital, Robin went to the Health Sciences Centre. There, he underwent tests, procedures, and interviews through their lung transplant program.
The operation, which was to be held in Edmonton, Alberta, was supposed to be Robin’s golden ticket for a new life.
Then on Oct. 15, 2016, Robin’s health changed for the worse. He died the next morning.
Monica Carter, Robin and Logan’s mom, was working at Kite and Kaboodle inside St. Vital Centre when she got a phone call from her son Logan, who had dialed the paramedics seconds earlier.
He told her Robin had collapsed at home.
“I said ‘unlock the door’ — I’m sure the nice 911 call-taker told him this — but [I] was saying ‘the door’s unlocked, the dog’s in her kennel, open the front door, stand there,” said Monica, 48.
Monica’s work was about 30 minutes away from Concordia Hospital, where the twins’ stunt drivers were speeding to.
She assured Logan she would get there somehow.
A single mother of five without her driver’s licence, Monica’s next move was calling a cab. Her co-worker vetoed the call and had her cadet boyfriend speed Monica over instead.
“He was an awesome, fast driver,” said Monica.
For the following two months, Monica remained by her son’s side in the hospital’s intensive care unit. At the time, she saw it as another challenge for Robin’s health, and she reminded herself that he’d overcome plenty already.
Chronic lung infections before the age of one slowed Robin down but didn’t stop him. His lungs forced him into a wheelchair and required him to get a hole in his neck for a tracheostomy tube (trach).
The equipment made him technologically dependent, a term the family preferred to handicapped. He breathed the same air — he just needed assistance from an oxygen tank.
For Robin, the chronic respiratory infections made his life harder. But Robin seemed to take the challenges in stride. Monica joked that perhaps his biggest challenge while waiting for his lung transplant was the black rectangle staring back at him.
“Terrible TV situation in there,” said Monica. “The remote didn’t work so there was one health care aide who was just like ‘Yeah, just call me Robin, I’ll come in [and help].’”
The nurses kept Robin company, watching TV and chatting about the latest celebrity gossip.
Other times Robin requested the family cat Marshmallow.
“He [also] really wanted his dog [Scarlett] to come in,” said Monica, who says she regrets not smuggling her in. “She’s not that big, she’s a Jack Russell. She’s a bad girl — it would’ve been chaos, but yeah I should’ve done that.”
Born on May 29, 1997, Robin and Logan Shaw entered the world within minutes of each other, Robin coming second.
They were fraternal twins who shared a love for popular culture and video games but sported different hairstyles, personalities, and identities.
Logan rocked a loose brown afro. He was the school president in grade six. He scribbled his initials “LMS” (Logan Malcolm Shaw) as his name on school assignments, which some teachers disliked.
Robin kept his curly black hair short. He studied and loved movies, and later, screenwriting. He sat in a wheelchair most of the time and was up to chat with anyone.
At least this is what I remember from my seven years of elementary school with the twins.
I remember Robin being happy; he didn’t complain about being in a wheelchair. He didn’t seem embarrassed about his throat suctions and formula injections during class at St. Joseph the Worker School.
When we would play sports during recess, Robin would often watch from the sidelines. The odd time he would remove his trach and briefly join in the middle of our football games played on the school’s concrete parking lot.
Every year he completed the track and field races, grinning and purple while gasping for air.
“People take a lot of things like mobility, for granted, y’know, and it kind of broadened my respect for everyone…y’know Robin was gay,” said Logan during our initial interview.
This was news to me.
“He would overcompensate being a lady’s man and it’s like nah, you’re gay, it’s all good,” said Logan, who was supportive of his twin’s sexuality.
I remember Robin chatting up all four girls in our small class of 16 throughout elementary. He spoke in a sarcastic but gentleman-like tone.
He didn’t come out until his high school graduation, announcing it via Facebook.
“I always knew,” whispered Logan.
While Robin may have been confident in his sexuality, he once questioned whether he had a disability.
One day he came home from St. Joe’s with a burning question for his mother. An intercom announcement said someone’s car was blocking the handicapped van. Robin’s classmates then put the pieces together, realizing it was the vehicle Robin used, and called him handicapped. That day Robin believed he was disabled, and Monica had to explain why he wasn’t.
“We talked about other words like “disabled” and even older words like “crippled” and how in their time, they were the words that people understood,” said Monica.
She pulled up a Stephen Hawking quotation, which Robin later used for his yearbook grad quote:
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”– Stephen Hawking
On June 29, 2009, Robin, Logan and I graduated from grade six. I never saw Robin again.
Logan, his four older bothers, and Monica huddled beside Robin’s hospital bed one last time. When Monica said the TV shouldn’t be on, Logan knew he was saying goodbye to Robin.
Robin died that morning.
“I personally feel it was important that they did [come to say goodbye],” said Monica. “Then we all went home and it was the weirdest thing ever.”
Logan took the duty of telling Robin’s close friends and other family members of his brother’s death.
“Every time I hit enter I remember I just bawled hysterically,” said Logan. “It was send a message, hit enter, cry.”
Then he logged onto Robin’s Facebook account.
“I can kind of remember posting saying like ‘Last night Robin passed away and y’know’…then I remember I went…I just slept for a really long time,” said Logan.
Following Robin’s death, Monica didn’t work for a month. She spent her days sleeping and watching TV. After giving Robin’s eulogy at his funeral, she avoided human interaction.
Monica said summarizing her son’s life in that eulogy has ruined her desire to write, adding it’s a good thing she’s not in school or doesn’t write for a profession.
With her friend Fawn standing beside her for support, Monica still powered through and read Robin’s eulogy at St. Joseph the Worker School’s church.
“I literally felt like I ran out of words, and I still describe it that way,” said Monica.
Once Monica returned to work, she wouldn’t ask customers how their day was going. One shift an oblivious co-worker asked Monica why she no longer greeted people.
“I told her I don’t because I don’t want them to ask me,” said Monica.
At times she couldn’t avoid it. During one of Monica’s shifts, a customer returned one of her late husband’s puzzles. The interaction instantly triggered Monica’s memory.
Monica decided to cope on her own rather than attend a therapy group at St. Joseph the Worker School’s church, which she knew was an option.
“It would not be beneficial to go talk to a therapy kind of person unless they fully understood the loss of a child, because it’s very different,” said Monica.
She’s yet to dream about Robin or reimagine his death.
“I have a friend who’s also very Christian, and she said she believes that just means Robin got where he’s going,” said Monica.
Logan has his own triggering moments from his twin’s passing.
With little planning, Logan took a month-long trip to New Zealand last May. On a whim, he dyed his hair Joker-green during a recent haircut, giving him a much different look than his usual messy brown hair.
After Robin died, Logan couldn’t sleep. He abandoned his room for the living room couch. When he hears any sort of crashing noise, he’s brought back to that summer morning in 2016.
“It became harder and harder each day, which is weird because like I almost associated my room more with the incident rather than associating Robin’s room,” said Logan.
Just the other week an ambulance parked itself outside Logan’s home. He stood in his living room, staring at its flashing red lights.
“I was mainly just frozen because I was like I don’t know what to do,” recalled Logan.
He was stuck. If he left the ambulance’s sight, he’d enter his or Robin’s room. But as he stayed in the living room area, the red lights made Logan think of his final car ride with Robin.
“I never had a male figure and I always thought, oh, crying is a weakness right? And I started crying after Robin died because I learned you can cry,” said Logan.
When Robin was 10, he got a bike from the Manitoba Street Rod Association (MSRA).
Before then, Robin sat years on a waitlist for a specialized bicycle from the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation (CRF).
The MSRA funded Robin’s three-wheeled bicycle as a symbol of support for the CRF.
“We’re the fundraising arm for that whole facility at 1155 Notre Dame [Specialized Services for Children and Youth],” said CRF executive director Christine Schollenberg over the phone.
The CRF receives medical equipment requests from occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech-language pathologists. It’s Schollenberg’s job to rally the equipment’s funding.
“All of that is combating another form of disability which is depression, which is pretty prevalent in our kids that live with everyday challenges,” said Schollenberg.
Robin visited the CRF throughout his childhood for mobility and nutritional appointments.
The CRF repaired and customized Robin’s wheelchairs. These appointments were like taking a car into the shop — getting brake adjustments or new tires.
Occupational therapists would also recommend the latest services, such as ankle-foot orthosis for added stability while walking.
Robin’s Feeding Clinic visits were comparable to a routine check-up. As his swallowing improved, the CRF would offer Robin new sampled foods rather than his daily formula injections that he ingested through his trach. As he got older, Robin began to eat more regular food.
“He was super interested in food, like food magazines, recipes, being in the kitchen. And not because he was sad because he wasn’t eating, he just was interested,” said Monica.
Monica said Robin’s main interest was in his new bike since it got him out of his wheelchair.
The Winnipeg Free Press covered the presentation at the CRF in 2007. After that, Schollenberg, along with the whole St. Joe’s elementary class, attended Robin’s school bike presentation.
“I remember he was very tiny, then a big smile and curly, curly hair,” said Schollenberg.
Over the years Robin and his bike went to local movie rental shops, mainly the Blockbuster a few blocks away. His bike also allowed him to take part in Cruisin’ Down the Crescent, the CRF’s annual fundraiser walk.
The CRF had one goal for Robin: to give him a better life. Two months after Robin died, Monica set up a GoFundMe to fundraise for a bike to make another child at the CRF as happy as it made her son.
Monica walked into Inkster School on Nov. 18, 2018.
She was meeting Krsna Vasu, a nine-year-old boy receiving the bike she spent two years fundraising for.
It had been eleven years since Robin’s bike presentation.
“I was super excited to actually see that bike,” said Monica.
Due to some sizing issues, Monica didn’t get to see Krsna actually ride the bike.
Krsna lives with polymicrogyria, a neurological condition of abnormal brain development. His disability requires a wheelchair.
“If he’s in the mood he’ll tell you like A is apple, R is rabbit,” said Krsna’s mother Fran Vasu, owner of DKF Fashions in Portage Place.
Krsna currently goes for therapy sessions at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children (RCC), a department inside the CRF’s building. There’s a decent chance Robin and Krsna passed by each other not knowing they’d later have a lasting connection.
Before and during appointments, Krsna’s glued to his iPhone. He rapidly scrolls through animated singing videos, entertained by the sounds of farm animals or the alphabet song.
“It’s always been music, even during the time that he was in the hospital,” said Fran. “There is a music therapist in the hospital, they help a lot too.”
Navigating his phone and hearing the musical sounds improves Krsna’s quality of life. So does the new bike.
“We’ve brought that [bike] in the park with us, and Krsna would sit there. He loves it,” said Fran. “It’s like it’s part of his therapy.”
Once Robin was physically strong enough, he had aspirations of getting his driver’s licence. When that was to happen, he wanted to donate his bike back. The CRF gave his bike to another child.
“It’s a transferred love,” said Fran.
Some of the $5,258 donated to Monica’s GoFundMe went toward a pavement carver marked with Robin’s name in Transcona Centennial Square. Robin enjoyed watching weekly outdoor movies there during summer.
Monica also purchased a plaque outside the church at Robin’s elementary school. When Monica walks around to grocery shop or attend church, the symbols she’s planted of her son are right there.
The rest of the GoFundMe money went to Krsna’s bike. Monica believed it’s what Robin would have wanted, saying he put others’ needs first.
“We decided that would be the thing to give another child — the gift of mobility,” said Monica.
Logan uses Robin’s forward-thinking values on disability and sexuality as inspiration.
“If Robin can’t talk about it, I should probably talk about it because Robin probably would’ve talked about it,” said Logan. “Like why there is not a wheelchair ramp at the front of A&W for Pete’s sake, on Regent [Avenue]?”
Logan isn’t afraid of getting into a Twitter argument with people who are using homophobic slurs. It’s his way of speaking up for his twin brother.
Robin didn’t tweet. He stuck to Facebook where 280 characters didn’t limit his movie lists.
On July 15, 2016, Robin posted his all-time favourites. I always thought he had good taste.