A Wedding and A Funeral

I thought about C again today as I was on my way home from dropping my husband off at the gym.  Its been a little over 6 years since he passed away, but there is still a sadness in my heart.

If he was still alive, what would he be doing today?  Would he be married?  Would he have kids?

I wipe away the hot tears that threaten to stream down my face.

Guilt.

I don’t even know if I have a right to mourn. I don’t know if I have the right to still be mourning.

Of course I have a right to mourn.  To feel sad. To feel loss. He was my brother.  No one would dare say that I don’t.

Except the voice in my mind.  “Part Time Sister” it says.  “You weren’t really a part of his life”.

Why do I feel this way?  Why do I feel that I don’t deserve to grieve? That the grief, the sadness, the loss isn’t real?

We had different mothers – I didn’t grow up in the same household that he did.  I lived with my mother, stepfather and half-sister.

But every second weekend, when Dad came to visit me, I had a different world. Another family – with a stepmother, two half-brothers and a half-sister.  We played games together, and we fought with each other, just like siblings in any other family.

But I was never accepted by my stepmother, and I wasn’t one of “them”.

When I was 14 I had to leave home and went to live my grandmother. I had been through a traumatic time and after 2 suicide attempts at 15, I went to live with Dad and his family.

Despite my grandmother’s reservations, I was looking forward to it – it was my chance to re-invent myself – to start a new life – a chance to bond with father and my siblings.  My stepmother seemed supportive.

But it wasn’t long before she made my life a living hell.  Mind Games. I never knew from one day to the next whether she would be my best friend or my worst enemy.  After 6 months I couldn’t take it anymore and went back to live with my grandmother.

I distanced myself from Dad and his family somewhat – and as soon as I finished school and began to live my own life, I tried to have as little to do with “them” as possible.  I thought about my half siblings from time to time, but was busy with my own life.

With the birth of my first child, “Miss O”, I found out that Dad had separated from my stepmother. I was living in another state at the time, but on a quick visit to Cairns, managed to meet up with with him.

Not long before my visit, C had been involved in a motorbike accident.  It was touch and go for a while, but he managed to survive.

I was able to visit him in hospital with Miss O.  This was the first time I had seen him since he was in primary school.  He was a man. But he looked so frail.  He didn’t know who I was.  It was heartbreaking to see him like that.

Eventually, after months of rehabilitation, he was able to live a normal life once again.  He loved life, and lived it to the full.  He even got his motorbike licence again.

When Miss O was about 2, we came back to Cairns to live.  I was excited about being able to have my mother, sister and my father in Miss O’s life. I began to rebuild my relationship with Dad and got on really well with Dad’s new partner.

I began to start to reconnect with my brother C as well. We met up a few times at Dad’s place and as he had become a Christian we attended a few services together at one of the local churches.

One of the last times that I saw my brother was at my wedding.  He had a fantastic time and I am so glad to say that on that Day, he was happy – and I can remember him happy.

But this memory is a double edged sword.

As much as I loved and got along with Dad’s new partner, she did not get along well with Dad’s other children.   Although C was the only one to attend, she did not come to my wedding because I had invited all 3 of them.

So although I was happy C was at the wedding, at the same time I was also upset and a small part of me wished that he didn’t come, because I wanted Dad’s partner to be there, enjoying the wedding with Dad, with all of us, too.

I feel incredible guilt about this now.  Every time that I think about C, I think about how happy he was at my wedding and how part of me had wished he wasn’t there.  How incredibly selfish of me.

Worst. Sister. In. The. World.

Almost a year after the wedding, Dad phoned me to say that C was in the hospital, after another motorbike accident.    He had some serious injuries – he was in a coma – but they thought that he was going to be ok.

It was the beginning of March and I was heavily pregnant with my second child – Mr S –  I was due at the beginning of May.  I working full time and between that and looking after Miss O, I was exhausted after each work day.  I didn’t seem to find the time or energy to get up to the hospital to see him.  I spoke with Dad a couple of times and he told me they thought he was improving.  I justified it by thinking it would be better to visit once he was awake.

I’ll never forget the day that I got the next call.

I was at work on my lunchbreak when Dad called.  “Hey Dad, What’s Happening?” I cheerily chirped as I picked up the phone.

As soon as I heard his grave sounding voice I knew that something was very, very, wrong.

“C isn’t doing so well. You had better come up to the hospital.”

“What do you mean?” My voice went high pitched as I tried not to cry, “Is he going to make it?”

Tears started streaming down my face as I prepared to hear the words I didn’t want to hear.

I don’t remember the words he said.  It’s all blurry.

Why didn’t I visit him in the hospital already?  I should have been there.

A blood clot had travelled from his injuries to the base of his brain. He was brain-dead.

They were going to turn off the machines.

“If you want to say Goodbye you will have to come now”.

I was devastated. Why wasn’t I a better person? A better sister? Why wasn’t I there already?

When I got to the hospital, I had to wait in the corridor outside his room for what seemed like ages.

Dad was there, my ex-stepmother and my other half-siblings were there.

After what seemed like forever, I was finally able to go and hold his hand. I sat there for a while.   I told him that I loved him.

Then my ex-stepmother asked me to leave the room while his ‘real family’ said the rest of their goodbyes.

This was hard to take.  I was his real family too.

I knew what she meant.  I understood. I was not part of their special family unit.  I was not part of their day to day lives.

I could see the pain in her face.

She was losing her son.

I had to be strong. I had to let the hurt go.

Alone.

I sat in the corridor.

The turned off the machines.

I sat in silence.

I prayed and prayed and prayed that by some miracle they were wrong and he would start breathing on his own.

But that didn’t happen.

C passed away.

Quietly.

There was now a lot to be done.  People had to be notified.  The funeral had to be arranged, however, because C had died as the result of injuries from a motorbike accident, he had to have a post mortem and the coroner had to prepare a report. So for now, no date for the funeral could be planned.  My ex-stepmother was going to arrange the funeral.  There wasn’t much for Dad and I to do.

I gave my youngest brother a lift home in my car.  Then I went to my other sister’s house, where my mother, aunt and sister were waiting to comfort me.  I cried and cried and cried.

Before C’s accident, Dad was planning to move to Brisbane.  His partner had already moved there for work and Dad was trying to finish renovating his house before he left. My husband and I were going to rent the house from Dad.

On the Saturday after the machines were turned off, some of Dad’s workmates came around to help Dad paint the outside of the house. Dad asked me to prepare some  food so I bought some beers and cooked up a barbecue for the blokes.

There were quite a few blokes helping out, so the painting was finished relatively quickly. They didn’t hang around for too many beers and snags though, as a cyclone warning had just been issued, and they needed to get home to square away their yards.

I lived in a flood prone area too, so after the painting, I had to get home to move as much stuff as we could up to the second floor of the townhouse, in case the cyclone hit and we had a storm surge.  We also decided to go and stay at my sisters house, as it was a much safer area.

Cyclone Larry came in fast, crossing the coast near Innisfail, causing a large amount of damage between Cairns and Townsville, and leaving just as quickly.

A few more days passed, and it was finally time for the funeral.

Going to that funeral was one of the saddest days of my entire life.

I didn’t ever think we would be burying my 24 year old brother.

Some things happened at the funeral that reinforced I wasn’t part of “the family” and I felt really hurt.

I wasn’t mentioned on the funeral notice.  C was Loving the son of S and A, loved Brother of B and S. Fondly loved Grandson, nephew and friend of many.

I wasn’t mentioned when the minister spoke.

I wasn’t included in any of the stories or pictures celebrating his life.

I was part of the family, but I was at the same time I wasn’t.

I didn’t sit with Dad, my ex-stepmother and siblings.

I felt like I didn’t have a right to grieve like them.

I was no-one.

But I sucked it up and put on a brave face. I had to.

The day wasn’t about me.

So what if the voice says “Part Time Sister.”

Maybe I was.

But I loved him.

He was my brother.

He was part of my life.

So that voice can just shut up.