My husband came off the phone and uttered the words that shattered my world,
"They've found a body."
I remember saying no over and over, not able to process the thought that he wasn't in trouble with the law but was dead. I asked my husband to phone back for more information and after that came the second crushing blow - he'd taken his own life. My poor children had to listen to me crying "not my brother, no, no, no" repeatedly. I couldn't take it in.
The rest of that night is a blur, we took the girls to my in-laws and went to Dad's house. My husband spoke to my other brother and broke the news to him. I didn't want to accept it was real, I couldn't allow myself to believe he'd killed himself. He'd been mugged and his car stolen, the body wasn't his. It took all of my strength not to ring his mobile but I think in truth I knew there wouldn't be an answer.
The following day we had to go to the hospital to identify his body. That's something I never thought I'd have to do. It happens in films and to other people, doesn't it? We were taken to the mortuary and my dad and I stepped into the room where his body was lying.
People say the dead look at peace. Well he didn't. He looked stiff and ashen and so small. He looked like a dead junkie too. The tears came and for a while I didn't know that they would stop, but they did and somehow I was able to speak rationally to the policeman dealing with the case. What a horrible job that must be at times. We discovered that yes he was using heroin again but also he'd been depressed for years. He was never good at sharing emotions and eventually made the decision that he didn't want to live. His note to us was very clear on that. He knew he was loved and he loved us but life was intolerably hard for him. He just didn't want to live with that pain any more.
I won't go on at great length about the next few days, suffice to say I barely slept and barely ate. My other brother came down from London and we spent a lot of time clinging to each other. We shared the same loss, we felt that seismic shift that meant we'd gone from three to two.
The funeral was beyond anything I'd ever experienced, perhaps best summed up by our choice of songs to be played. In his note he'd requested Under the Bridge at his funeral but we needed another song. He'd loved The Doors and in our mixed up state we'd decided Riders on the Storm would be a good choice. It was only as the vicar led the coffin into the crematorium speaking over the lyrics "There's a killer on the road, his brain is squirmin' like a toad" that we realised our choice was a little odd. It felt very surreal as I clung to my brother and we laughed whilst sobbing.
We were dealing with such intense grief and shock but also Simon's friends were drug users living on traveller's sites and it felt like two worlds colliding.The mobile phones ringing during the service was a new experience for me, as was the audience participation "hear hear" I was rather touched when as his body was committed and the coffin sank from view his friends called out, "Bye Simon," "See you mate" and I've certainly never been to a funeral where a can of Special Brew was opened during the Lord's Prayer! I felt uneasy at first but then realised that his friends loved him too and whilst they mourned differently we shared the loss. I'm proud now that his funeral was an occasion where his family and friends came together, accepted our differences and consoled each other.
Since then it's been harder even than when I lost my mum to breast cancer, I've felt like I've been living somebody else's life. I go through each day and I laugh and smile. We've been on holiday and my youngest daughter has started school. Still though there's a part of my brain that's constantly screaming, "he's dead, my brother is dead." Sometimes I'm tempted to interrupt a conversation, I want the world to know how my life has been ripped apart. That's not fair though is it? Other people suffer loss and grief, we're not unique. There are times though when I just want to tell somebody, even a stranger, I just need to say it out loud to confirm it's real and I'm not experiencing a recurrent nightmare. .
So I thought I'd write it down. This won't be a diary but I am going to write down my thoughts as I process this and learn to live as the sister of somebody who committed suicide. It's not the life I would have chosen but it's the life I have and I know the rawness will ease in time. I'm not sure it's of interest to anybody else but you are more than welcome to read my thoughts as they spill out, whether they make any sense is a different matter. At the moment I feel like two people...