Life, in sums

I’m a bit stuck, again. I’m wondering what the hell the point is, in writing anything here. Since my brother died suddenly, it feels as though it is pointless writing anything at all. It doesn’t matter what I write, he will still be dead.

Apparently. He will still be dead.

For a while there, I think I was holding out a secret hope that it wasn’t as final as what you hear.

And what can I say that I haven’t already said? I’ve already written about how I feel: the shock, the grief, the distress, the shock, all over again. The heightened awareness of time passing, the fixation on remembering times and dates of anything and everything that occurred before he died, the need to do endless calculations in my head about how old he was when I was doing this or that throughout my life. It feels like necessary work that my brain must do.

It’s almost as if I mistakenly think that if I work on all these various computations, I am going to come up with some calculation that will prove him to still be alive.

It’s a compulsion, the need to translate his life into dates, times, and segments of time. The other night, after walking past my old college in the city, I had a moment of revelation about just how long ago I was there – nearly 20 years ago! Of course the thought process that immediately followed was to work out how old John was then – about 15. And it struck me that he would have been nearly half way through his life at that point.

Well, of course then I had to work out exactly when the half way point of his life was. That night, I lay in bed and did multiplication and division, and came up with: October 1994. I would have been 25. He would have been 16. I was living in a shared household in Gore Street, Fitzroy. He still lived with my parents, having only left school the year before, and was in his first job. All that time ago, eons ago, it seems, he passed the half way mark of his life.

And, just as when he died, there was no sign, no voice, nothing to tell me, no clues that I should probably spend a little bit more time with my little brother because he was already into the second half of his life. Nothing to indicate that, already, he was heading down the home straight – that he had less time ahead than he had already lived.

But why do these things matter? What use are these meaningless computations? How does it help me now, to know when the halfway point in his life was?

It doesn’t. It’s of no obvious use.

Nevertheless, I sense that it’s a way to tackle that overwhelming sense of randomness I felt after his death. I fool myself that the mental work of turning his life into a neat timeline, upon which I overlay dates, and measurable segments of time, will ultimately reveal that there was a pattern, or will impose some kind of order onto how it all panned out. His life, that is.

In my mind, grasping to make sense of a new – and harsh – reality, perhaps I fool myself that all these statistics will compensate for the lack of any reason, or meaning, or prior warning, that might have assisted me to cope with him being so suddenly….dead.

My sister, who is proving to be full of astute observations, suggested that because words and emotions have proven to be totally inadequate in providing any comfort or reason, we turn to maths.

I think she is right, and in fact, after her observation I can see why obsessing over times and dates feels as if it has some purpose: at least with maths, you always get an answer.

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