Last year, my friend's brother died suddenly. I couldn't imagine what that must have felt like for him, or indeed his parents, his partner, or their young baby. Then two weeks ago my Brother died, alone, in the shower, and his wife and oldest son found him. And everything became unreal.
Unreal because we'd seen him two days before and he looked pretty healthy, and happy. Unreal because he was mid fifties and that is way too young. Unreal because some fucking narcissistic nut job has become the most important person in the world (or has he?) and Brexit is nonsense and the NHS is crumbling and everyone can see it but we don't seem to be able to stop it even though it feels like we are plummeting.... life goes on. But it also keeps stopping suddenly. Like when I look at the list of Christmas thank you's I have yet to begin and my Brother's name is there alongside his wife's. Or I scroll through my texts and there it is again.
I've never lost someone this close to me. I've never lost anyone suddenly. And 'lost' is a ridiculous word, isn't it? He's not been misplaced, mislaid, misdirected. 'Passed away', though I have used it frequently in the last two weeks, isn't much better. It doesn't convey the brutality or rawness of a sudden death.
A toddler is a fair distraction for grief. A toddler means you don't have much time to think. And for that I am grateful. There seem to be two modes - the engaged mode when I am socialising/chatting/taking Hector to a class; the mode that has briefly forgotten. And then the default, core mode which is honestly just one of sadness. Overwhelming, barrier smashing sadness.
It's a peculiar state of affairs for two reasons. One, that we had to wait for an autopsy to establish that he'd had a heart attack, and thus are having to wait almost a month for the funeral. There is no real progress on the processing until that funeral has happened. There's no real sinking in that we won't ever see him again until we all gather and remember and celebrate and mourn. And drink, probably, given that everyone is Irish Catholic.
The other reason is that circa 8yrs ago we all thought he was about to die - he had a tumour in his pancreas, and everyone knows pancreatic cancer is unbeatable. He said his goodbyes, made a video for his boys, my work gave me a day off to have lunch with him. It felt like the end. And then they operated and it was benign. As if by some miracle.
And so it feels like we got almost a decade we thought we wouldn't get. But yet it also feels like we were cheated - that we thought he and we had won at this game of life, and then one day he hadn't. Though he did take early retirement, spend much more time with his family, get an absolutely hideous tattoo, buy and sell a few more cars, die his hair green for Christmas Day (nope, I don't know why either) and continue to wind my Mother up.
That's the other thing. I've lost my ally. The only other person in the world who truly understood my Mum's level of crazy. Who understood why I can't often rise above it or ignore it. But who loved her like I love her. I've lost the person who I thought one day would help me go through my parents' things (morbid I know, but if you knew how much stuff she's got in storage, you'd be sending her a copy of Marie Kondo to go with the one I've sent her).
He was older than me, my Brother, so I often felt like an only child growing up,but as an adult, I've had my sibling there. We got drunk at Joe Allens and I fell out the cab, much to his horror. We stayed up drinking red wine at his house, relaying our separate childhood stories. He tied our marriage knot along with my sister-in-law (sounds sexual - it isn't, it's a humanist thing). I think he thought it was slightly bonkers but he went with it. He was a loving man, a brilliant father, and a great husband by all accounts.
My Dad always says all you need is health and happiness. Everything else is surplus. A bonus.
I'm not sure I have anything else to say right now. Other than the usual cliches. To cherish every day and everyone you love. To go after what you want full throttle without embarrassment or shame, because life is super short. To maybe have/take a phone with you at all times, even in the bathroom.... And to bear with me if you are due a thank you/Birthday card/email reply/coffee date - it'll come.
With love and good intentions on this new moon xxx