The important stuff

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.

My brother and I

One of my favourite photos of my brother and I, taken back in the late 70s

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14 thoughts on “The important stuff

  1. Kerry-Anne. How deeply sorry I am to hear this. I had wondered why you’d been absent from blogworld for a while. Your account moved me to tears. It’s very hard to imagine what you are going through and I’m not sure I want to try. My brother is two years older than me so I know the memories you must have and you can always treasure these. I know this is of no comfort but I simply want to say “I’m thinking of you.” Much love, Lynn xxx

  2. Thanks, Lynn. Of course it’s a cliche, but that’s probably because it’s true: time is a great healer. At least now when I remember my brother, I can smile almost all of the time.

    It’s interesting what you said at the end there, because in my experience that’s the one thing that IS a comfort – knowing that somebody is thinking of you, that the world has noticed your loss, and that friends (even ones you haven’t met yet) care.

    So thank you, your message really does mean a lot to me.

  3. My sister touched down a few hours ago… last night I was thinking about this story. I will make a concerted effort to hang with my blister as much as possible for the next 2 weeks. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. And that’s exactly why I shared this – in the hope that it would cause a few people to think a little about how they make space for the important people in their lives. Nothing makes the pain of my loss greater than seeing people who still have their brothers and sisters taking them for granted. Seriously. It upsets me hugely. So thanks for taking this to heart, and thanks also for this: http://tinyurl.com/70s-dorks It made me smile, and I like smiling. :)

  5. Hey there.
    I lost my dad a little over a year ago. He was 54. I’m not going to go into our history but I just want to say I totally agree with every point you listed in this post – and I wish someone had told me all that before it was too late. One day you simply run out of tomorrows…
    For what it’s worth, you are in my thoughts. Peace be the journey.

  6. Thanks for your input, Amod. I can’t imagine how much harder it is to say goodbye to someone when you feel you have unresolved issues with them. My thoughts are with you too. Take care.

  7. thx for your story , you are very right , i have also lost a dear one my littel girl ,
    and your story is for me my story ,i wish you and your Famely the best , with the lost of your brother , and to carry on in live as you wrote My thoughts are with you too. Take care.

  8. Remember not to dwell on the death, but realize that the people we love, will live on forever in our memories and thoughts. Make them good ones.

    I have lost loved ones, a few with regrets. From those experiences I have learned to appreciate those in my life (even if they bug sometimes) and to let them know I care, every chance I get.

    Thanks for your story. I am 43 today.

    Sorry for your loss.

    I am 43 today.

  9. Losing someone you love shifts your whole world view. I was much closer to my grandmother than my father. After she died I became far more grateful for my life and have finally built a real relationship with my dad. I made the effort because you realise love, family, friendship and experiences are what make a life.

  10. You have been through so much but have come out 100 times stronger, with a balanced view of life……and your life will be enriched by this experience……light and love to you

  11. I know how you must feel. My brother was killed in a car accident whilst I was away overseas. Though the pain does fade with the years there is a gap which cannot be filled. Thank you for sharing your experiences we all need to be aware that life is precious and family so important in this hectic world

  12. I do feel for you. I have just lost my youngest son who was only 41. Then, to top it, my brother-in-law passed away just a couple of weeks after my son. I am totally devastated. One good thing is that I told my son 4 days before he died that I loved him. I always tell my loved ones that, thank goodness.

  13. […] Who did you miss? My brother (I don’t suppose I’ll ever stop missing him), and my sister-in-law, niece and nephew […]

  14. Hi,
    Very touching and i am speechless.
    I am one of 8, so i watch tv, eat fight and travel togather.
    I cant joy myself in anything but to do things with my brothers and sisters togather.
    I am young and we are not even married yet, i am glad thankfull to you for reminding me for not tegreting.

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