Last week, my counsellor asked me if I could remember when I first realised that Rob was dying. I told her that there were three times. She looked confused at this, but its different when you grow up knowing something to be the case. It wasn’t sudden, or unexpected.
The first time I ‘knew’, was always a part of me. I don’t count this, really. I always knew CF was life-shortening, incurable. I may not have properly registered that that meant losing my brother – not really – but I knew that his illness would kill him. I always knew that.
The second time was during secondary school. At the time, the life expectancy was around 35. I would have been about 13 or 14, hit with the realisation, that in coming up to his 18th birthday, Rob would then be halfway through his life. If he made it that far. It was at that point that it really started to sink it, really punch me in the gut that Rob was going to die, at some point before it was right. Looking back, it makes me angry that when I thought that, I was already older than his halfway mark.
It continued this way for the next few years, the occasional punch to the gut (or express train) reminder that we would lose him, and there was nothing we could do to stop it. Finding out that he had around 5 years to live sent me into a frenzy, a screaming, crying wreck. But by far the worst realisation was just a few days before he died.
The first two weeks of December 2014 were a blur. I have no idea what precise day it would have been. It was raining, fittingly. I remember that much. My mum had picked me up from school (?) or somewhere nearby, to take me to visit him. I told her that if he could make it through the winter, maybe just maybe, it would be another year before we lost him. Clearly wishful thinking since (sorry parents if you’re reading this) we both tearfully agreed that ‘as long as he didn’t die on dad’s birthday’ later that week. And that’s when I knew, as much as I could rationalise winter = poor health, and getting through winter = hope, we only had days.
No matter how many times my emotions are passed off as grief, or I console myself with having been able to ‘prepare’ myself, nothing ever could. A childhood of waiting for grief like some kind of twisted Santa Claus? Even that couldn’t prepare me. I didn’t begin grieving the day Rob died, I have grieved for the past 18 years, throughout the nightmare existence of watching a loved one deteriorate through chronic and terminal illness. And to the (awful) counsellor (a few years ago) who was ‘worried’ about me because of this, fuck you xoxo