22 April 2010

I Want to Believe

When did you leave us?

Was it sometime in the night when you were struggling to breathe? Was it when the kindly GP gave you something to make you more comfortable? Were you unconscious? Did you hear Dad phone me and say ‘You’d better get over here, Sandra, he’s not going to survive’? How did that make you feel? Did you hear us telling you ‘we’re here’? Did you hear us telling how well you were doing, trying to keep our voices steady and bright? Could you feel our tears splashing on your hands as we held them in ours?

I didn’t say goodbye.

We’d exchanged our usual farewells the night before.We didn’t know this would be the last time we spoke to each other. I suspect this wouldn’t have made any difference to what was said. You said ‘thanks for coming’. No matter how much you tried you couldn’t make it sound sincere, although it was. It was the same when you received gifts. You always said ‘thanks’ but it was a family joke that we said you didn’t mean it, that you never liked anything you were given and would rather have had the money. You liked the football slippers I gave you though, I’m sure you did.

So I’d said ‘thanks for being such a hospital’, our Two Ronnies-style take on the word hospitable. We both said ‘see you later’.

What happens when you die?

Your neck pulsed.

And then it didn’t.

Did your spirit float up at that moment and look down on us? Dad looking at the clock, recording the time of death, tutting and saying ‘what a waste’. Mum wailing. Me sitting, still holding your dead hand. We made you more comfortable by laying you on the sofa. We covered you with a sheet, not over your face though. You looked asleep. I combed your hair. We had a cup of tea.

I tried to find you.

I desperately wanted to know you were okay. I wanted you to haunt me. I didn’t want you to leave me. I saw spiritualists, mediums and clairvoyants. All came highly recommended. You didn’t appear to any of them, although they said you did (after I had mentioned you). In my head I knew they were charlatans, taking money from the bereaved, exploiting my grief to buy more candles and angel figurines. In my heart I kept an open mind. I wanted to believe in ghosts. I wanted to hear that one word that would prove you were there.

I wanted to hear you call me by my nickname, the one you had used since we were children. The one that no one else knew about. The one you used when you wanted me to get you something or when you were beating me at Yahtzee. I still can’t play Yahtzee without crying.

Each time I tried to find you you seemed further and further away. All the time I was searching I was curling further and further into myself. I was shutting down emotionally.

I cried silently each night, feeling trapped. Not wanting to rob Mum and Dad of their last surviving child, but so much wanting to be with you. To look after you as I had always done. No one was looking after me.

One afternoon I sat at my desk, taking the first bite of an enormous cream cake. This would stuff down my feelings for a few minutes. My secretary came in. She was a friend, although I had pushed her away with the others over the past year.

She said, kindly and gently, that the cream cake wasn’t going to help. She took it out of my hand and replaced it with the Yellow Pages. It was bookmarked with a pink post-it note. I opened it to find the page for bereavement councellors. I nodded thanks, wiped my fingers and dialed.

Several months later and many stones lighter I was still grieving, but I had started to say goodbye to you. I stopped looking for your ghost and kept you in my heart instead.

Photo credit

This post was written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I was able to incorporate all of the writing prompts, these being:

1. Write about a nickname you have been given in your life, either an endearing one or perhaps a hurtful one that cut deep. How did that nickname come about? Who gave it to you? What feelings and memories does it conjure up?
2. Tell me about a time when you had a moment of realisation and knew that something HAD to change. Did you act on it straight away? Or did it take time?
3. Have you ever had a paranormal experience? Or has someone you know? How did you interpret what you experienced? If it was someone close to you, did you believe them?
4. Share some memories of a sibling or siblings. How does your relationship with them now differ from when you were kids? For those of you who have perhaps lost a sibling, what do you remember most vividly about them? What things or places remind you of them most?
5. Tell us about a random act of kindness, either one you performed or one you received.



  1. Oh Sandy, I'm sitting here reading this, crying. I can only imagine how hard this was for you to write. Big, big hugs xx

  2. Wow is all I can say. And to send lots of hugs!

  3. I was wondering if you'd write about your brother Sandy. This is beautiful, I'm in floods x

  4. Thats a beautiful post. Lots of hugsxxx

  5. Sandy I don't know what to say.

    Firstly, your writing is astounding. Honestly, you are growing so much. Every post I read is more and more expressive and beautiful.

    The loss you speak of is heartbreaking. You must miss him so much. You write of your grief so eloquently and with such a raw sensitivity. I and crying and crying because I feel a little bit of it through your words.

    Your brother would be SO proud of you. He may not have appeared to you, or spoke to you. But he is with you. That is obvious from every word.

    Much love xxxxx

  6. Oh Sandy, this is lovely. ::hugs::

  7. Beautiful, truly beautiful. I'm really choked. This is such a superb piece. Thinking of you and your family, and I'm very sorry for your loss. xxx

  8. Oh wow. That was so incredibly moving.

  9. That's so beautiful and well written.

    I lost my brother too and I can totally relate to everything you've been through x

  10. Gosh, that's got to me. Beautifully written, Sandy. It doesn't matter that you were not there to say goodbye, because you were there with him, in his heart. Hugs x

  11. I can't imagine. You have a really lovely way with words, particularly when you write about tough emotions.

    We're obviously keeping the same time tonight; I am following you through blog-world, one step behind your comments :)

  12. Sally this is an incredibly moving post. As you know I struggle with bereavement and I can identify so clearly with all of the emotions you identify. Superb and many hugs xxx

  13. Sandy, you know I meant Sandy. This serves me right for commenting so late at night. xxx

  14. This is such a moving post and made me cry. It is so honest and so raw, and your brother would be so proud of you. You are a talented writer. Hugs xx

  15. A very moving post, and very well-written. Thank you for sharing it.

  16. Don't know what to say that hasn't already been said but, for me, it's posts like this beautiful one of yours that help to put life in perspective and remind me to focus on what's really important. After all, none of us know how long we've got ... and on that note I will stop the procrasinating I've been doing all morning and actually get something done, so that I can lavish love and attention on my children when they come home from school! Thanks, Sandy x

  17. This is fabulous Sandy, so beautiful and sad, a great tribute. I have tears in my eyes

  18. An incredibly well written and moving post, well done and for sharing it all too xx

  19. Very moving. An incredibly beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Oh my, i dont really know what to say after that post.

    I'm so sorry


  21. so beautifully written and so sorry for your loss xxxx

  22. Thank you everyone for your lovely comments. I'll reply individually when I have a little more time x

  23. An incredibly moving post, Sandy. Beautifully written and shaped. I can relate. Thanks so much for sharing.

  24. A beautiful post that somes up some of the desparation you feel whe losing a loved one. Thank you.

  25. Beautiful and heartbreaking!

  26. What a terrible loss to you all. I don't know what I believe, but lovely spirits like your brother must still be in the universe. Your words share him with all of us.

  27. Beautiful writing, i am sure he would be very proud of you and of the beautiful tribute you have written.

  28. Truly heartbreaking post, I'm crying so much reading it. *big hugs* I am glad that counselling helped you.

  29. Ella, I cried a lot after I'd posted it. I think it helped me to put it into words x

    Susie, thank you x

    B, thank you :-) x

    Baking Mad Mama, it was amazing how the writing prompts leapt out at me this week x

    Dear Dull Diary, thank you x

  30. Josie, he is always with me, yes. Thank you for your kind words. As I said to you on Twitter, it's all your fault - about the writing. I'm always inspired to write my best posts for your workshop. I'm gaining in confidence too. You've created a monster ;-) x

    Bronagh, thank you x

    Dymphna, thank you x

    Emmylou, thank you so much x

    Luschka, aw, thank you x

  31. Magic Mummy, I'm sorry for your loss x

    Rosie, thank you x

    Not Supermum, thank you x

    Eoforhild, thank you x

    Capital Mom, thank you :-) x

  32. Scribbling Mum, thank you. Yes, I saw we were commenting on the same blogs! x

    Liz, thank you. You know I answer to anything! ;-) x

    Kerry, thank you, that's very kind of you to say x

    Diane, thank you very much x

    Jo, thank you so much. Funnily enough it's comments like yours that remind me to do exactly the same. x

  33. Heather, thank you x

    Baby Genie, thank you. I feel better for sharing x

    Christine, thank you very much x

    Insomniac Mummy, thank you x

    Lou, thank you for commenting, I really appreciate it x

  34. Amy, thank you x

    Deer Baby, thank you, that's really kind of you to say. x

    Marketing to Milk, thank you. Yes, desperation just about sums it up x

    Moonsith, thank you x

    Geeky Mummy, I love that 'lovely spirits like your brother must still be in the universe'. Thank you x

  35. Snaffles Mummy, thank you, I hope so :-) x

    Livi, thank you. Yes, counselling helped very much x

  36. What a truly well written post. I so felt your pain. I am sure my brother watched over me as a teenager, he used to move my things. My mom never believed until she saw him - so I can imagine that he is with you too.

    Big squishy hugs xxx


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