15 Oct

My earliest memories of my brother were of the nightmares. Bad dreams that would make him cry out at night and I’d hold his hand. Not like my sister.

When she arrived at my tender age of two I hated her on site, demanded they take her back, threw her out of the crib. I hated her.

My brother was different.

From an early age he was poorly. His eyes, his sinus’s. he needed looking after. St Ormunds Street was his home until he was two. He was my baby.

When he cried I was there, if he woke in the night, I was the one holding his hand. It’s not that my mother didn’t care, she just had strict rules. Awake after 6pm and you’d get your bottom spanked. My father, he was away a lot, ex forces he did a lot of the operation Raleigh stuff, wells in Africa, climbing Everest. He was the adventurous type, the restless type, the kind of person who’d give someone their last coin even though they needed it themselves. A true ‘Christian’ although I never saw him attend church.

We went to church, to Sunday School. My mum was a stay at home parent, it was her only time ‘off’.

I still remember the hours I spent on the church organ, desperate to learn to play the piano, my sister viewing it, more cynically as a way to avoid my mother.

The day my brother got wedged in the Sunday school toilet and he was too embarrassed to call out for help. We all left an found him hours later with his arse stuck down the pan…

But anyway, my brother was like me, like my father. Would have these odd periods of solitude where you couldn’t contact him by phone, he wouldn’t answer the door, eventually you just accepted there’d be these periods of silence but the person in question would always come back. That’s what made it so hard in the end.

Skipping forward a bit, my father had cancer. He told us, me, my sister and brother (aged 13, 11 and 10 respectively) that the doctors had given him 3 months to live. He eventually died on the eve of my maths gcse, 3 yrs later.

Skip forward a few more years and its my brother breaking this news to us. Aged 23, he has cancer, and the doctors give him three months.

Of course, we figure he’s like our dad, will go on forever, and so we don’t take him seriously.

Within a month he’s in a hospice, a few weeks later, on a Thursday, we get the call. Come down tonight.

Of course we’d been visiting every day. Hospices aren’t much fun, especially if you’re young. They’re just not set up that way.

Before the call I’d sent him a text and he hadn’t replied. I’d figured he was just sleeping. He slept a lot at that time. The drugs and all.

I turned up at the hospice at 6pm. He wasn’t lucid. That was a shock, before he’d been checking lottery results or racing wins with the other residents. I waited.

Around midnight, the nurse said we should say our goodbyes. I didn’t. Instead, I promised I’d be back in the morning.

At 6am the hospice called me. He’d made them promise to wait til morning before telling me.

I got there at 8am and sat with him. But what was in that bed wasn’t ‘him’. In fact, the memory of that ‘thing’ haunted me for a good year after. I don’t know why but it reminded me of some kind of captive bird.

What was there wasn’t my brother, but it was trapped nevertheless.

With my father I never saw his body, was just told he was dead and then attended his funeral.

This was more, and yet still, not enough.

With everyone who dies there is that sense of disbelief. I’ve carried it from three weeks on my first ‘death’ to minutes with my brother and still it doesn’t seem quite real.

Maybe I read too many novels in my youth but I still expect the dead to rise, to claim the official secrets act regarding their death and to be alive again.

I don’t know. Maybe if I see someone take their final breath, maybe then I’ll believe them. But these bodies, these carcasses that are left behind, they’re not the person that I knew.

And shamefully, given my Church of England upbringing. Even given my overwhelming, heartfelt belief in God. I still struggle with the idea that what we’re left with, the inanimate flesh, has any relation to what came before.

I can’t say for certain that I’m a Christian, but I’ve known peace through song and praise that I’ve never known before.

Maybe everyone just needs someone to believe in. Philosophy gets complicated without religions.

Personally I’ve always needed that idea of a father, with the same standards and beliefs as my own father. The same morals and need to hold me to account.

And if I’m honest, this is the reason I will only get married in a church. In the absence of family and father I want to make my promise to someone who will hold me to account in the way my father and brother would.

The problem is that no one believes in God or ‘someone watching over us’ any more….


2 Responses to “James/ging”

  1. Mina Lamieux October 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    By the time my father fell victim to cancer, he was not the man he was before. He had lost a lot of weight. He just wasn’t the same person even before death. I remember the moment when I found out he had passed. I was at work, my mother called me to tell me the news. By the time I had hung up the phone, the coworker who had forwarded the call to me had burst through the office door to hug me and console me.

    • Lexi Rose October 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

      It’s a horrible, horrible disease. And everybody seems to have been touched by it in some way or another. Makes you wonder why it’s so hard to diagnose, treat and ultimately find a cure.

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