Business as (Almost) Usual

My brother died.

He was younger than me.  It was unexpected, it was sudden and it knocked me sideways, but fourteen days have now passed – it is, I know, no time at all – but I feel that it is none-the-less, the right time for me to start to settle back into what must pass for normal.

You see, my problem is that I see the absurd in everything and even the most painful of circumstances do not put a block on it.  Everybody else’s problem is the same one – me.  I have learned, of course, that just because I have seen it, I don’t necessarily have to say it, but I have also learned that popping the balloon is, occasionally, exactly the right thing to do.

I have been through these situations before – too many times (and I carry the knowledge that there will be many more to come) – and always, when despair is at its worst, we have laughed.  It must be part of the human condition.  It must be how we cope.  It is why The Wake can sometimes become such a riotous occasion.  When we are wretched, when we are sad – even more so when we are terrified – there is always the feeling that a giggle is not too far away.  Somehow, all extreme human emotions channel into the need to laugh.  We huddle together, we look on helplessly and hopelessly and we search for something to break the mood.  Nobody wants to turn tragedy into Music Hall, but everybody senses the point at which the deceased would have laughed too.

Laughter does not stand apart from grief.  It runs side by side.  It is an inalienable element of coping.  Joy and anguish are interwoven threads through which we look both forwards and backwards.

I cannot tell my mind how to think – we both know who is in charge there – but I do realise that I am not being disrespectful by looking at my own life in these circumstances.  Nobody expects me to stay sad forever, nobody wants me to be sombre.  In the darkness, I am most definitely not the light: I am the coffee table that skins somebody else’s shin.  I am never the way, but I am often the diversion.  I would love to cultivate gravitas, but I am stuck with child-like curiosity.  I will not make jokes about my brother or his life, but then I would never have done so anyway.  There are no circumstances under which I would seek to devalue the depth of pain being experienced by his wife and children, but I am equally certain that they understand that in discussing my own oft irrational responses – how I cope with this and all aspects of my life – in no way diminishes my appreciation of their loss.

I hope that from today, as far as this modest little smorgasbord is concerned, I can return to business as almost usual.  It will change nothing – that is not within my gift – but it will help my brain to re-establish some sense of equilibrium.  Life changes, but it goes on, and somehow I cannot stop myself from watching it…


17 thoughts on “Business as (Almost) Usual

  1. That’s very sad, Colin. I am so sorry. There is nothing wrong with seeing humour in any situation. It is so often what gets us through and enables us to go on with our changed reality.

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  2. My condolences. Nearly lost my (younger) brother to a severe stroke this summer so not surprised you report a shock! And yes, weirdly life goes on, somehow even more bizarre than before …

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  3. So sorry to hear this Colin, I’m sorry for your loss.
    Every funeral I have ever attended has had injections of humour, and like you imply, I guess it does remind us that there is a balance to be had between joy and anguish, a reminder to us there can be a helpful balance of things. Business ‘almost’ as usual, but hopefully in your own time, whatever time scale you need ✨🙏

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  4. We’ve already spoken on this personally, however, it does make one reflect on ones own mortality a little more when you know the person who has passed. I genuinely want my passing to be marked with laughter and copious amounts of beer and wine. You, my dear friend, have been a part of my life for 46 years. I’m quite sure that I have a pair of shoes older than our friendship, but I’m equally sure that they haven’t worn as well. I’m trusting you to write a humorous eulogy for me when I conk out, although if its the other way round, then I’ll probably cut & paste a few Tim Vine gags..

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  5. Thoughts and prayers for you. This was well-spoken, as usual. “In the darkness, I am most definitely not the light: I am the coffee table that skins somebody else’s shin.” really did make me laugh out loud.

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  6. My empathy for you beloved.
    I just can’t go to funerals no more. They never seem to be about the person lost or the people that love them, just some sort of same~ol’~same~ol’ thing. I’d say the funeral you attended probably had a load of that too, but also gathering together those that have lost. I know there’s a practical side of it, sure, but I just can’t, so won’t go to another one. This week I’m going to a small, private, memorial dinner, to comfort each other, chat about the love one, not have to sing hymns or hear some religious guff, but to gather together for a moment. For the loved one we’ve lost recently, donated the body to science.

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  7. Sorry to hear of your loss, Colin. Truth is, the older we get (being thankful we’re still riding our personal luck) loss will happen many times. So yes, all we can do is carry on with our journey the best way we know how, and just remember the richness the now departed added along the way.

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  8. I’m sorry for your loss. You know what they say, death is not the end of our journey.
    When I was about 3 years old, my parents took me with them to a funeral. I don’t have any recollection of it, but my mom told me about it. So, there I was, in the church with all these people grieving and the priest saying prayers and such. A very sad moment. In my country there’s a custom to make a dish based on boiled wheat, very sugary, and with sprinkles on it. Top that with a candle in the middle and it actually looks like a cake. When the priest lit the candle to bless the food, I started to sing “happy birthday”. The whole church burst into laughter. All people were crying and laughing at the same time. I think I brightened their day a little bit. Maybe they’re still laughing to this day when they remember it. My parents make fun of me every time this memory pops into their heads.

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