Conversations with my brother.

It’s a funny thing, life.

How we spend years under the same roof, intimately familiar with each other’s morning hair and how we prefer our coffee, but we don’t talk.

About the important things. The things that reveal the state of our breath — whether our hearts are bleeding, still.

We dance around the inane and get distracted by that which tells nothing.

And this goes on for years. A revolving door of pleasantries; tip-toeing around the marrow of our hurts.

Until.

We’ve had a few of those, haven’t we?

Those moments where the earth stops spinning on its axis and the breath is sucked from our lungs with a fierce ferocity.

And instead of drawing closer, we draw apart.

To heal, we say, but, what we really mean is to hide.

And here we are, with years on our faces and life has caused a geographical divide to bloom between us. But, our hearts — connected by unseen strands of the familiar, still recognise each other.

Each still knows the other’s laughter.

And I now, recognise the pain that you carry within your bones.

It is mine, too.

An unwanted gift with nowhere to call home, except the inside of our DNA.

This is the thing that connects us — this knowledge of things experienced that were never meant to be.

But they were.

And with it, our hearts were eviscerated.

We know this now.

At last.

It is still raw. This pain. Although, now, mercifully wrapped in the tissue that our bodies produce when the thing that will not leave us, is too great to constantly be paraded in our memories.

And now, even though our branches have grown apart, our roots remain entwined.

Love has held us.

Yes.

It has.

And I am watching you tentatively take the first steps on the same journey that I once had to take.

Negotiating the fear; facing the unknown with only the certainty of today, cupped within your desperate hands.

My heart holds you up.

I see you.

Together we are standing before the One who showed me grace when I least deserved it. Favour; for reasons still unknown to me.

And you are not alone.

I am here. Oceans apart but holding your hand.

Trusting the great unknown to the only Known that has never let me down.

It is all that I have, and it is everything that I possess.

And it will be enough.

This Love will cover you, and it will keep you.

And until we get to stand within each other’s embrace once again.

Just hold on.

It will be ok.

— Conversations with my brother.

When war breaks out (I bleed flowers).

My heart

splinters

under the weight

of these

memories.

Relentless in their

immortality;

demanding space

within my head.

Behind my eyes.

Insisting on life.

And still,

despite this war,

I choose to

bleed

flowers

instead of pain.

It is a quiet

rebellion.

—When war breaks out (I bleed flowers)

(I look for) Beauty in the midst of.

If I should

die,

before

I had hoped

to.

Remember

me

as one who

listened

for the nightingale’s

song

in the darkness.

— (I look for) Beauty in the midst of.

Choose (your) peace.

Do not use

the stones

that were

thrown

at

you,

as

ammunition.

You,

can be

a strong

and

peaceful place.

If

you

choose

to be.

— Choose (your) peace.

Learning to live unafraid.

To live, unafraid.

Surrendered.

My heart at peace.

My future,

yielded.

Just breathing in

this exquisite

gift

of now.

— Learning to live unafraid.

The last few weeks have brought me personal reason to step back — quiet myself within and listen.

Listen for that still voice showing me (once again) what really matters. And how I need to fight — really hard, for these things, because they don’t come to us easily.

Living unafraid is not our natural state, is it?

Anxiety and fear about things beyond my control — important life-and-death things, are threatening to rob me of so much.

I am surrendering.

Learning to live unafraid.

It’s big, and bold, and unreasonably brave.

On mourning (that which was never given).

You

are allowed

to

mourn

all that you did not

receive.

As a child.

As an adult.

But,

do not

dwell

there

permanently.

Grief,

is both

a gift

and

a jailer.

A moment in time.

We have had had some unseasonably hot, albeit pleasant weather in Scotland the last couple of weeks. This has resulted in a flurry of activity in our allotment and because it stays light until very late this far North, we have spent some lovely evenings rooting contentedly around our little plot.

A couple of days ago, on one of these fine evenings, we bumped into one of the other allotment plot owners, let’s call him Paul for the sake of anonymity. Seated at one of the battered picnic tables near the shed, he was enjoying a cup of tea from a flask that had seen better days. He had brought his mum, Moira, with him — a tiny, old lady who never quite made eye contact during the conversation. Introductions revealed that she was already well into her nineties, and it didn’t take me long to realise that she had Alzheimer’s disease.

As they strolled around the garden, Paul would patiently point out the different vegetables growing in the plots, and his beautiful mum, wrapped in a heavy winter coat despite the heat, would make appreciative noises, but would then turn to look him in the eye and exclaim that she ‘wished Paul could see this’, to which he would gently reply, “Mum, I am Paul”.

We watched them walk, Paul’s hand on her elbow as he pointed out the different plants and vegetables growing, patiently drawing her back to him each time that she did not recognise him as her son.

It was beautiful, and it was tragic.

A reminder of the cruelty of a disease that can strip a mother of the ability to recognise the child that she birthed and raised, and yet, a poignant reminder of the determined power of a love that can never be destroyed by the monster that is Alzheimer’s.

With us that afternoon, was our 9-year old son, Daniel, who happens to have Autism. Daniel struggles with social interaction, especially with strangers, and so, you can imagine how my heart contracted with a surge of emotion that I still cannot adequately put into words, when he gently took Moira’s frail hand in his and without either of them making eye contact with each other, softly whispered, “Look at her hands, Mom, they are so soft. Is she very old?”

And Moira, quietly stood there, not saying a word, except for the almost bird-like noises that would escape her lips every so often, whilst my son’s fingers explored the transparent skin on the back of her hand.

The moment didn’t last long, but it had a magical quality about it. A sense of something other-worldly taking place between these two strangers — boy and woman — who both inhabit a world that is, at times, inaccessible to the ones who love them.

We spoke a little more until it was time to leave, Moira looking at her son, nodding every so often at what he was saying, and Daniel, tugging at my hand, asking to go home.

And as we said goodbye, I had a sense of something deeply special having happened. I cannot give a name to it, but then again, I don’t think I need to.

— A moment in time.