There are often little spurts of activity on my blog FB page where I make a random comment and then I have a stack of responses from people wanting to express their opinion. The other week I was on a conference call with a student and some academics talking about a research project on siblings and bereavement I was juggling my son as he built a railway track and heard the following line ‘sibling relationships are not always explored but they are the longest relationship we’ll have in our lifetime’. Funny isn’t it that all we see on the front of magazines is ways to engage our partner better, tips to being a mindful parent, ways to care for our own parents as they age. But being a better brother or sister. Cant for the life of me remember when I saw that…
Morgan asked me to send her some questions about her space. The space where her brother and father once existed. Here are her thoughts…
Morgan, tell me a little about you?
I’m 27, married to the man of my dreams and I’m mama to a beautiful girl named Marli who is almost 5months old. I also have a fur child, Georgie the staffy (who is a spoilt brat!!) I’m a property manager by day (currently on maternity leave) and someday want to have my own business in helping others with their grief .
You said you felt compelled to tell your story about losing your brother and your dad, what happened to them?
In November 2004 at age 14 my only brother, Taylor, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, bone cancer, after a pain in his knee. My brother was my dad’s apprentice mechanic and into everything so we just assumed he’d hurt himself on his latest bike/car/silly adventure, sadly it was not the case!
Fast forward almost a year of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the ‘Spanish dancer’ (cancer my brother had a wicked sense of humor!), sickness, bloods, platelets, tests, scans, hospitals he was in remission. Yes! He’s done it! We thought Goodbye cancer.
Lesson learnt. So we thought.
In early 2006, Taylor was struggling to breathe. A lot. He was chauffeured to the John hunter hospital in the ambulance only to be given some oxygen, to get his sats up then sent home. Then in June 2006 they had a solution. Taylor was suffering from cardiomyopathy. Heart failure.
How? Hadn’t he had enough?
So the big wigs at the JHH sent him to Sydney, via air ambulance this time, it was urgent as his heart was about to fail. The chemo had caused his heart to enlarge, and it wasn’t pumping, therefore causing organ failure. My brother was almost dead on his feet at 16 years old.
So into st Vincent’s in Sydney we go. Taylor had an LVAS put in, basically a battery powered rotary pump to pump his heart for him. He could breathe again! 3 months of hospital in Sydney and weekend trips for me to visit (I could still drive you to St Vincent’s hospital with my eyes closed!) in November 2006 he came home!
What a hero. He went back to work he got his learners and his bike license and went to TAFE every week, while having a thousand tablets a day, and a battery pack keeping him alive. Bending over cars all day, working in stinking heat, freezing cold, with a whip cracking boss (my dad lol) All with a beautiful smile and cracking jokes the entire way!
They were the best two years of my life – hanging out, catching up, chatting, loving, being each others best friend. And then in July 2008. Taylor suffered a stroke.
What? No? How could this be?
Tay’s body was giving up on him. Back to the JHH. Everyone knew him by name. I knew it wouldn’t be long. He was an 18 year old stuck in the body of a 90 year old. The last words I said were ‘please eat some more chips, I love you!’
On the 28th of August 2008 Taylor Chevy Benn passed away, aged 18 years.
That void can never be filled. We were supposed to grow up together, both my parents were struggling, but by this stage they had separated and dad was alone. I’d bought a house, got engage and was trying to live a decent life.
Suddenly in April 2009 Dad complained of a sore back. He was a mechanic for 30 years so always had a sore back so I didn’t think much of it, until I convinced him to go to my doctor.
Lung cancer. Wow.
His habit of 80 cigarettes a day had finally caught up with him. No chemo he said. I’m not having any of that shit my boy went through! So he deteriorated quickly, but we didn’t waste a second. lunch every weekend, motorbike rides, shopping, chatting & reminiscing together.
Then in July 2009 he went into palliative care.
Amazing. Beautiful place. I could take my fur baby to visit him, and didn’t he light up when the muscly brat jumped on his bed! Dad knew it wouldn’t be long. He said he was ready to see his boy. He left this world on the 6th of October 2009 wearing a British green triumph t-shirt (his absolute favorite bike!)
Is there a big space between the before and the now – how are you learning to live with the new normal of a life without Taylor and your dad?
It will be 5 years since my brother died in August. Time has changed and I have changed. I married, moved house, and had a baby. I still long to tell them things every day. Share a sneaky joke, have dad build me my custom dining table I know he would have made perfectly with his bare hands, share the joy of my wedding day, my precious daughters laugh.
You never learn to live with it you just DO.
I hate it that they are gone. I’m pissed. But my happiness is from being grateful. I’m grateful I’m not a drunk, or a substance abuser, or crazy. I’m grateful for 18 years with my brother, I’m grateful for my fiery attitude from my dad, my daughter’s charismatic eyes that looks just like theirs.
What would you say to other people following a similar path to you, what has been helpful?
Look within yourself. People will come and go but you have to rely on you. Accept help, love, accept that you can be happy again and accept that just because they aren’t here doesn’t mean they can’t go on in your memories. How you remember it, not someone else.
Thanks Morgan – working in the grief and bereavement world there are so many families living with multiple losses. Just as they get time to get their head around one loss – a divorce, a death, an illness – another wave comes crashing over them and there unsure which loss they are grieving at any one time.
How do you look within yourself when everything around you is up in the air?