I’m approaching an anniversary. One I never wanted to experience – no one should at my age. Having said that there are many things we shouldn’t experience and mine is only one on that list.

My brother died a year ago at the end of November. I still can’t believe when I write those words they are actually real and true. Despite the fact that he had been ill for many years with Multiple Sclerosis – I never truly believed we’d lose him. He was a wonderful soul, never complained, and endured many years of no real existence whilst my other brother and I forged on with our lives. I felt guilty – many times – not least when I made the huge decision to move to the other side of the world. Saying goodbye to him when I moved was (at the time) the single hardest thing I have ever done. I didn’t want him to see me cry, and my heart almost exploded as I tried to keep my emotions under lock and key. I was only to see him once more after I moved.

The toughest time was still to come – I received the dreaded middle of the night phone call from my eldest brother to tell me he was in hospital and it wasn’t looking good. There was the conversation with my parents when I was told the life support machine would be switched off. This was something I’d only seen in movies, read in books. This was soap opera stuff. Not real life – not my life, not the end of my brother’s life. This was the boy I’d grown up with, fought with, laughed with, been dragged down the road behind his tricycle on my roller-skates with…

My friends couldn’t believe it either. One of my best friends I feel really believed he would be ok – he always had been before, so why not this time? I had to send her a text to say he’d died – a text message. I live on the other side of the world, speaking wasn’t possible at that time. What a thing to write. How do you write something like that?

The news drove me to extremes of emotion. I had a compulsion to be home – immediately. I couldn’t cope with waiting another second to start the journey. So much so that it meant I would have to travel alone from one side of the world to the other, accompanied by an 8 month old baby. INSANITY! That’s the only word to describe what I did. A 36 hour journey, with no stop over. I don’t know how I did it, and to this day I have no idea where my energy or resolve came from. I met some wonderfully kind strangers along the way who restored my faith in humanity. The man who helped me pull my luggage off the carousel and tried to help me through customs because I physically couldn’t push a pram and my luggage trolley at the same time, and the woman who noticed I was about to pass out in the queue at passport control and insisted I go to the front, to name but two.

When I made it home I was still running on empty but had to hold everyone else up. My parents were understandably falling apart, and my eldest brother had been juggling his family, job and life to hold everything and everyone together. He needed help – a break – time with his own kids and I was there. My turn.

I did what I know best. I started organising everyone and everything. I knew we had to find a way to celebrate his life in a fitting manner, and despite organising an event being the last thing I wanted to do, I knew I was capable, and in all honesty everyone else was falling apart. And we did it. It was memorable, and so very important for my parents. It was a most cathartic experience and a memory I will treasure. I only wish I had been able to voice my thoughts and memories of him on the day – I read a beautiful poem but they weren’t my words. I have since written down my memories and I’m so glad I did.

The shining lights through the whole experience were my little man, who brought joy to all who crossed his path, and the extremely poignant news I was already planning to announce when we came home for Christmas – that I was expecting number 2. They say things happen for a reason, and I’m certain some of my brother’s beautiful soul has come through in my second son. My brother was a second child, and we have honoured his memory by having his name as my second son’s middle name. So instead of being sad, I will try and be happy. Happy that I knew him, happy that he knew I’d had one baby (‘Is she a good mother’ he asked my mum, which made me laugh), tinged with sadness he didn’t know about number 2. Or maybe he does know. Who knows. Fly high beautiful soul, you will forever be my guiding light. X

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