I have seriously lost my mojo and I have neither the energy, nor the willpower, to do anything about it. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my brother’s death. The 12th one, and much like every October, it makes me feel like doing absolutely nothing for the entire month. The only problem is – it falls smack bang between both of my kids two birthdays. Oct 12th and Oct 28th and I have to pull myself together to navigate both.
They say a death of a loved one gets easier in time, that it hurts less, but I call crap on that sentiment. I don’t think you ever really move on; I think you compartmentalise the pain and learn how better to live alongside it. That around anniversaries we fall apart because we allow ourselves to let the full whack of it surface some more and feel like we don’t need to hide it as much.
My brother was one of the best people I ever knew. We were close right from my birth and I was his first little sister. He treated me differently to our brothers and I was pampered and sheltered. He was the eldest of six children, the first 4 of us from a marriage that broke down, and then we moved to live with my mother who then went on to have two more girls. So for the first ten years of my life, I was his only sister. I was Princess material and he was the kind of big brother you read about in Enid Blyton books.
He was a soft hearted peacekeeper, who just wanted everyone to get along. He was also stubborn and could have a really awful temper, which matched mine, but most of the time he was laid back and go with the flow, and he loved his family deeply. Through the years his pet name for me ‘Skinny’ became my name in relation to him, and of course, I called him ‘fatty’. You see Kevin was always of the chunkier side of the family, while I was always delicate and almost skeleton like as a child, and it was the way in which we showed our bond.
Over the years we lived together on more than one occasion, when he needed to uproot and start over. He even lived close to me in a town I had moved to not long after he returned back from the North, and we had frequent contact for years. I was the sister he used to haul out to work on cars and help him get them through MOT’s. He taught me to weld, use a spanner, get oily, and he taught me to drive too. He also taught me what a bad temper he had when I reversed his car into his jeep, or that time I drove us into a ditch. Good times.
Despite my Drama Queen tendencies, my fiery temper, and my stubborn attitude, Kevin and I never warred for long and we spent most of our life on good terms. His ups and downs were always a part of my life and I would travel to stay with him when he moved back up north, to console, to share the happy times, and to just hang out. He was a terrible dancer, a lightweight as a drunk, and he had adopted my best friend as a sister too and would watch over us on a night out. Guiding us home when we got a bit unstable on our legs. It was this way we met his girlfriend who later became his wife, and to this day she is still an important part of our family.
We came from a turbulent childhood in which my bio father was not great as one, and Kevin was always like my dad in a way. He shielded me from the awful things in life, tried to be what a good big brother should be. With his first wage out of high school he bought me a ragdoll that I wish I had been able to keep all these years. Sadly when my parents divorced it was kept behind with my bio dad, and his new family, lost among the toys and clothes that were left behind. If I could go back in time then I would bury that doll somewhere safe so in years to come I would still have something left of him.
My brother was a creative soul but his passion was cars, and as a self taught mechanic he finally went to college to further his knowledge, but only ended up telling the tutor how to do things – more than learn. He could rip apart a vehicle nut and bolt, even take the wire loom apart and redo it in stages without much guidance. He was incredibly talented in that way yet he had struggled all through school with dyslexia. Teachers said he was not bright but now years after he is gone, I believe much like most of our family, my brother was probably autistic. He wasn’t stupid at all, he just had a different way of learning and the education system let him down.
In adulthood his passion for mechanics and his skill is what landed him a job and helped him create a stable life and family with his wife. Their wedding day is one of my most cherished memories and such a good party. It was beautiful. His wife and I were pregnant at the same time with our first children and our kids were born 6 weeks apart. So we shared some of those important milestones even though it was long distance.
Sadly on October 17th, only 5 days after my daughters 4rth birthday, I received a phone call at 9am in the morning from my step dad (I consider him my actual dad), and was told that an accident on a bus my brother was working on in a test run around an industrial estate had taken his life. I still remember the exact moment, where I was, how I was sitting, and what I was doing in that second. It’s a moment I would never like to experience again, yet it still comes quickly to mind and memory anytime I let my guard down. It was the second I knew I would never see my brother again, never have him call me, and never hear the word ‘skinny’ when I saw him face to face. I would never see him face to face again….not even at his funeral as it was a closed casket.
My family fell apart.
He had volunteered to accompany a driver on a test run, because the person who was going to do it had not arrived yet, while he used instruments on the floor panel to check something. They were circling a dark nearby industrial estate at around 7.30 am in the morning. It was colder days, longer nights, and would have been dark at that time. Upon turning a corner they were faced with a truck trailer parked on the wrong side of the road, facing away so reflectors were not there to signal a hazard. They ploughed into it at speed, but the driver having seen it last second swerved. The trailer shot through the bus killing my brother instantly, but the driver survived with minor injuries.
Until the enquiry about how he died showed that he knew nothing of what happened, that he was looking down and wouldn’t have been aware of fear or pain I would have nightly dreams of him being alone and scared. I would cry that he had felt pain and seen it coming. That he was scared or that when he was stuck in the wreckage he had been crying for his wife or family. This went on for weeks and I tortured myself endlessly sad with the fact he would have only known terror and pain in his last moments. Thankfully the medical report and presentation told us, he knew nothing. His last thought was what he was doing on the floor and then he was just gone. It brings me some peace to know that it was a blink to him, and then just darkness.
In the years since his passing my family have gotten through it in their own ways. Some fell to religion to be consoled, some drink, some wild reckless behaviours, and some severely depressed. But we have gotten through and now 11 years on we are more stable in our grief and more able to talk about him without breaking down.
Being autistic I find emotion very hard, I find crying worse. So my coping mechanism for grief for a long time was avoidance. I refused to have any pictures, I refused to visit his grave, or the place he died. I tried not to think of him, and would talk of him less. To this day I have never returned up north to where I am from, after the day we buried him. I think deep down it’s so I don’t have to face the fact he no longer lives there. I know that’s not healthy, but baby steps, and one day I will go there and accept the fact, he is not.
He left behind three children and a widow, we still see them and the two younger are so like him in so many ways. I see his face when I look at them and hear his gentle personality in my niece especially. He left little bits of him behind and there is some comfort in that.
His wife deserves to be happy in her life and move on, I wish nothing but that for her, but I don’t see it happening soon. I know she has in many ways rebuilt her life and moved on in some ways but I am not sure if she will ever remarry. I hope so. I want her to know that. I don’t think of it as forgetting him, or a betrayal to his memory, because I know my brother wouldn’t want her to be alone. She’s a strong and lovely person, a great mother, and she deserves to have a second chance. His children will never forget who he is, even if they did get a new stepdad.
So tomorrow I will do what I always do. I will feel sad, stay away from people, ask my own kids and partner to give me space and disappear into my own head for a day. I will light a candle and dig out his picture. The only one I allow myself and wish that for just one second, he would call out ‘Skinny’ and make me eye roll like I always did.
I wish I knew how to navigate grief, I wish I could say there is truth in the ‘time is a healer’ sentiment but that’s not truth for me. We don’t stop caring, we don’t stop missing, and we definitely do not stop hurting. So excuse me for being a mess in the month of October, from here until the end … I doubt I will ever get a better handle on this and I apologise for the delay in my current book through this time. I am notorious for taking the month of October off, every year.
October should be a good month for me – I met my fiancée in October, both my children were born in October, and we moved to our forever home in October. I became a mother for the first time – in October!
Yet all of that pales in comparison with the thought and fact that my brother left us in October. The last phone call we had was my daughters birthday in October, and we laid him to rest on the 25th October. October for me is Kevin’s month, and always will be, which is both sad and disappointing for my children and I try not to let it colour their birthdays, but they understand.
So this post is for him, so he knows that despite never mentioning him much, hiding his pictures and trying not to dwell on things that were in his life, including places, that I haven’t forgotten him. I just deal with things in my own way. Wherever he is, I hope he is watching over his wife and children and knows that we all miss him so very much xxx