I have four brothers.
I had four brothers.
I lost my baby brother on Friday 23rd November 2007.
He was 25.
He had bright blue eyes.
He had short blonde hair.
He was a drug addict.
I hated and loved him equal measure.
I loved that he was fiercely loyally to everyone he cared for: his friends, his family. I loved his honesty. I loved his sense of humour. I loved that he still took my Nan flowers just because he could. I loved that inside the shell of the man I saw, lived the soul of the boy I knew.
But I hated what he did. I hated the emotional and financial strain he put my parents under. I hated the web of deceit he could create to get his way. I hated his new batch of ‘friends’. I hated that his life revolved around his next fix. I hated that I rarely saw the boy I knew in the face he had. I hated where he found his solace.
The night the police knocked our door is a real to me now as it was back then.
Officer S stood in front of me and I asked him which station my brother was at and was it OK to go pick him up.
I couldn’t tell you the number of times he’d been to our home. But he looked different that night. He didn’t look disappointed like he normally did. He looked like he’d lost a fight. Like he had lost all hope.
He looked…. devastated.
It was then I noticed her. His female colleague. I don’t recall her name but I remember he introduced her as a family liaison officer.
I knew instantly what he was going to tell me.
I knew in my heart.
He didn’t need to use the words.
Michael was dead.
I had to tell my brother who was at home.
Worse still, I had to tell my mum.
I will never forget the look on her face when I told her that my brother, her youngest son, wasn’t coming home. I sometimes feel like she resents me for it. Resents that I knew first and that I had to tell her. I feel like I single handedly ruined her life telling her.
And I know it’s silly, I know that. But that’s how it feels.
My family rallied round, poured endless cups of tea and cried rivers of tears.
They visited him at the hospital.
I did not.
I wanted to be able to dream about the boy I knew. Or close my eyes and see his smile as I remembered it.
I did not need my final memory and the lasting image of my baby brother to be of a cold and lifeless body in a hospital mortuary.
I think that would have killed me more than knowing he was gone ever could have.
Instead I look at the picture below.
It is the only image I have of my daughter and her uncle.
She doesn’t remember him and doesn’t understand why.
I tell her that he went to sleep because it was time to go. But that she shouldn’t be upset or afraid because he is the brightest star in the sky. Shining on her at night, keeping her safe.
Keeping away any bad dreams.
She loves that idea.