By Kaitlin Johnstone

Do Better

My mom’s best friend who I referred to as my Uncle growing up died of AIDS when I was 20. Although he passed 15 years ago, I can still remember the end as clearly as I can last night’s episode of The Bachelor because the pain was that intense. You see, I was very lucky to have someone in my life aside from my parents who adored me for me. Sean wasn’t just a family friend. He was the reason I have a love for Patsy Cline as well as The Doobie Brothers. The reason that I stand up for what I believe in. The reason I eat mashed potatoes with endless amounts of gravy. I knew at 4 years old that he was gay and I valued his authenticity and honesty with me; something I often wish all children had to look up to. He was undoubtedly himself and proud of it; a trait I always admired. Sean took me to the anniversary of Woodstock when I was 10 years old and instead of standing in the back with all the other kids, he let me go crowd surfing while Third Eye Blind blasted 'Semi-Charmed Life'. Looking at this moment as a 35-year-old mother, it probably wasn’t the safest of ideas, but my 10-year-old self had never experienced anything more thrilling.

My Uncle was HIV positive from the time I knew him and lived 18 years (something unheard of when being diagnosed in the late 80’s), but the end; the end is something I wish I could push away. The weight loss, legions, excessive coughing, and inability to get out of bed was incredibly agonizing to watch. The way people stared. The way one nurse spoke as if he were some sort of circus show and not a real human being are things I will never forget. However, the silver lining through it all is the love he felt. My mother, along with others, were with him everyday until he passed. She lied in bed with him and held him tight when he was scared. She brushed his hair because even in his dying days he had to look his best. She sang 'A Song For You' while he tried to rest. She comforted him in his last hours and me, even as a young, naïve 20 year old who at the time didn’t want to see past the cruelty of the world, could find the beauty in their love for one another.


Fast forward to March 13th, 2020 Kevin and I were getting ready to go out for a celebratory anniversary dinner. Before we left, we thought to ourselves maybe we shouldn’t. With such uncertainties surrounding COVID at the time and having a newborn baby we decided to order our favorite takeout and stay up half the night reminiscing on our 11 years together. That day will forever be the day I remember that the world shut down. What followed is something I could have never imagined. Quite frankly I don’t even think the producers of Game of Thrones could have made up what we have endured the past 18 months. Pictures of meat packing trucks carrying dead bodies from New York City filled the screens. Aerial shots of Time Square completely empty. Cries from medical professionals to stay home and do your part. Two weeks is nothing I thought. Let’s all do what we can, wear a mask, and this too shall pass.

Here we are a year and a half later and the highly politicized nature of this pandemic has left over 637,000 people dead in the United States alone and all I can keep thinking is it did not have to be this way. We all could have stayed home when asked to do so (I am not speaking about essential workers, and I am grateful to every person who is one). We all could have socially distanced when asked to do so. We all could have worn a mask when asked to do so. We all could have been vaccinated (if able) when asked to do so, but here we are. And now, more CHILDREN are dying. 48 in the past two weeks to be exact and that doesn’t even account for 7 states (because some, including. Florida don’t release the data on childhood deaths). However, to put things in perspective, Florida was admitting 200 children to hospitals a day due to COVID this past week. So although we may not have the mortality rate, that’s 1,400 CHILDREN who may have long term health conditions because adults can’t do better.

Instead, parents are screaming their heads off about their children being oppressed for having to wear a mask. They are storming school boards, sending threats to teachers, and protesting outside of schools for children to see. I often sit back and wonder what would happen to these very same parents if their skin was not white, but that is an entirely different blog. I hope that as a society we can smarten up and see that most of us have been effected by this at this point and it isn’t a hoax. COVID is real and so are the ramifications of not behaving as if it isn’t.


My daughter fell at the park today and the pain I felt seeing her skinned cheek and swelled eyes was unimaginable. I never knew my heart could ache so deeply for another human until I became a mom... and this only was a little scrape from tumbling off her bike! A kiss, some snuggles, and her favorite song was all it took to have her on the mend. And then I thought; imagine the agony of not being able to take your child’s pain away? Think of all these parents as of late who have had to worry endlessly as to whether their baby will be ok. It’s in the small moments like these that I can’t fathom how putting something over your face  to keep others safe is a violation of rights.


As I sit here thinking of all the ways in which we can collectively do better for our future I think of all the families torn apart. The lives that were lost and the pain people are going through. I think back on my Uncle’s passing and it saddens me to know that so many others didn’t have someone to hold their hand or comfort them in their last hours. People had to hold the hand of a stranger while taking their last breath, as opposed to a loved one.  I am so incredibly sorry to each and every one of you that has lost someone during this time and I truly hope that America can wake up.


We put out products that resonate deeply with us to connect with all of you. It is not in my nature to simply create something cute for the sake of creating it. Each design and message is carefully crafted with a story behind it. With that being said, I am tired. I am disheartened, but yet I am hopeful. I long to believe that there are enough of us out there that believe in doing better. Let’s take a long hard look past ourselves and understand that for humanity’s sake we have to.  This tee is a representation of that reminder.

Grab the Do Better Tee here


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