2015 is turning out to be one of loss. I have so far lost an uncle and our small cluster of villages seems to be mourning another member every other week.
In 2008 I lost the older of my baby brothers ‘A’ in tragic circumstances during an outing to the beach.
I am the eldest sibling of seven, five girls and two boys, in that order.
Given that I love my four younger sisters you must be able to imagine my delight when the birth of our first brother was announced.
In fact, I was the one to announce his birth to my Dad and my younger sisters.
We lived in a little town north west of Sydney. We had no motor car and no telephone. Mum had been admitted to the women’s hospital in Sydney the day before and Dad had sent me to the shops, about a kilometre and a half walk, to telephone the hospital to ask about any news.
My Dad scolded me because I had not asked about Mum’s well being and I was made to walk back to the post office telephone to inquire about the baby’s and her health. I felt ashamed that I hadn't, felt guilty that my excitement had been allowed to overtake my sense of responsibility towards my family. To this day, I realise that I’m still guilty of this characteristic.
I wanted to shout out; it’s a boy. And I did, I ran the distance home. When I saw Dad I shouted: It’s a boy, it’s a boy.
Two years later our second baby brother was born. Our brothers were like chalk and cheese. ‘A’ was shy, introverted, a thinker, hardworking, responsible, a quiet achiever.
Our youngest brother ‘D’ extroverted, happy-go-lucky, funny, always on the go, made friends easily, had more friends than you could count, and rather irresponsible. He saw no bad in anyone, which unfortunately is not always a good thing.
On the evening of May 1, 2015 our youngest brother departed this world.
My emotional response to his sudden passing is in stark contrast to the emotions I felt when losing my first brother.
In 2008, when we lost ‘A’ I believed I would never recover from losing him. The emotional pain was overwhelming; I couldn't believe he was gone. I believed his passing was irresponsible, and that he was still needed here in this world. I wanted to know ‘why’ he had been taken. The fifth anniversary of his death was as difficult, if not more so, than his first. I felt the loss sharply. For the first two years after his passing I though about him daily. Daily, my heart felt broken. It’s only been perhaps the last twelve months or so that I have come to accept that he is no longer in this world.
On both occasions of my brothers’ passing, I have been given the news over the telephone. In my mind, I have this concept of ‘that phone call’, ‘that phone call’ that no one should have to take. The mother, the father, the sister, the brother... The wife, the child, the uncle…..
On three occasions in my life I have had to cope with ‘that phone call’, two of them to announce the loss of my brothers’ sudden and tragic passing.
My baby brother’s life was never simple. Therefore it’s no surprise that neither was his passing. So although he passed over on May 1, his funeral wasn't held until May 13 because of a variety of complications, some as minor as providing paper work to finalise funeral arrangements.
But, strangely, my initial response to hearing the news was of course shock, but in a strange way, his sudden passing was not surprising. Emotionally, since then, I feel empty. I believe my brother is truly at rest, but at the same time I haven’t registered his passing as having happened. In other words, it feels like nothing has happened.
The only things that sustain me are what I believe to be messages from him.
The first sign we received was as his casket was ready to be lowered into the burial ground…out of nowhere, on a beautiful blue-skied-day, a sudden, strong gush of wind blew up and made me fear that the casket would blow of its strapping. Our baby brother was saying goodbye, always the attention seeker, and the entertainer.
The second appeared as a double rainbow over his home town, as we left our mother’s house. What a beautiful way to say au revoir to every single one of his friends simultaneously. Only my baby brother...
Fly baby brother, fly, your soul was too burdened by the constraints of this world. You are now truly free.
From one side of town...
...to the other.