So here’s something poignant. My sister’s passing whilst dreadfully sad has meant something positive. The most important thing is that she’s no longer in pain and suffering from the cancer ravaging her body. There isn’t a person who would wish for life to be extended in those circumstances. It may be a cliche but the end was truly a blessing. And we, her family and dearest friends, are all thankful for that. For Caz and I there’s another smaller blessing. Our trip to NYC to see my daughter S and son-in-law E and our beautiful grandsons this w/e can go ahead. It’s not that we don’t leave with a heavy heart but if she’d survived for a few more days then our decisions would have been so difficult…
So I’ve written about my youngest brother Mark before. Two years ago he went for a check up having some stomach issues and was found to have bowel cancer like I had. However he’d left it a bit too late to get the diagnosis and was told it was too advanced and inoperable. Shortly afterwards he was admitted to hospital and died. All this happened whilst we were away on a trip to Italy. He’d gone before we’d got home. He was just 57 and we’d been robbed of a lovely gentle guy who was a good brother, proud dad and doting grandad. This horrible disease has a thing for my family.
So yesterday we finally got to say goodbye to my youngest brother Mark. It’s been a long wait but he was laid to rest not so far from my mum and sister. And despite a couple of glitches it was a lovely service and committal. I was especially proud to see so many people turn up for the service and to talk to so many folk who knew him and just loved his kind gentle character. It was great to catch up with so many old friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen in absolute years. Several family members had travelled half the length of the country (and I mean Britain) to say goodbye to the most decent chap I’ve ever known. But on a day which started out thoroughly miserable but brightened up beautifully for the interment, my fondest memory will be of my father Bob who delivered a stunning few closing words at the service. He chided those of us who had criticised Mark over the years for his ‘softness’ by declaring his utter pride for a son who had demonstrated nothing but goodness and selflessness to all throughout his life. He wanted nothing more than to be in that bloody heavy coffin rather than his beautiful boy. Poor Bob. We all felt wretched at losing a brother but heaven knows how he must have felt yesterday and these last few weeks. I can’t imagine his hurt and never want to experience it.
But life moves on. His kids were sad, of course, but full of life and his grandson, who we saw for the first time, was just beautiful. And you could see Mark’s lovely features in him. Here’s one of the shots of Mark selected for the service sheet. He was around 2 years old at the time and I must have been about 9 and my younger brother Dave around 5/6. I remember the day the photographer came round like it was yesterday and he must have taken 100 pictures of us. But this was the one and only shot that everyone remembers…
‘Bye Mark. Love you bro.
Last week in August we headed down to Italy for a week’s break to get some hard work done on the house before the winter. Regular readers will know there’s usually a bloody drama with our visits but this time there was no sense of looking back afterwards and smiling wistfully.
Well whilst we were back home quite accidently I heard two guys I know really well on the radio (in one case, I’ve known him all his life). On the first occasion I was just doing the after dinner dishes at E’s, Radio 4 on in the background with End the Week or Loose Ends perhaps when I heard the unmistakeable voice of Maurice Collins. Maurice was one of the founder members of a self-help group for families with handicapped kids, called Kith and Kids. We joined the group after R was born and it was a tremendous support for us during those early years. The group was full of interesting and really strong people and fascinating kids. Maurice was one of the leading lights and he and his wife remained highly involved even though their own child had grown up and long since moved on in life. We lost touch with the group when we moved from London to Buckingham when R was 10, more than 20 years ago. We’ve had no contact with Maurice since then but his distinctive voice was instantly recognisable.