my brother and st julia's

I guess this post may make slightly uncomfortable reading for some, but for me they are words that need to be said.

Tomorrow I'm taking the train down to Penzance to visit my parents. I'm really looking forward to seeing them but I will be going with some trepidation. You see, my brother died last December. Saturday 13th, at 5am to be precise. He died within two months of falling ill and one month after his diagnosis. The day we were told it was terminal we were completely numbed, this sort of thing happens to other families, right? Not ours surely. I remember that day so clearly and doubtless always will.

To put it bluntly those last two months and pretty much the whole of 2009 couldn't have been much worse. But in a strange and contradictory way that final month was actually rather wonderful. The tenderness and closeness we all shared was amazing. It's funny how people let down their barriers when time is of the essence. You realise there just isn't the time for stiff, awkward, self conscious behaviour when you have no idea when it'll all be gone. Why can't we be like that all the time? My parents and I certainly are now, I can tell you.

The reason those last few weeks were so special has to be partly accredited to the Hospice he stayed in - St Julia's Hospice in Hayle (part of Cornwall Hospice Care, with a second, Mount Edgecumbe in St Austell). The staff there were amazing; the most calm, considerate and caring people you could ever meet, people who make it their mission to treat not only the patient but the whole family too. They had us all wrapped up in a proverbial ball of cotton wool and completely cossited us. They brought drinks, snacks and all our meals so there was nothing else for us to worry about. Nothing was too much trouble, day or night. During the last week I stayed with him in his room, 24 hours a day, and it was an honour to do so, I wouldn't have had it any other way. And leaving, when it was all over, felt so wrong, not least because we were leaving my brother behind but the staff too and effectively what had been our second home for four weeks.

The sad thing is the Hospice is only 13% funded by the Government and so relies heavily on donations to keep it afloat and struggles terribly. To lose a place like this would be a terrible blow to an area like Penwith, or any other community in the country for that matter. But in memory of my brother and to help give something back to St Julia's, albeit in a small way, I made this necklace using a beautiful old French glass jet black stone with inlaid crystals forming a cross, vintage glass pearls and black and gold glass beads. All the proceeds are to go to the Hospice.

And one year on? That feeling of total disbelief still remains, albeit a bit fuzzy around the edges. I think acceptance is the key to grief, it's impossible to come to terms with it otherwise. It's not possible to move on, instead your life just changes path. And what have I learned? That we should grab life while we can, embrace it, take every single opportunity and more, because we never know what there is around the corner. I've learned that everything needs to be put into perspective - that those little things that used to upset me, just don't anymore. And I've learned that all that really matters is your health and your family because if you don't have them, you have nothing.

If you're still there, thank you for listening. x


  1. Thank you for sharing your story: I really empathize with your feelings - until I was in my mid 30s I was lucky enough to escape any major griefs, but since then a series of losses have totally changed my outlook on life. The griefs never go away completely - they and the memories and the people remain part of you forever, but somehow out of the tragedy you gain as well as lose, and somehow grow in wisdom, and become so much more understanding of others. It is a beautiful necklace and a lovely gesture on your part.

    Pomona x

  2. My heart goes out to you completely and utterly and it is such a difficult thing to talk about - I know.

    Over the past two years we have lost two very dear friends one only back at Easter, both cancer, both terminal and both within months of diagnosis. It is still very raw, but everyday is a new day and there courage has given me such a different way of looking at the world and I guess appreciation.

    take care and the warmest of wishes,

    Nina x

  3. thank YOU a lot for these words...
    we don´t know each other but please be sure, i am sending you all the best wishes today.
    hugs, maren

  4. Oh I so feel for you and yet there is such a positive message in your post. Thank you for sharing it with us and you are so tight about what is important. I hope your trip to Cornwall will be a time of peace for you all xx

  5. What a heartfelt post. It's impossible to really understand the feelings of loss such as this unless you have been through it yourself. The feelings of grief never go and your path is forever changed, but it's true, out of a loss, you make a gain in wisdom and knowledge and it brings to the forefront what is precious in life and what is really and truly important. Love and hugs to you and all your family this Christmas. xxx

  6. Oh Kate this is such a heartfelt post. I really feel for you at this time. Grief is such a personal thing and how we cope differs from one person to the next and I think that what you are doing for the Hospice is a positive way of not only showing your appreciation of all the wonderful care that your brother received, but in no small way to help you heal as well. Our lives are changed forever when we lose someone we love, as you say acceptance is the key to at least having the strength to live your life and to appreciate each and every day. The necklace is a beautiful and fitting tribute to your brother and I hope your visit to Cornwall brings you and your family some peace.

    Jeanne xxx

  7. I found your blog through Marigoldjam and was moved by your post. We live our lives feeling immune from tragedy until an unexpected loss stops us in our tracks. People often say time heals, but this is simplistic. We learn to carry the burden of our losses. They are always with us - the people we have lost, but the load does get lighter

  8. Estoy siguiendo paso a paso tu blog, y me he encontrado con ésta entrada, se que es del 2009 pero me ha conmovido tanto que no he podido evitar escribirte, yo en octubre pasado tuve un aborto, era un niño y sentí tanto vacío dentro de mi y tanta tristeza todos en algún momento de nuestra vida tenemos alguna situación difícil y triste, te mando un gran abrazo y prometo escribir en inglés, es mi asignatura pendiente, lo siento...besos Avelina


There's nothing like a comment to stop me feeling like I'm talking to myself. If you leave one here I'll pop one back here too, so don't forget to come back and continue the conversation ..