3 Days (remembering John)

It’s a bummer when you are not sure what date to remember your deceased little brother on.

On reflection, this dilemma is probably not as uncommon as it sounds. A family member is found, passed away, and the question is, did they pass away on the day they were found, or on the day prior, on which they were last seen about 1am? A coroner’s office can provide a letter with a date in it, but when they are unable to provide the cause of death, it’s easy to also assume that their guesswork includes the time of death.

So when this time of year rolls around, I remember him on 3 days in September.

Day 1 is 9th September. In 2011, 9th was a Friday. It was the last day that John would ever get up in the morning and go to work. The last day that he was seen alive, going about his usual business.

On 9 September, he did an early shift, at the residential care facility where he worked as a PSA (Personal Services Attendant). After work he travelled home on public transport. He didn’t earn a huge wage, and couldn’t see the point of paying for the petrol, maintenance, registration and parking permit required to have a car in the inner Melbourne suburb where he lived. He probably arrived home and had a shower, and then relaxed, listening to Sonic Youth, or Depeche Mode, or reading, or watching TV. I can picture hi sitting outside and smoking, tobacco or other substances, as he frequently did.

9th September 2011 was not just any old normal working day for John. He would have been in a pretty good mood. It was his last shift before 2 weeks of annual leave he’d organised in advance. He had been thinking for a while about training to become a Registered Nurse, had recently sat the required tests, and enrolled in the course. As someone who left school at the age of 16, without finishing Year 10, never undertaken any further study, and worked at many different unskilled jobs for the next 16 years, I’m sure there was a great sense of achievement and pride for him in getting into this tertiary course.

So on that Friday night, John was about to have a rare weekend off, and then, on Monday morning, embark on a 2 week intensive course, followed by weekly evening classes, and eventually a career as a Registered Nurse. He had a few drinks, made dinner, for himself and my youngest brother, and after hanging out until late in the night, he went to bed.

That’s as much as is certain. After that point, in playback mode, time slows down.

10th September 2011 came and went without incident, but in my mind now, it is the twilight zone. It’s the hazy, not-quite-real, in-between date. It’s the gap in-between my brother being alive, and being found in his bed, dead. It’s the day that seemed normal at the time, but in hindsight it’s an abomination, because it’s the day where the rest of us went about our Saturday assuming all was still right with our world, totally oblivious to the fact that a terrible chasm had formed, at some point on that day, between our imagined reality and real life.

Played back in slow motion, I see myself that morning doing all manner of frivolous activities. See, there I go: taking my daughter shopping for shoes and to the local op (thrift) shop. There I am again in the afternoon, sitting at home, phoning my sister, who lives overseas. In a strange turn of events, given what was to come, I was phoning my sister to say that a friend of hers, from our hometown, had passed away suddenly from an asthma attack at the age of 39.  After that call, I phoned John with the same news, but he didn’t answer, and he rarely ever responded to messages so I didn’t leave one.

I will never know whether my brother was already dead when I waited for him to pick up the phone.

We don’t know what time on 10th September his sleeping state was disrupted by something – perhaps, (as suggested by the coroner), a seizure – that turned out to be catastrophic. We don’t know when whatever-it-was changed normal sleep to something else, perhaps a coma, or perhaps death in moments. I don’t know if it was in the wee hours of that morning, or at the exact moment that I locked up my car in the cark park at the local shopping centre. Perhaps it was just as his phone was ringing next to his bed.

We will never know, and I don’t spend a lot of time wondering, because no answer to this question is any more satisfactory than any other. The greater mystery, so it seemed to me at the time, was that there was no announcement. No bell tolled, no sense of suffocating dread overcame me. No sound, no thought, no feeling indicated to me that in one particular second on that weekend, something catastrophic had taken place.

I said that the 10th was the twilight zone in the middle, but in fact, we do know that he was alive at the very start of the 10th, because he was seen by our youngest brother, P who lived with him. P was still up past midnight on 9th, watching TV when John got up to get a drink. P decided to go to bed. That was the last time he would ever see his brother alive.

This brings us to 11th September.

It’s a date already overloaded with images of grief and death for those of us living in Western countries, where the date is synonymous with the World Trade Centre attacks of a decade ago in the U.S.

On 11th September 2011, the airwaves and the media were particularly heavy with collective memories because it was the 10th anniversary of the attacks. That Sunday, I was out shopping yet again with my daughter – in the morning at a local shopping mall, and in the afternoon at the supermarket to get groceries. Apparently I shopped for most of that weekend.

There I am on the Sunday, driving and listening to people call up the radio to share memories of 9/11 from 10 years earlier. Their stories make me feel particularly bleak this year, and for the first time, I decide my daughter is old enough to hear an edited version, so, grimly and a bit cruelly, I explain the bare details of what happened on 9/11. She cries.

Later on, there I am again, back at home in the afternoon, sitting at the computer with writer’s block. I’m trying to think of something to write about on this blog, and I don’t hear my mobile phone ring upstairs. I’m still agonising over what to write as the landline rings downstairs and my partner answers it. I take no notice, registering only that he’s talking to someone he knows, and assume it’s someone from his family.

As I sit there at the computer screen, I’m unaware of the significant moment that is drawing close. I see myself in that moment, blissfully ignorant that a devastating turning point in my life is now only a few minutes away. Those last minutes tick by, as that phone call comes to an end.

And there goes the last full minute of innocent unawareness that I had left, slowly disappearing, as I follow him up the stairs because he “needs to tell me something.” When he starts to sob, I immediately assume one of his elderly parents must have had a stroke or heart attack.

I see myself, rushing to comfort him, in the second before he tells me why he is crying.

Replaying it in my mind, I hear those final few seconds bang loudly and ominously past me, like a goddam drum section in a symphony orchestra. Like the cracking of thunder before a deluge.

So there I am, as that last innocent second ticks past, standing at the top of the stairs. Mistakenly thinking I’m comforting my partner. It’s the last second of my previous life, the life where I thought everyone I loved was alive.

That was 11th September.

We tell ourselves stories in order to live

So it has rolled around to mid-August.

Those who’ve experienced grief will probably know I’m not exaggerating when I say: the last 12 months have gone by in a blur.

Looking back now, I think it’s safe to say that on September 11 last year, the day that I was told my beautiful little brother had died, my every day awareness of life, and sense of current time, shut down for a long period.

Outwardly, I began to function normally again not long after, going to work and seeing friends, but any second when it was not distracted, my mind was focussed inwards, and in the past. It had a lot of mental work to do. It needed to integrate the enormous chasm where my brother’s life had been. The enormous chasm in what? I hear you ask. Well….in the picture of the world, and my life, that I carry around with me in my head.

In order to do this, my mind began to obsess over dates and periods of time for every memory I unearthed, whether specifically of John or not of John – it didn’t matter. How old was he when this song was a hit, how old was he when I was at this college I’m walking past, how old was I, how long ago was this event, and, always the inevitable calculation: how much time had John left to live at that point in our shared history. Did he have 15 years left, 5 years, 1 month, or 1 day?

At first, this constant need to fixate on time in relation to any memory of John seemed a disjointed, jumbled thought process created by grief and not serving any purpose, but now, looking back, I suspect there was a purpose to my fixation on distilling my brother’s life down to numbers and fractions – it gradually enabled me to construct a timeline of his life.

I don’t mean that I’ve created a literal timeline dotted with the events of his life in a chronological order. I mean that all that mental work of thinking over dates, ages, time frames, etc, enabled me to come to a point, months later, where I was able to comprehend that his life was a finite thing, that had a beginning and an end – and – here is the crucial point – to grasp that both were in the past.

From this process, I’ve come to understand that we carry a kind of “story” in our minds, that is intrinsic to our understanding of ourselves and our lives. In a very fundamental way, I mean. I think that what we call “shock” is a huge chasm in our understanding of the world, that results when an element of this basic story is ripped apart through a sudden death.

For example, because I am lucky enough to live in a First World country, I expect that my parents will live to an age ranging somewhere from their seventies to their nineties. As they are in their early seventies, I’m awre that time is drawing closer but still hopeful that it could be a decade or more away. I don’t sit around consciously thinking about when my siblings, friends and family will die, but at an unconscious level I expect that I, and most of my siblings, friends and relatives around my age, will also live – on average – into our eighties or a bit beyond. I expect, and hope, that my child will outlive me.

Therefore, I have an unconscious understanding of my life as a fixed span of time, and of where and how it interconnects with the lives of everyone I know. I assume I’m approximately half way through my life. I’m aware that these expectations are based on averages, and that plenty of people don’t make it to those average ages, but nevertheless, when one of those people turns out to be someone you love, that awareness is no comfort. As much as you know that all around the world every day people die both young and suddenly, you can’t prepare for the sudden shattering of your life as you know it, when someone puts the name of your sibling and the word “died” into the same sentence.

So I realise now that although I probably didn’t spend a lot of time consciously thinking about my brother, his life was an intrinsic part of my own “story”. The story was as simple as this: that I am an older sister to 5 younger siblings. That amongst these siblings was this brother, born 8 years after me. That he would continue to be around, steadily 8 years younger than me, throughout most of my life. That, taking into account life expectancies for males and females, and our age difference, it was possible that he might live on after me. That  we loved each other,  and were bonded through love for the same group of people – the other members of our family. That’s it, at it’s most basic level. I didn’t need to think about those things. Our connected story was incredibly simple, but deeply, intrinsically, a part of my entire understanding of myself, my life and my world.

There were also other layers to the story, layers sculpted out of the details.  For example, details about our current lives, where we lived, things we’d done in the past, together and apart. A trip to Hanging Rock, a holiday at Wilsons Prom, the time we walked around Lake Daylesford at 1am, slightly stoned. These details formed layers over the top of the basic story, so that our interconnected story had depth and complexity, and currency.

I see now that after he died, the process of grieving caused me to continually confront little snippets of these layers, and, bit by bit, try to grasp that, not only was each separate memory – of the trip to Wilson’s Prom for example – in the past, but so was the interconnected storyline they were part of.  I felt compelled to do calculations, and to try and place ages, dates, and times, over and over – all so that I could grasp that the timeline of his life had reached its end, and reassess all my memories with that new perspective.

Without realising it, what I was doing was gradually chipping away at the top layers of our connected stories, the little memories of shared holidays and going to see Sonic Youth together, and working my way down, towards the deeper, basic story of our connected lives, the one that would be harder to shift.

I wonder if this accounts for the “waves” of grief that people talk about. I think perhaps each new wave of grief comes when you start (unconsciously) dismantling another layer of these densely interconnected stories. Or perhaps it comes at the end of having chipped away another layer. In any case, as each layer is chipped away, you come closer to understanding that your brother has died.

This is such a painful process to go through.  At first, and for months, every memory that popped up required analysing, calculating, and recalibrating. Every memory, therefore, was met with a huge sense of shock, swiftly followed by a new wave of grief, distress, and pain.

Whether the memory was about John or about the lino on the floor of a rented house 4 years earlier, it didn’t matter. I had to reassess the memory, and refit it into our previously interconnected story, to reconfigure that story into one where my little brother’s part abruptly comes to an end in September 2011, and mine continues on.

 

John (at top), probably about 15, or, nearly half-way through his life.

*

*Recently I read a post that mentioned a book by Joan Didion, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live. I’d been thinking about this “story of our lives” concept, so I immediately loved that title, and knew it would have to be the title of a post, if and when I wrote about this. Of course, I must also track down the book and read it at some point. Thanks to Goldfish for that piece of information.

Pictures of You

I’ve been looking so long, at these pictures of you

That I almost believe they are real

The Cure, Pictures of You

Since my little brother died suddenly, I’ve been looking through my photos. I pulled a pile of photos of John out of albums, to use at his funeral, and I haven’t got around to putting them back in.

The envelope, filled with photos, is in a pile, with the few other things of his, or related to him, that I took when we cleaned out his personal belongings.  An incident report he wrote at his work a few years ago, that I thought showed what a fair-minded, compassionate person he was. A letter  I wrote to him, on behalf of my daughter, when she was a baby. His last payslip, which was redirected to my address a week or so after he died, causing me a fresh burst of pain when I opened it and, in a moment of bewilderment, registered that there was a shift listed on the day after he died. That was because he was on annual leave, starting on that day. A copy of his annual leave form, signed on 24 August, is also in the pile.

The day he cheerfully signed that form, my friend Dori died. When his leave began, 2 and a half weeks later, he had died.

But I’ve been over this line of thought a million times. Today I’m talking about pictures.

I wish I had more photos of him. How common that wish must be, when someone dies! Nevertheless, I know that he spent lots of time with me, and with my daughter, and I’m so glad…that knowledge is more important than having pictures to prove it or remind me.

In that first week or so after his death I couldn’t look at pictures of him without bursting into tears. Now that the shock is wearing off, and acceptance – which makes me sad in a whole different way – is settling in, I can look, but I just have to avoid looking at them at the wrong time. For example it was silly to look through photos  right before leaving for work one morning, a few weeks ago. Naturally, I cried all the way to work. And it is not always conducive to efficient use of my time, to have saved photos of us together as  the desktop image on my laptop. Some days, depending how low I am already feeling, I open my laptop to do some work, and on seeing the screen saver, I end up being very unproductive for the next little while.

Sometimes it’s almost as if I need to make myself feel totally devastated all over again.

Photos of John are now amongst my dearest possessions. I have lots, but I am choosing to post some bad, blurry photos, because I like to retain my privacy as much as possible. Those who know who I am, and who John is, will recognise enough.

These photos were taken about 2 years ago, at about 1am in the morning, in an inner suburb of Melbourne. Myself and two brothers had been out to see a band. We’d all enjoyed a few drinks and were feeling very merry, and one of my brothers pulled out his trusty camera(!) and blurrily documented our walk home.

Those were the days, my friend.

It’s true – we thought they’d never end.

The Kick Inside

The weather is perfect in Melbourne at the moment. Perfect for my state of mind, that is.

The sky is a dull grey, and the weather alternates between downpours of rain and little bursts of sun that seem promising for an hour or so, but then give way to more clouds and, eventually, rain again. It’s been like this for weeks.

Well, if this is how summer is going to be in Melbourne this year, it will completely fit with how I feel. Just like this crappy weather, my emotional landscape has a limited range: from a thunderstorm of tears, to overcast numbness where I appear to feel nothing, to a mild burst of sun, that only lasts a short time before the sky becomes grey again.

Keeping within this metaphor, I have to admit that, 10 weeks on from my brother’s death, thunderstorms are less frequent now. It is just constantly overcast and dull, with frequent downpours. Always clouded by the knowledge that my little brother has died.

I can even manage to enjoy myself, as much as I might not want to admit it. But I always have the sense that something heavy is hanging over me. It’s the knowledge that someone I loved deeply is gone from my life.

And if I’ve been really absorbed for ages – by work, or by making the concerted effort to socialise cheerfully for hours – the realisation comes back with more strength when I leave, or maybe the next day. As if it needs to butt in and be given some attention. As if I’d forgotten completely and am only just remembering again. Oh, that’s right – John is dead.

I. WILL.NEVER .SEE .HIM. AGAIN.

Last  Friday night I went to a Kate Bush tribute night, Up Late With Kate. I enjoyed myself – it was a fun  night – but social occasions are a test at the moment. Something always reminds me of John, no matter how obscurely. I test whether I can think about him and remain outwardly unmoved. If  I can, then I think about him a little more, until I have to stop thinking about him, and try to come back to being in the moment. The present, where he is not.

Ah yes, there’s the kick. He is not in the present. He is only in the past.

10 weeks ago, I could not comprehend that. But then, 10 weeks ago, I could not imagine ever wanting to go out again. I felt abysmal, devastated, obliterated, and I did not want to ever feel better. I did not want to be told, however kindly, that I would eventually feel better. It seemed to me that to feel better would be to accept that John was dead! To accept it and somehow move on from that!!

Every ounce of me vehemently rejected the idea that I would ever do that.

I would never accept it!  I would reject it, I would live in disbelief if that was required, I would delude myself, if that was needed, but I would never, never, be able to accept, graciously or otherwise, the fact that my beautiful brother was dead! When people told me I would eventually remember him with less pain, I felt like screaming – I don’t want to REMEMBER him! I want him HERE! NOW! ALIVE!!!

The idea that he should become just a memory was unbearable.

But, as I’m only starting to comprehend, he had already become a memory, from the moment I heard those 2 terrible words, “John died.”  I just hadn’t been able to see that then. In my head, he was alive. This John who was dead existed – or no longer existed –  in some nightmarish version of reality which I was not yet able to comprehend.

I realise now, sadly, that Time is having an effect. It is wearing through the layers of disbelief and I am gradually accepting that he is dead. By “accept”, I only mean, realise it, understand that it is a fact. Most of the time.

This, in itself, makes me sad. I feel like I’m admitting defeat in a fight that I was planning to maintain.

I had intended to never believe it.

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.

In-between days

As I drove to work this morning, I wondered, how can the weather have become warm and sunny overnight? Surely it has been cold, rainy, and 14 degrees, for what feels like years – suddenly, or so it seems, today it is 27 degrees! Have I been in such a haze that I missed the in-between days? It seems possible. I’ve certainly been in a haze.

I don’t want it to be hot and sunny. I want it to remain a miserable cold and grey, I want to be stuck forever in the same climate, the same time of year as it was 10 weeks ago when I was told that my brother had died.

Somehow, the sudden sunny weather seems to make it all the more incongruous that my brother should be dead. I looked up at the blue sky as I pulled away from the lights, and the same sense of bafflement hit me yet again, as though it was the sunny day that made it so perplexing – where is my brother?

How can he have just “died”? How can all this time have passed, only to discover that apparently he is still “dead”?

For a while there, I think I was holding out hope that death was not as final as what you hear.

In an email, my sister said to me, ” …I can’t believe that some of my friends still don’t know that John died. For that matter,  I can’t believe that there are strangers who don’t know it. Sometimes I want to collar a person walking past and tell them, look, this is the reality of it….”

I have felt that way too. The first time I was out in public after his funeral was really difficult. People were swarming merrily all around me at Federation Square, and I was struggling not to blubber. I was conscious also, of an urge to tell people that I was grieving. Suddenly I understood why in other cultures, people wear mourning clothes, armbands, wail, keen – why they have all those rituals to let others know that they are grieving. I almost wanted someone to notice that I was struggling, and say, with concern, “what’s wrong?” – so I could blurt out all the emotional pain I was feeling.

I wanted these strangers to know that this person, such a constant presence in my life, and the make up of my world, had been suddenly torn out of it. I wished they could know John, and what a beautiful person he was, and feel the distress that I felt, that he was gone.

To be completely honest, I wanted to make them suffer like I was suffering. I wanted everyone to feel as bad as I did. People should stop strolling and chatting and feeling carefree – people in Federation Square, Melbourne, the whole world. No-one should ever again feel happy and carefree, because my brother has died, and what’s more, one day, this will happen to each of them too.

We all know that one day, it will happen to us – someone we love deeply will die. But until it does, it’s something you hear about that happens to other people. When you hear about it, you say, “oh, that’s really sad!”

When it happens to you, really sad does not come close to covering how it is.

It is devastating. It is shock, and numbness. It is a feeling of such immense stress that you are unable to think clearly. It is all the clichés that you’ve heard, made real: you feel weighted down, you feel like you are moving in slow motion. It is a sharp stabbing pain that makes you gasp when, occasionally, reality filters through and instead of the fact that sits numbly at the surface of your mind like a lesson it is learning, “my brother is dead, my brother is dead”,  you suddenly have a deep, strong, physical memory of him – not of him doing anything in particular, just of him, the person that you knew and loved  – and, in that same moment, you understand that he is gone.

That is when you sob, but I would not call that really sad. I would call that sorrow, despair, grief, devastation.

Just 3 weeks ago

Today it’s three weeks ago that my little brother was last alive.

It’s only 3 weeks.

Sometimes it seems like I’ve known this for ever, this awful, heavy fact, that my brother has died.  It’s a huge and awful shock all over again when I realise that only 3 Fridays ago, at this very time, he was probably sitting around after dinner, having a drink, perhaps watching tv or listening to music, and expecting to be alive for another 50 years or so – as you do when you are only 33.

To anyone casually reading this, who has never experienced the sudden death of a beloved sibling, you can’t imagine what an impact that thought has. If I allow myself to think about it, it causes me pain. To think that just 3 weeks ago he was happy and excitedly looking forward to taking up study, and didn’t know that when he went to bed that night he would never wake up again.

So when I say the words, “my brother died”, I am saying that he was alive, as he had always been, and then suddenly he wasn’t, and the shock of trying to come to terms with that is something I never imagined.

When someone dies, it seems that you start measuring time in a new way. For me, everything occurred either before John died, and reminds me of where he was and what he was doing then, or it has occurred since John died, and I’m saddened that time is taking me further and further away from the last moment when he was alive.

Who said that Time heals all wounds? If that is true – and I am cynical –  I think that Time doesn’t necessarily deserve a whole lot of thanks for that, because it’s Time that is to blame for the depth of the wounds in the first place. It’s Time that deepens the pain initially, by marching relentlessly on from the second that someone dies, so that even when you first hear those incomprehensible words, “John died,” and try to make sense of them, his death is already an event that occurred in the past. You are confused, trying to understand that this has already happened. And I didn’t know.

But even as you struggle to understand, Time marches on. It doesn’t compassionately stop to let you catch up. After that awful news, time becomes a blur, and your feelings are numb. At first you are not even upset, because you know that there must be some awful confusion between what has really happened and what  you understand people to be telling you. You lie awake all through the night, but next morning you hope that heavy, leaden feeling is the result of a bad dream. Apparently it’s not, though, because suddenly cards and flowers are arriving. In another moment, or so it seems, you are surrounded by people in black, watching a coffin being lowered into the ground – supposedly with your brother in it – and then before you know it, you are back at work, asking clients for technical specs, and crying when you leave the office to walk to the toilet.

And despite all of that, you are not yet able to think of your younger brother moseying towards you in that easy going way he had, cigarette in hand, cheeky grin on his face, beanie on his head, wearing his favourite brown Bonds jacket with the ripped sleeves that he wore everywhere, and reconcile that person – so alive, so real, and always there through the last 33 years of your life – with the person that everyone is saying has died.

I can’t comprehend that the John who has been a constant presence in my life, and who still exists in my mind (and heart) as strongly as ever, and the John that has supposedly died, are the same person. When, at sudden intervals, something cuts through my mind and, for a moment, I understand that fact , it is too painful to bear.

It can’t be you who died, can it, John?

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