He died at home, in his wee makeshift bed in mum and dad's room. Cosy, warm, with mum and dad holding him. When we went in the next morning, he looked just like he was sleeping. We said so. Very pale and peaceful. We were very brave, the perfect model of dignity, everyone said so. Even though our insides were broken up into so many tiny fragments we had no idea how we'd ever fix them all back together. He was buried with his teddies, in his red socks and his blue "I'm the Boss" tracksuit. And everyone came, so many people, hundreds. To say goodbye.
My brother died when I was 17. He was 7. He'd battled with cancer since the week before his 3rd birthday. We saved up and bought him a postman pat mug and plate. He wasn't allowed them in his isolation unit at the hospital, but loved them once he got back home. He always found something to giggle over, and his smile would crack the face of the heavens open with light and joy and brightness.
I could not imagine not seeing them again. My dad, my brother. Even now, all these years later, I miss them.
Dad was different. His was not an easy, slipping away sort of death. He clung to life as hard as he could, found it more difficult to just let go. He was buried to a huge turnout, everyone there to pay their respects to a good man, a family man, so kind, so honest. It was my 22nd birthday, and when we lined up outside the church to thank people for coming, people hugged me, said how sorry they were, and happy birthday.
Life after death.People talk about it all the time, as though maybe there is a special flowery place somewhere up in the clouds that you float up towards when your' body stops working and your heart gives up. And we don't know, do we? Maybe there is a great marshmallow in the sky waiting for me to snuggle down in to when these old bones have given up the ghost.
It's one of life's great mysteries, and I think, at the end of it all, all anyone can have is an opinon. A feeling, perhaps. A notion of what comes next.There are of course all those people who have had near death/reincarnation experiences, who have seen their grandmother, the one that died before they were born, walking down the stairs of thier student accomodation one crisp Easter week. The mothers who have heard their dead children calling out to them, reassuring them, saying it's all okay mum, everything is fine. The hand on the shoulder, the smell on a bus of tobacco, wrigleys spearmint gum, and imperial leather soap, a smell that could only be one person, one dead and gone person. The stories don't stop, there are hundreds of them to tell - almost everyone has them, don't they?
I watched on TV a few weeks ago of a little Scottish boy of maybe 4 years, who could remember his "Bara Mum" - and a family he had been part of on the Scottish Island of Bara years ago. Years before he was even born.We all have our stories, you'll have them - I know you do. Of loved ones who we "see" again, or hear, or catch a glimpse of out of the corner of our eyes on a busy high street in the summer warmth of May, or a dark cold of a grey February morning.
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