When I first met the man who was to become my first brother-in-law, I was in my mid teens. I remember him being a “quarter of a century” old back then. I thought I was being funny telling him that too. He laughed as much as I did.
He met my sister on an exotic holiday to Morocco. From their descriptions of the colourful locals with swords and knives hanging from their waists, I added it to my list of ‘avoid at all costs’ places. I was never as adventurous as my older sibling. Thankfully he was more daring than I was or they might never have met.
I knew as soon as I met him that we would get along. He had some rare qualities that only improved with age. His sense of humour, his wit, his intelligence. He was the most amiable guy I ever met. Bar none.
When they got married, I read a passage from the bible which they had picked. It referred to a ‘gong booming’. Unfortunately, by the time the reading was to be read out at the ceremony, we had already morphed that phrase to be a creature and not a thing. Trying to stifle the laughter proved incredibly difficult whilst remaining appropriately serious for the occasion.
Through the years, whenever we met, he was the same man he had always been. Quick to laugh and never ever having a bad word to say about anyone. He was great company. He had a great love of sport, which I unfortunately did not share. And, despite being tone deaf, he absolutely loved music. He had no inhibitions and both he and my sister would jump to the dance floor at any occasion that boasted music. What he lacked in musical talent, he made up for with rhythm. The boy could dance.
He had a brother who was mentally handicapped. Following the death of his parents, he immediately took over the role of carer for him. He was devoted to him and both he and my sister cared for his brother until the day he died. After that, he continued to volunteer for the Cope charity. Giving back to the charity that helped care for his brother.
On Monday 29th September, I received a text message from my grief-stricken father. My brother-in-law was dead. Ashen faced, I left work and raced to be with my sister. Two hours later, through floods of tears, I grieved with her. She was focused on the positive things. He had not suffered. She had been with him when he passed. They did everything together. A few hours earlier, they had gone out for a cycle in the countryside. Ireland was enjoying an ‘Indian summer’ . He stopped at the side of the road to answer his mobile phone. The charity wanted to know if he was available to drive some of their patients to the swimming pool in the afternoon. He agreed, of course. My sister had stopped her bicycle in front of his, and was taking in the marvellous scenery, when she heard a crashing sound behind her. She turned to see his phone on the ground and he was keeling over.
He never regained consciousness.
All of the things I wished I had said to him would now forever remain unsaid. I hope he knew how much he was loved and respected. I miss him so much.RIP.
John was cremated.
We are stardust. We are golden.