Something that I don’t very often talk about is losing my brother, Parker. It’s been nearly seven months since he died but it still feels like yesterday, and I remember everything in that period in vivid detail. I find myself wondering with more and more time that passes if it will ever feel like a distant memory.
I suppose I’m both lucky and unlucky in that I’ve never lost anyone close to me until Parker. It was nice to have reached adulthood and still have all my loved ones, but at the same time it left me completely vulnerable and lacking the necessary coping skills when it did finally happen. Parker’s death wasn’t totally unexpected; he was born with Cystic Fibrosis which, realistically unless you receive a lung transplant the life expectancy tends to be around 40 – he made it to 32 before taking the decision to end extraordinary measures being taken to keep him alive. It’s subjective whether you believe doing that is taking the “easy” option, but I for one believe it to be the hardest and bravest decision you could make – particularly with everything he was leaving behind.
Out of my other two brothers, the relationship Parker and I shared was very special. Although six years older than me, everyone in the family always said we were like twins born years apart. We were essentially the same person in so many aspects, which was both good and bad. We fought like cat and dog due to our similarities, but on the other side of the coin he was one of the very few people who “got” me. He was the one person I turned to, night or day, with any worries or fears and he somehow always knew the right thing to say even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time. He inspired my famous love of music, with the majority of my most beloved bands and artists coming from his influence. I grew up listening to everything from Sam Cooke to Misfits, and I still have the same eclectic taste today. He taught me the basics needed that would allow me to learn a plethora of instruments, and somehow managed to convince my parents about my Chromasthesia when they thought I was just a child with an overactive imagination.
My brother left behind my niece, Svea who is now four and I can already see the similarities in my relationship with her dad to the relationship between her and I. She’s the most hilarious, loving, quirky, and beautiful human I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and if I could I’d spend all of my days with her. In the run up to, and particularly in the couple of months after his death I threw myself into looking after her to relieve some pressure on her, and my own Mother. It pains me that she’ll never know my brother the way we all did, but I’ll do my utmost to make sure he’s never forgotten.
I find talking about his death very hard, and I can count on less than one hand the amount of people I have let in on my thoughts and emotions around this. After he died, I can fully admit how much denial I was in about it. I did everything and anything physically possible to avoid dealing with it, and my coping mechanisms became a source of tension particularly between my Mom and I. I wouldn’t consider myself to be an emotionally closed off person, but what I am is fiercely stubborn and self-reliant, which can be the opposite of my Mother. It’s something we both recognise, and it’s certainly no secret – we’re two very different people in the way we choose to deal with things; Mom is an open book, and I’m not. She loves talking about feelings, and I don’t. It’s just the way we are, but it’s why we work. I know that on reading this she’ll certainly have no issue with me disclosing that because after all, I’m opening up (fanfare and round of applause to me).
I miss my brother so much that I ache sometimes. I don’t know whether that’s normal or if it sounds dramatic, but it is nonetheless true. He was, and will always be my best friend and when someone like that is no longer around it feels like part of you is missing. I really do feel like part of me left with him, and that’s the kind of emptiness than nothing or no one can fill. I still find myself in moments where I think, “Oh, I’ve got to tell Parker about that” and it can take a good few moments before the realisation sets in that I can’t. It may sound strange, or even morbid, but I still send him messages of the things I want to tell him; What I’m doing, things the family have done, things he’ll find interesting. I know I’ll never get a reply, but it’s just like this odd compulsion that I need to speak to him – that so much has been left unsaid, and there’s so much he’ll never know. I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of “death”, and this horrible inevitable nothingness that you become. Maybe someone reading this will have a different view from me about what happens to us, and in a way I can understand what a comfort that must be; to have this belief that we go somewhere else, or we become something else, and I’d love nothing more than to believe that. But, I just can’t. For all the sadness and emptiness it brings me, I still can’t force myself to believe in anything other than the cold, hard facts of what happens when you die: you just stop.
Seeing a dead body was a strange experience, to the point it almost didn’t feel real. We were all around my brother when he finally stopped breathing on his own, and anyone that has any experience of a Do Not Resuscitate order will tell you it feels like you need to do something. I vividly remember the sound of my brother’s heart monitor making that continuous beep like you see on tv, and then the click of the doctor switching it off. I remember them switching everything off. My dad’s hand was on mine, and the doctor pronouncing the time of death. I had the most horrible sense of internal panic that no one was doing anything, why weren’t they helping him? With hindsight, I now understand that it was my own realisation that he was now officially gone and that sense of denial kicking in. I sat there until I was told they had to take him away, and even after that I still found myself wandering for hours in a sense of disbelief and shock.
There’s few individuals I can honestly say that I’ve felt a true affinity with, and my brother was one of them. Knowing that he’s gone and that comforting feeling of having someone you connect with so easily and perfectly leaves me with undoubtable anxiety. I find myself lying awake at night with these worries that I’ll never again have someone in my life that understands me the way he did, and that if I do, I’ll lose them just as I’ve lost him. It sends me into downward spirals of panic that I can’t pull myself out of, and it makes me feel so very alone and utterly lost. I feel like that’s a feeling and fear I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get over. I scroll through messages for hours on end sometimes in the nights that I don’t sleep, and they can make me laugh or cry instantly. I look back through all these old conversations and mourn the loss of my soul mate and find myself angry at all the twee throwaway statements and false sentiments that people offer to try and make amends for a loss that they can’t fathom. I can so easily see how death makes people bitter, and why Survivor’s Guilt is a real thing. If it wasn’t for the knowledge that Parker would tear me a new one for becoming such a horrible and ungrateful person, that’s exactly the person I would become.
My resolve throughout all of this has been Svea, and I don’t know if she’ll ever know or comprehend just how much she means to me. It’s hard being so geographically distant from her, but I make sure to speak to her almost every day. I could listen to her nonsensical conversation for hours on end and never get bored. I see so much of my brother in her, and I speak for all of my family when I say it’s something we all intend to nourish to it’s full potential.
My one goal, above anything else is to make my brother proud. He told me before he died how proud of me he was, but I won’t believe it until I feel personally at a point where I can say, “Yeah. I’ve done it.”. Maybe I’m being hard on myself; another thing I’m constantly told is to try to be more kind to myself, but when I feel so strongly about something I can’t stop until I know I’ve done the best I could. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach that point, but I know I’ll spend all of my days trying.