Dreamt yesterday that I was walking my dog along the busy stretch of road just outside the estate. And as I was walking, it suddenly occurred to me how my brother’s room was no longer furnished. His bed and toys and shelves of medicine had all been taken away; and I was wondering why that was so. Then somehow, my subconscious managed to piece together, using feeble logic, that he no longer was, and I began to feel terribly upset. I woke up still feeling upset; almost as if I had just learnt of his going, and felt for the first time the crushing permanence of his absence.
Sometimes I forget that I had a brother. It’s only when a photograph comes up, showing us both and with the rest of the family, that I recall how he was. I have almost forgotten how he was; what he was like living, animated. And when I do remember him, it always brings along a tinge of sadness; not a wave, but a tinge, as would any good memory of the past. Is it then better to forget completely those whom have passed, since remembering them or seeing them in pictures only makes you sad, only makes you wish for a return to a time you can never return to. Is it better to forget that I ever had a brother?
When you have had a loved one suffer for a prolonged period from an illness, and then had to watch him die, the pain usually does not come until later. That is because at the outset of his death, you can still recall the agony in his eyes, and how he could do nothing save breathe – and sometimes even the breathing got frighteningly difficult. All the things he wanted to do he could not, and so little did he smile. For so long did you watch him in this debilitated state that you wished on many occasions at his bedside for him to sooner go. And finally when it was granted, and he went quietly into the night without anyone’s knowing, you felt a mix of grief and relief. At the funeral, you cried, of course. But otherwise, you kept reminding yourself that his death was a good thing, since his suffering was now no more; you tell yourself further that it was natural for a child like him, with his disabilities and deficiencies, to expire earlier, much earlier; and that it was merely nature taking course – and how could anyone get angry at nature taking its course; as if to rebel against the human mortality! So it was that you calmed your sorrow and appeased your sobs, and went back to distracting yourself with the endeavours of the living. But the days go by and his absence becomes more and more felt. It is hardly believable to you that he is gone forever; that you shall never again see him or hear him or be able to touch him; he survives only in the pictures and the memory, which to say cruelly little. You begin to forget about the suffering in his eyes; all you want is to see him one more time, breathing, alive, being himself, inimitable Ryan that no amount of memory can amount to. But there is nothing, not a single trace; for life departs whole. So sometimes, in your purblind desperation, you imagine, just for a moment, that he is at some place else, maybe at his school, and if only you went there, you would find him sitting in his class, playing with his friends, and then upon seeing you, greeting you with his cheery excitement – all as is perfectly preserved in your memory.
The idea that one will die is more painful than dying, but less painful than the idea that another person is dead; that, becoming once more a still, plane surface after having engulfed a person, a reality extends, without even a ripple at the point of disappearance from which that person is excluded, in which there no longer exists any will, any knowledge, and from which it is as difficult to reascend to the idea that that person has lived as, from the still recent memory of his life, it is to think that he is comparable with the insubstantial images, the memories, left us by the characters in a novel we have been reading.
And so I did what any grown man would; in the face of suffering and sorrow, I ran upstairs, hid myself away at a corner and began to cry.