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