Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Learning to speak in the past tense

My big brother Richard died almost two weeks ago. 

I'm not quite ready to talk about him in the past tense. I think I'll be muddling my tenses for a while. The shock is yet to wear off. I'm still expecting him to call and say he was in France skiing the whole time. Sadly, he has been identified, undergone a post mortem, his death certificate has been issued and his funeral is on Friday. Even writing those words seems ridiculous, how can he be dead at 42? 

Yesterday Bean and I travelled to Birmingham to help his parents and another brother (who arrived from the US on Sunday - poor thing is exhausted - I'm so glad he's home for Mummy hugs) start to clear Richard's flat. 

His flat was characteristically Richard - a "little" messy - but full of weird and wonderful things. Wowzer, you had some pretty cool shit. Stuff that will find a new life with family and friends. He had just bought some pretty amazing socks and it's nice that each brother could take a pair. Perhaps they'll wear them at the funeral. 

It's the little things that make up someone's life that perhaps are the hardest to see. The sauerkraut fermenting in the cupboard, the unopened birthday card from April, the unfinished Lego Architecture set, the new lava lamp and the art sitting against the wall waiting to be hung. All these things are so very Richard and every second spent in his flat was a poignant reminder of how much we've lost. The awesome son, brother, friend and uncle who brought such light in a dark world.

As we waded through the hoards of important papers we found a huge cache of ticket stubs. Oh boy, you lived a life. A life that was far too short but over the past few days his family has seen how many people were in Richard's life and want to remember him in death. He was so much more than just a guy who lived and worked in Birmingham. I hope as we continue to turn his home into piles of stuff his family remembers that his life can never be adequately summed up by few (well many!) belongings. We aren't clearing away his life, he will live on.

Since his death, sleep has been hard for me. I write this at 4am. Perhaps it's just a normal symptom, perhaps not. I've been trying (and failing) to be strong for Bean. It does pull into painful focus how it would affect him if I killed myself. Is this your gift to me Richard? To tell me that death is not the answer? That I must not squander my life, even if it feels so hopeless?

Richard's funeral is on Friday. I think this is when the shock will be taken over by overt grief. Perhaps shock is a helpful emotion to enable to making of so many decisions in a very short space of time. And those decisions from music to food to eulogies to what Richard wears in his coffin. It all matters and none of it matters. It's so important but at the same time what would matter to Richard? We all have ideas but I imagine knowing he was surrounded by his loved ones and knowing that those who cannot make the funeral are planning to hold a memorial service for him in Birmingham. Dude, you are so loved. I'm so glad that despite growing up apart (Bean's sister is 10 years older than him) that you came together as adults and were friends.

The loss of a sibling isn't really something you ever think about. Whilst you grow up understanding your parents and grandparents will die, siblings do not enter this equation. They are so very much part of you. They are the same as you save a few genetic differences. How do you even begin to say goodbye to someone who should have lived another 40 years?

Whilst I can try to comprehend Richard's death as his sister-in-law, I can't even begin to understand how hard it must feel to be present at your child's funeral. I hope his parents lean on their children and let them support them.

So to Friday. I hope to bake him a cake. I hope to support my family. I hope to celebrate a life.

Just come back from that skiing trip, Rich, we miss you.

As corny as it sounds, hug your loved ones.

(Oh and write down your passwords and hide them somewhere safe)

1 comment :

  1. I don't really know what to say as nothing I can say will help. But I wanted you to know that I'm thinking of you and your family. xxx