I don’t like to talk about this, in fact, even those close to me barely hear words uttered about my first and lost brother. For the last year-and-a-half I had planned to go back to the town where we lived and left in Germany almost eleven years ago. I knew it would be painful, going back and facing the last spot I saw him.
He waved goodbye as we headed off, back to New Zealand, he didn’t know when he would see any of us again and in fact, that was the last time any of us would see him alive. There he stood on the steps of a house we had only a few hours earlier called home. Seeing his family off, the sadness in his eyes hidden behind a smile.
When we departed Germany in early two thousand and three there was no Skype or Facetime. All we had were each other’s voices. He was my half brother, eleven years older then I, and so to lose him a week before I turned eighteen, was to live a different life because he’d always been there. Unfortunately that trip back to the town we had lived didn’t happen, so now I am recounting from memory the features of this person who had been apart of the backbone of my life, even when he was physically thousands of miles from us, he was always there. And then suddenly he was gone.
I don’t remember the last time I spoke with him. I remember thinking that when I was first told of his death, trying hard to pinpoint through the memories in my head, that last time I said “goodbye and I love you” to him, but still to this day I don’t recall that last phone call. It’s now been nine years and unlike the rest of my family I feel his passing worse today then I have ever before.
Recognizing you won’t hear someone’s voice or laughter again is something that eases away with time. At first you can still hear their voices in your head. Their distinct cackle or hearty laugh, those are the things that disappear slowly, much slower than the physical passing of a person. I wish there was a video of him somewhere, but we weren’t one of those families. So it’s all lost to our history now. I found a letter he had sent my father, his step-father, a year ago and he sent it not many months before his last breath. Reading that reminded me how much my mother has born two sons so like her – genuine, caring and kind boys. I could hear her in that letter and for a heartbeat I could hear his voice in each word he had penned. I had to read the letter a few times to get through it wholly, in between stuttered breaths and blurry eyes.
That is a feature of death that doesn’t seem to ease with time, sometimes you feel like life is fine and you are happy and than an ebb hits your emotional side and you remember that it’s not as whole as it once was. Someone is missing from your narrative and they aren’t coming back to share in your stories, adventures or memories.
Most of the time I spent with Christopher those last years of his life were over the phone, we shared countless hours speaking. As a busy teenager with a social life, I didn’t appreciate him as much as I could have and so those phone calls always felt longer than I wanted, they were holding me back from doing the things I had planned. Now, with age and time, I can say if I had one more phone call with him I’d say “I love you more then I could ever show Christopher.”