J and I were close, to survive our poorly cast, horror show of a family we had to be. We were always in touch by phone, letters, instant messenger and emails. Our correspondence spans interesting times from handwritten letters, then typed, to using fancy computer packages like WordStar, one letter my brother excitedly tells of his new system Word for Windows, then onto emails and Instant Messenger.
It’s not Hollywood drama, it’s real. Real life, real love, real pain, sometimes really boring and sometimes really funny. There is much love and humour here.
Our letters start in 1991 when I have left Australia for self exile in England, I was 23 my brother 19 over the 13 years our letters read like any family’s I suppose, they tell of the two of us growing up & maturing (two very different things) our travels, careers, house mates, house moves, crisis of confidence, cancer, marriages and divorces, coming out, births, the judgement of our parents through eyes adjusted by our own adulthood and never ending dentist appointments. All life’s boxes have been ticked – some of them many times!
My brother was a fabulous observer, witty, sharp and cutting and had the gift of being able to convey it all to paper. In March 2004, J achieved his greatest desire, to die, he took his own life, he was 31.
I am doing this. I am working my through our letters, our diaries, his artwork (and I am trying to work out a way to set his library of books free into the world too) to share what we had, to confirm its existence, to accept that dying was J’s choice and that is ok, and that I will be ok and there is nothing wrong with being ‘just ok.’ You see sometimes I think he wasn’t real, that I imagined him but reading our to’ing and fro’ing I remember. I remember that my brother was here and that he loved me, reading and typing them fills my head with his voice and the room with my laughter.
Some of my parent’s friends have actually said to me that my brother was weak, a coward even, all the inane clichés suicide elicits. My brother and I share our history – we are the only people who know why we are who we became, but we don’t share a future. Daunting…. But I am doing this.
I guess to most these are just the musings of a dead man, I find it beautiful, entertaining, humorous and telling (a modern social history even and an honest picture of the tide of depression and anhedonia). And yes, of course I would say this because he is my brother, but you see we are each other’s last line of defence and I will keep defending him.
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