I Carry My BrotherAbout five years ago now I lost my elder brother to Pancreatic Cancer. It was very sudden and took us all by surprise. When first diagnosed he was given six months to live which turned out to be only six weeks. I was free for most of his last days but because we were expecting six months, the urgency to make more of the time we did have left didn't really seem quite so urgent until his rapid decline in the last two weeks.
I'd always been very close to my brother since childhood. We'd grown up with an abusive father who only ever succeeded in alienating himself from all of us while driving us children and our mother closer together into a very tight knit bond. In the darker moments when dad was absent we would turn the sad atmosphere back over again with humour, more often than not aimed at dad. Dave had a rather odd but wonderful sense of humour and in exaggerating the lengths dad might go to to in his infantile and petty behaviour we would often all be rolling about laughing again.
Just such one fond memory of him I had along with many others where we would go on holiday together or he would ask me to help him with his car or boat over silly things he couldnt seem to work out for himself that we would laugh about after.
He had his bad points too. Nobody's perfect. But in his last weeks he told me he didnt want everyone coming round with gloomy faces and looking upset as it only darkened his days too.
Dad was pathetic as far as this simple request went and would do nothing but ask about his treatment and symptoms from sun-up to sundown and with constant repititons of 'Oh dear, dear.!'
Mum and me managed to lift the mood though together and when dad was out it was like old times again, tearing down the sombre old curtains with laughter and letting the sunlight wash into those dark corners. On the day he died his speech had gone completely and it was just me and my mum by his side along with a nurse from the hospice, in his bedroom, in his flat. He was single. The nurse had told us that the hearing was the last to go and so we reminisced about the past. We reminded each other across the bed of the funny things which had happened in the past. How he used to infuriate his English teacher by turning every essay into a James Bond story, the pranks he played on me as a child, and the daft ideas he had as an adult such as buying a yacht without any sailing experience whatsoever and abandoning it half way down a river because he couldn't work out how to get it back again. As each story came out, more came to mind and we only fell silent again when he finally began to give his last gasps. It was naturally a very emotional moment right then and both me and mum had to let go finally, but the nurse said afterwards that it was one of the nicest partings she had ever had the pleasure to sit in on. She had laughed with us in his last few hours and felt to some degree that she had known him too.
I never cried at the funeral. I'd had dreams, which seemed cruel at first, where he would be with me and his old self again. In one dream i even asked him if he felt okay and queried his illness, and he laughed at me and said people were always exaggerating too much, and I laughed back. Waking was always the leveller. I'd open my eyes confused for a moment before reality caved in on me. He was gone. He was really gone.
But I'd stand in his empty flat and see his life there in front of me. His neat piles of unpublished
So here I am some five years later, actually older and outliving him now by 3 years. I still have never cried for him because I know that so much of him is still with me, inside of me, and still alive. I know what he would have thought of Spielberg's Tintin film, of the latest Bond film to come out soon. I know the art I've done myself that he would have loved and the things I've done in my life he still would not understand. I know him as much now as I ever did and I only have to imagine the question to hear his clear reply and his unmistakable tone of voice in saying it. He didn't die for me because I never let him, and he'll be alive in me and mum and everybody else who chooses to remember him until the day when we are all dead too.