Below is an excerpt of a blog post from my brother Peter. I was so impressed with it and proud of him that I’m spreading its circulation. I should warn you that it’s a little confronting but I encourage you all to visit his site and read the full post which, I’m sure you will agree, is ultimately one of triumph.
Gerard and Me
September the 5th 2013 was the 10-year anniversary of my brother Gerard’s death. He was a few kilometers through his 20km ride into work on a sunny September morning when he was unable to stop in front of a turning Linfox truck and was dragged under the wheels. He died almost instantly.
Gerard would have been furious at what transpired. He didn’t want to die – he loved living. His death was sudden and I was totally unprepared for it.
I spent a lot of time with Gerard just prior to his death as we were both living at the family home. In the months before Gerard died he had undergone a sort of awakening. He had been experiencing a destructive holding pattern where he’d broken up with his girlfriend and wanted to go out partying and drinking as regularly as possible. But a strange thing had happened to Gerard at the age of 25 and in retrospect I think it was called maturity.
Gerard had realised what was important to him and mostly that was family and friends. Gerard wanted to be successful and had started up his own IT business that he named Bodinet. Like all good start-ups it was operating out of his mother’s basement. I have no idea what the business concept was but he had purchased a whiteboard so it certainly looked official.
Gerard and I connecting was a good development because we had spent most of our childhood at each other’s throats. Apparently my parents sent him to kindergarten early to get him away from me. I used to bully and hit him regularly. Mum to this day expresses a wish that he would have just punched me back. I have never understood why, as a two year old, I was being held accountable for the inaction of a person literally twice my age.
Clearly I had developed some form of persuasion quite young because as a toddler I had convinced Gerard to get into the family Holden Kingswood station wagon with me, take the hand brake off and go for a drive. The Silver Birch in the driveway foiled our plans.
My nascent psychopathy aside, Gerard did fight back. Over the next fifteen years he easily dominated me through either his physical strength or verbal ridicule. Gerard ran rings around me and I was in awe and a little scared of him. We shared a room with my twin brother James for nearly ten years. He had the top bunk and I was relegated to the lower strata that the bottom bunk represented. Intermittently he’d express his rage after I had pissed him off somehow by jumping down off the top bunk and punching me.
Gerard though was not a mean person and I know he truly loved me. Like the rest of us he was angry about our father dying. I remember snooping through his belongings to come across the aftermath of one of those self-reflection circle jerks they made us do in High School during a religious education retreat. I think the topic was ‘what God means to me’ and he had written in his scrawl that made chicken’s scratching look like calligraphy:
‘I don’t believe in God. If there was a God he wouldn’t let bad things happen to people. If there was a God, why did he let my father die? I don’t believe God exists.’
The irony of Gerard’s theistical convictions, or lack thereof, was that his funeral was presided over by a bishop and three priests, and attended by about twenty nuns whose computer network he maintained.
I got to know Gerard really well in the months before he died and we had long since overcome any animosity towards each other and become partners in crime. We shared many of the same characteristics. We would always pick a family or friend up from anywhere at any time of night. If there was someone needing a lift, and we had a car, it was our duty to ensure that they arrived at their destination no matter how much of an inconvenience it was. If someone needed help moving it is our duty to turn up ready to chuck their worldly belongings into the back of a hired truck only to repeat the process in reverse when we arrive at our destination.
A characteristic of a sudden death is that it’s all over by the time you get the news. There is nothing you can do. There is no hope you can cling to, no cure they may find. No search party that can be hobbled together to scour the depths of a national forest. I got the phone call from my Mum at 11:00am at work telling me Gerard had died and that I had to come home. The moment was surreal and the shock still palpable. The last time I saw Gerard alive was about 8:45 that morning when I was going up the stairs to drive to work. We were both late. Gerard and I were always late for work.
Gerard would have been furious at what transpired. He didn’t want to die – he loved living. Gerard was not going to be pushed around by anyone.
The next time I saw Gerard was in the Tobin Brothers funeral home in Blackburn five days later when we went to view the body. His body was red and swollen, his fingernails clipped and he had been dressed in his regular clothes.
“Don’t you see?” my Mum said as we my family sat outside the viewing room in stunned silence, “wherever he is, here’s not there”. She had already formally identified his body at the Coroner’s Office five days earlier.
What about the driver? My mother often wondered about his welfare. He didn’t mean to kill my brother. He wasn’t drunk and he wasn’t speeding. His address from the police report shows he lived barely two kilometres from my family home. The witness reports leave no doubt about how upset he was. He was just a guy doing his job.
This was a tragedy not a crime. With death you have to surrender and it is a really difficult thing to do. Life makes you want to fight and look for activity and meaning.
Death is a very difficult thing to accept and there were two issues I had a particular problem resolving with Gerard’s death; the utter powerlessness that I was forced to submit to and the death of Gerard’s voice.
Ultimately I accepted that nothing further would happen. I surrendered to powerlessness but confused it with hopelessness. Over the next few years Gerard kept appearing in my dreams. I used to wake up and have to remind myself he had died, breaking the news to myself every morning. I told this to a therapist once and she said I should view this as an amazing thing that Gerard lives in my dreams. I didn’t buy it.
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