Slightly damaged from the rainsoaked step and its hasty wrench from the postie’s bag.
I was delighted, enthralled, and immediately taken back to the child I once was. The Irish postmark, the unfamiliar stamp, the Gaelic post office franking, ….managing to grab it from the jaws of my overzealous pooch and replace it with some worthless advertising flyer, I clutched it in one hand as I poured my first cup of morning caffiene – my writing fuel – with the free hand. Wondrously, I wondered what lay within as it was definitely thicker than simply a paper letter, and also more substantial than a mere early Christmas card. Of course it wouldn’t be the well chosen rosary beads nan used to send me, – irridescent hues of curved stone, beautifully encased in a small glass box; or the REAL shamrock I would receive on St Patricks day with a message written in a hand so like the one on the envelope today.
I felt ridiculously exhiliarated as I had not recieved any mail from ‘home’ in a very long time. I knew it was from my sister as I recognised the writing. I was wrong about which sister though.
How could she time it so perfectly? so beautifully apt and on cue?
In the early hours of this morning I had been lying awake – nothing new – thinking about my family. Thinking of her in particular and the last time we had met, 3 years ago now. A picture from 4 years previously had flashed up on the dreaded timeline and punched a paper hole in my stomach. She had visited me and my children then after the death of my father. Not her father. Her Uncle.
Seeing the picture so unexpectedly online alarmingly spewed forth a torrent of emotions I had held back again for some time. We all smile in the picture but you can taste the sadness of that great man leaving us around that time. I know she was doing her eldest sister duty and care to check on us all and it meant the world to me at the time. I have always been a little in awe of her and that doesn’t change because I’m now much older, if not any wiser.
Two years later, I took the same children to see her as a surprise for her 6oth birthday in Ireland. I remember how excited the kids were – despite being young adults now, and how really good it felt to go away as a family – although minus one – and visit family too. I remember seeing my beautiful sister, hardly ravaged by time and all the tragedies, enter the room and stunned, then breathless, then laughing, then crying as her grandchildren ran toward her and hugged her and her family and friends surrounded her.
I was so, so happy to be included in something so wonderful and for my children to witness it too. I really felt AT home.
Last night my younger sister text me to say they had landed in Liverpool.
A far less joyful homecoming.
My heart ached, as it has been since the event, aching for my family, my brother, his wife and beautiful twins. Aching for another loss. Another pointless tragic waste in our family tapestry. More lives and hearts torn apart, more parts of the tapestry of our family removed.
I also ached because I am not there. I am here. Because I feel I can’t be there.
Yet I can hear the echoes of my father’s voice telling me to stop wasting even more time.
Yet tomorrow I will think as much as I have been thinking all this time.
Tomorrow I will light a candle and I will sit in silence, Colin, and I – who never prays – will pray for your Soul.
And I will agree with all the platitudes, the cliches, the well wishing words of all.
That you are at peace now, that you are with your brother, so tragically lost exactly one year ago too, that you will be looked after by many of our family who went ahead of you and especially by your dad’s best friend, also lost the same time last year.
Yet my heart will break. For all I can see all these past weeks are my brother’s eyes.
His deep dark eyes already filled with pain and disbelief, a head full of questions and whys and wherefores from last year’s heartbreaking events.
All I can feel, have felt, is his heartbreak, his strong determined will crumbling, his beliefs, if any left, chipped and ruined.
Not being able to be there. Not being able to comfort him and his family like they so lovingly did for me 4 years ago when I lost my dad. Not his dad. Remembering words at the time that my father would like him to look out for me now.
But I haven’t looked out for you babe. I promise to try harder.