Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

Fare-thee-well my brother.

46 Comments

I raised a toast to my brother last night, and to my sister-in-law. He had been on my mind most of the day, as he always is on St. Patrick’s Day, ever since a fiery crash ended their lives on that day in 1997.

Their passing changed so much. At the age of 17 and 18, my nieces were left without parents. My mother, who was still recovering from the loss of my father a year and a half before, lost her only son and still struggles to come to grips with the totality of that day. For my sisters and me, we lost our only brother. The sun rose and set on their only son, I liked to joke, and his passing left a gnawing wound it took me years to close.

Growing up, my brother was my idol.  Big brother. Protector. Constant thorn in my side. He liked to tease me. He liked to remind me of the importance of our birth order. I was the youngest. He was the only son. There was no question that he knew better. Was the best at everything. I was to heed his advice, follow his path. I was also to give way in the full length mirror that hung in the front hallway of my parents home. That was his territory. His domain. Standing in his way was not allowed.

I used to think it was vanity but I see from the distance of the years between, that it was more likely a case of insecurity. Handsome in a dark and dashing way, he was always worried about how he looked. Did he look too fat. Too thin. Too wide. Too anything? Was his tie crooked. Was that a stain on his shirt? Was his hair combed just right or was it too up. Too down. Too messy? Too tidy?

I never understood his need to be seen as perfect. To be constantly known as the best at whatever he did. It never left much room for mistakes. It never left any space for being real, I’d tell him on those rare occasions when I’d gather up my nerve and challenge him for time in front of the mirror.

Don’t bother looking, he’d say. It’s not going to do you any good. And then he’d rhyme off the litany of my flaws, as only a sibling could, and I’d give way to his right to take up space in front of the mirror.

It was tiring. Exhausting. Numbing. Struggling to hold space in front of the mirror and having to constantly give way.

As we grew older, we grew apart. I was tired of staying silent, and never learned to hold my space with grace where my brother was concerned. There was a time in my twenties when we didn’t speak for over a year. He’d done something I’d found very painful and I didn’t want to forgive him. It was my mother’s constant chiding and her tears that made me give in.  He was my only brother and forgiveness was the shortest path to love even in those days when I didn’t particularly feel like love was part of our equation.

At the time, I remember wondering why I even bothered to forgive him. He didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. It would be many, many years later, long after St. Patrick’s Day 1997, that I realized forgiving him had nothing to do with what he’d done, or even him. Forgiveness was the only way for me to find peace. With the past. The unresolved childhood rivalries that kept us vying for our parent’s attention in the front hall mirror, and kept us seeing each other as foes and not co-conspirators in surviving our childhood, or even friends.

My brother was quixotic. He could go from hot to cold and back again faster than he could change his shirt. And he did that often, and at great speed! He loved music and good Scotch and all things shiny. He loved laughing and talking loud and fast and sharing his opinions and living out loud. He loved to play a few bars of a song and ask, ‘Who’s singing that?’ And then he’d laugh because I didn’t know the answer and tell me who it was anyway before I even had a chance to guess. He loved to cook and entertain and people who met him felt like they’d been his friend forever. He gave to strangers. Helped out neighbours and had time for everyone, except I thought, he didn’t have time for me. The little sister who wanted only to be seen as something other than the mistake he’d long ago quit telling her she was.

And then, he died and I was left trying to understand the unfinished business of our relationship. I was left with my anger and regret and sadness that I’d never, ever found a way to tell him while he was living that it didn’t matter about the mirror. It didn’t matter about the words and the pain and the angst of the past. What mattered most was that we were family. He was my brother and all that really was mattered was and always will be, I love him.

I raised a toast to my brother last night and silently whispered into the night, I love you, George.

I know he heard me.

Advertisements

Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe we each have the capacity to be the change we want to see in the world, to make a world of difference. I believe we are creative beings on the journey of our lifetimes. It's up to each of us to Live It Up and SHINE!

46 thoughts on “Fare-thee-well my brother.

  1. You know how to find peace even in tragedy. Love is the answer that is always heard!

    Like

  2. Thank you for this wonderful, painful post, Louise. My brother and I fell out badly recently and have only just, tentatively, reconciled. We have very little in common so our relationship will probably never be on the same page, and he has hurt me terrible but my mother (like yours) encouraged me to forgive for my sake, so I have (I think!) I am very sorry for your loss. Julie xxx

    Like

  3. Of course he heard you 🙂 Thank you for sharing this with us, great story and tribute to your big brother.

    Like

  4. Thank you Louise. This is touching and real. A wonderful life lesson for us. Val x

    Like

  5. LG,

    I’ve heard variations on this story before. Seems there is a key component missing.

    I’m not being picky (OK, maybe I’m cranky with you about something else) .. but isn’t authenticity required, deserved ?

    No need to tell all, or tell anyone … but asking that you tell me why you left that part out …

    Mark

    Like

    • Mark, I was so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

      Like

      • Louise … thank you for your kind words and phone call. One day, when you have time, I’d like to discuss this piece of yours further – I think leaving out something so fundamental skews the story, not to alter it, but to leave it incomplete. Not a problem in fiction, but in reality, shouldn’t it be there?

        Mark

        Like

  6. This is beautiful, Louise. It really spoke to me. I’m happy that you’ve come to a place of peace. It must have been devastating. I have 3 brothers and my eldest is really like a second father to me. I’ve had a falling out with my younger brother almost two years ago. I’m hoping we can work things out eventually but I guess part of the peace you speak of is accepting the flaws (in them and us). Thanks you for your words.

    Like

    • I remember the moment still LIsa when my cellphone rang and I got the news. I threw the phone away from me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And yes, that is part of the peace — to accept all of ourselves and each other. Hugs.

      Like

  7. Yes I believe he heard you too. Hugs to you my friend.
    Diana xo

    Like

  8. Hi Louise, your post is a beautiful tribute to your brother. It is real and it is powerful and it is truth and I thank you for sharing a very personal piece of yourself. Sibling relationships are so complex yet there is a bond that will always be there. I just KNOW that your brother has the understanding of your whole life together and that he watches over you now. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks our hearts and while I always hear that it isn’t for the other person…it is for you…I also KNOW that it helps everyone. I am sorry for your loss yet I KNOW that you have gained something. Blessitude…Lorrie

    Like

  9. Thank-you Louise for this beautiful blog about G & R. I felt melancholy most of the day yesterday and knew exactly why. One would think that after so many years (since 1997) that I wouldn’t become teary eyed but I did a couple of times. I realize that there is still the void of a missing brother and sister-in-law and that it is OK to feel what I feel at times. Since G and I were so close in age, I too, was ribbed and teased, especially about being the eldest. Once on the phone, I told him, in all seriousness, that I would relinquish my role and that he could take over being the eldest. There was dead silence and then he said “no, that was OK, I could keep my position”. I said, thank-you very much and it was never mentioned again. When I think of it today, it always makes me smile. Love you, little sis, Jackie

    Like

    • LOL — George was quite the guy wasn’t he dear sister? Love you too.

      Like

    • So happy and yet so sad to read this. Knowing George as we did, I am sure he is looking down on all of us. He was a sweetheart and I wish we had been able to meet his family. So sad for all left behind but I know he is looking down on all of us. ………ME and Petr

      Like

  10. I love the beautiful way you reflect on life’s many ways of offering gifts, Louise, even when they’re wrapped in grief. This is my personal favorite among your posts so far – it harmonizes both loss and love, pain and joy, the yin and yang of relationships. The next time I look in the mirror, I’ll be thinking of you and your brother and what your relationship has to teach me. Thank you.

    Like

  11. Sibling relationships are amazing things. These are people who were constants in our younger days, and yet as we move apart we tend to evaluate our relationships based on the childhood lens. I can’t imagine the loss of a relationship which has not yet resolved into something new, and I love how you can see your brother through new eyes and honour him so.

    Like

  12. I know he heard you, too.
    Perhaps better than he ever could have possibly heard
    while he was still here.
    I think we get understanding more crisp
    there, that the misunderstandings that cripple intimacy here
    are swept away and there is left only love.
    I think maybe that is what heaven means.
    I’m sure he heard and whispered back
    “I love you, too.”
    -Jennifer

    Like

    • Jennifer, your words are always such a gift of light and hope and love and joy. Thank you my friend — I love how you describe what heaven means — that place where everything else is swept away, and only love remains. How beautiful.

      Like

  13. Louise, what a sad thought, but how beautifully expressed. The important thing is that you are now honest with yourself about the true feelings you will always have for your brother. I once read a saying that may fit here: “You like somebody because.” “You love somebody ALTHOUGH.”

    Like

  14. I only have one brother and as annoying as he is I cannot imagine not having him around to annoy me, this post really touched me

    Like

  15. I feel your pain Louise.
    Are you lose to your nieces? Do they bring you comfort that your brother lives through them?

    Like

    • Unfortunately Elizabeth, there was a great deal of drama around my brother and sister-in-law’s passing. In their pain, my nieces distanced themselves from all family and we have not been able to rebuild the bridges. We occasionally will hear from one of them, but alas, not often. They are my daughters only cousins, and while they are about 10 years older than my daughters, it has always saddened me that there has been no relationship, no matter how much my girls tried to connect, my nieces didn’t respond. It has been a deep loss for all our family. Thank you Elizabeth for your care.

      Like

      • Our losses can be far-reaching sometimes. The unspoken additional loss upon the main loss.
        I lost a cousin on hiss 21st birthday (39 years ago) and I still think of him and the children he never had.
        We need to keep focussing on those whom we have in our lives when we have them and remain forever grateful for that.
        Take care Louise. You are always seem to be smiling to me and that inspires me 🙂

        Like

  16. Sending you a huge hug Louise…I am sure he heard you and probably said, Ditto Louise. xoxo

    Like

  17. So sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine this happening and so sad for his daughters. Sad also that they have turned away from the family. My daughter and my niece- born the same day and year– aren’t close– and I wish they were. Alas, these relationships can’t be forced. One can only hope in time that maybe they’ll find common ground.

    Like

    • Thank you Lisa. It’s funny, for years I tried hard to keep the girls connected until one day they both told me it hurt them that their cousins never responded and that I kept trying. It was a good lesson in simply holding space versus trying to force something to happen that was at that time, not meant to be. You are so right — they will one day, or not, find common ground. My job isn’t to make it happen, it is simply to hold the space. Thanks!

      Like

  18. Just reading this now, Louise and understand what it is like to lose a brother – two in my case. One had distanced himself from most of our family prior to his death. Luckily, I was one of those he did keep in touch with him and was with him as he passed away. Both brothers were close to me as my sisters were not. Being the oldest in the family, I was frequently put in charge of the others and was resented by them and am to this day. Sad that life should be that way and it will never be healed. However, I have Peter to love and be loved by so my heart if happy and full. Take care – we love you and your family lots……..ME

    Liked by 1 person

This conversation needs your brilliance to shine. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s