Eight years ago today we lost my brother to drugs.
He was 13 months older than me and we grew up like twins. Our Mum and Dad did a great job raising us, along with our little brother exactly the same, giving us everything we needed and more. We had home cooked meals every day, ‘Family Friday’s’ (involving a video from the local rental shop, a takeaway and a Booty Bag each from Kwik Save) and (mostly) happy family holidays. We were very lucky to have been born into such a loving family.
Although we got on well most of the time, of course we had our fall outs. My mum is always quick to remind me of a two week holiday, during which we decided we hated each other until the very last day.
I will never forget the last face to face conversation we had. It was at our little sisters fifth birthday party, weeks before his death, when he mocked me for smoking. ‘Death sticks’ he called them. I reminded him that the next cigarette I lit wasn’t going to automatically kill me dead where I stood and that what he did was much more dangerous. He took it on the chin and we carried on, as siblings do after awkward confrontations, as if nothing had been said. We had a lovely day.
He’d been taking drugs for years – starting with the small stuff of course. We don’t know the full scale of it but we think he took a lot.
He never once stole from us. He was there for the special occasions and was usually socially available. He was great company.
If I’d’ve known that would be the last time I’d saw him it would have been very different. It was September. I let two whole months elapse without seeing him. We spoke over MySpace/Msn messenger but never again in person. That’s a hard truth to swallow as we lived so close together.
We had ‘joked’ for a long time that drugs would be the end of him, but nothing prepared us for the ground plummeting away from us and the walls dropping down around us when we got the news. He was dead, aged just 27.
It was such a waste. He was a talented artist. A loving son and brother and we miss him every single day.
I never thought, for one second that we’d have to go as a family, to choose his coffin.
I never imagined the guilt I would feel for not noticing the scale of this problem, for not stepping in, for not being a better sister and I’m sad that there aren’t more photographs of us to hold on to. To help us remember the good times.
We scattered his ashes in Scotland, where we’d had the best one of our family holidays years before – there’s no tomb stone or plaque to visit. I hope he was washed out to sea, to travel the world as he never had the chance to in life. He is free.
Our family is much closer now. We will never feel that guilt again.
Pick up the phone.
Make a call.
Send a message.
Reach out and make contact with the people you love – regularly. It’s true what they say, you never know what’s around the corner. Time heals but it’s not a magic wand.