Today is a sad anniversary for me. It’s been exactly one year since my older brother, Paul Sharpe, passed away, after suffering a heart attack at his home in Sydney, Australia. He was only 43. I still miss him tremendously, and think about him very often.
Although I’ve had plenty of good experiences and gotten to know a lot of awesome people this year, it’s been a hard year for me. I wasn’t sorry to say goodbye to 2008.
What follows is a collection of thoughts that I posted to the Business Warriors forum a few days after my brother’s death. I hope you find them thought-provoking, and take them to heart.
On Friday, just minutes after I’d posted my request for text-books on the forum, my phone rang. As I answered, I noticed that it was an Australian number – assuming it to be my big brother (who immigrated to Sydney in 2001) phoning to say hi, I answered chirpily.
I was surprised to hear my sister-in-law’s voice instead, and as soon as I asked her how she was, I realised that something was very very wrong. With disbelief and horror I heard her telling me that my 43-year-old brother had just passed away, after suffering a heart attack.
I hadn’t seen my brother since 2004, when Paul and I visited the family in Sydney. My parents and other brother hadn’t seen him since Easter 2001, just before he left for Australia with his wife and two children. My brothers and I had begun planning to save up and surprise our parents with a big family reunion this coming Christmas. It was the one thing that ALL of us wanted more than anything in the world. Much more than a fancy house, a smart car, exciting work, or bags of money – I just wanted to have my family together for an awesome Christmas to remember.
Now this will never be, and our family is devastated.
Given my sudden forced change of perspective, I have a few suggestions for you for 2008:
1. If you are not close to members of your family, make an effort to fix that – they are more precious than you can imagine. Blood IS thicker than water, and NOTHING can replace the knowledge that your family values you. The members of my family aren’t perfect – each of us has had our issues, some of them really tough ones. But we’d managed to see past those, to forgive each other for the pain we’d caused one another over the years and to grow incredibly close over the past two years. For that I am deeply grateful.
2. If you are spending your time complaining about silly mundane things, get some perspective. Put that energy into making your relationships better and spending time with the people you value, both friends and family. Those things will become very very unimportant on the day you lose someone you love. Trust me, the way I feel about the loss of my internet connection or my elecricity supply has got nothing on the way I feel about the loss of my brother. And dwelling on trivial things simply saps energy from your relationships.
3. Make the time to have your health checked, thoroughly – not for your own sake, but for the sake of those who love you. We all subconsciously think we’re invincible – you aren’t, so take care of yourself.
4. If you have family far away, call them and email them often. Your clients can wait. Your family can’t. I often thought of phoning my brother to chat, but was always too busy on other people’s urgent work – I would give anything now to have those hours and minutes back just to laugh with him and share the day-to-day trivialities of our lives.
5. Tell them you love them. I’m so glad that the last time I spoke to my brother (on Christmas Day), I told him that I loved him before I said goodbye. I’m also glad that we’d come to a place of being able to tell one another how much we valued each other as people – even though we didn’t grow up in a particularly touchy-feely household.
6. Realise that there may not be a better time than now to do whatever it is you really want to do. Working yourself to a standstill to afford a better car, a better house and better clothing does not constitute living. Spending time laughing with the people you love – ah, now that’s a life.
Please keep my family in your thoughts; this has been really hard on my parents, as well as on my brother’s children (aged 17 and 15). And as much as I’m trying to be strong, the truth is that my world has crumbled. I loved my brother so very much, and can’t bear the thought of life without him.