For those who have already read Too Relieved and been introduced to my younger brother Paul - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs within my "War Council" - it is with deep regret and sorrow that I must announce his recent passing.
For those who didn't know Paul, it's hard to know where to begin describing him to you. The words and phrases his friends have used include top bloke, a true gentleman, and one of a kind. All of these perceptions I agree with of course, but they only skim the surface of who he truly was. Put simply, I have never met anyone more courageous, loyal, kind-hearted, fair-minded, deeply loving, strong and generous in my life. He was also wise, fiercely honest and protective of his integrity, whilst possessing an equally sophisticated and silly sense of humour, depending on the context and prevailing wind.
We had a friendly rivalry to try and outdo each other's pun-tastic memes or terrible and groan-inducing jokes; sending them at all times of day and night to beat whatever was sent last. My WhatsApp account is packed with this stuff and it makes me cry, laugh and facepalm in equal measure. You'd never believe we were two seemingly responsible, middle-aged grown-ups, based on this content, but we were determined to keep each other's spirits uplifted no matter what life threw at us, and we succeeded.
When my life imploded in 2013 - as detailed in Too Relieved - Paul's life imploded differently but all at the same time. We lost our Mum together, but Paul had always enjoyed a deeper connection with her, and so his loss was arguably more profound. Despite his grief however, Paul did not hesitate to throw his full love and support behind the children and I, when my (now ex-)husband left us for for my 'best friend', two days after Mum's funeral. Despite grieving deeply, Paul stood four square and rock solid behind us, ensuring all that needed to be done got done; and this included our self-care. Quietly in the background, he was assessing how much sleep and rest we were getting, how well we were managing our stress levels, whilst always ensuring the children had a strong and loving male influence in their lives.
Paul stepped in and stepped up to fill the void the children's father had so eagerly evacuated, and he didn't even blink. All that their father had casually thrown away (their love, respect and dependence), Paul lovingly picked up and tended with care and grace, and the children loved him all the more for it. Their loss at his passing has been as raw as you'd expect, particularly when you consider their two other biological uncles (from their father's side), have made themselves equally scarce. It just goes to prove how real men aren't just born, they're forged.
Despite Paul's valiant triumph against Stage 4 cancer in 2016, and the Coronavirus pandemic of this year, neither of these two conditions resulted in his death. Paul courageously squared up to cancer upon its initial diagnosis and just knew he was going to beat it. Ever fearful of losing him, I never enjoyed his level of certainty, and so the relief when he went into remission was immense. Of course there is always the fear of it coming back, but during a recent check up, Paul had once again been given the all clear. What got him was entirely unforeseen and has completely knocked the stuffing out of us, but we will continue to be mindful of The Streets lyrics he asked us to hear: "Be brave. Clenched fists".
I am blessed to have known and loved him. Even though he reveled in annoying the bejesus out of me - on a regular basis - his defense of that would always be: "I'm your little brother, that's my job!" He was my rock, my sounding board, my caller of bullshit, and one of my wisest, kindest mentors. My life feels desperately empty without him now... until he figures out the frequencies, if you catch my drift. How dare he go, despite having no choice in the matter? When will my heart ever stop feeling so hurt and heavy? There is no way I can ever be too relieved to grieve for such an immense gift of a man, but I must send him away with only my love and lifelong memories of us. This is too hard...
Rest in peace wee bro, I will love you forever and always xxx