Today is my birthday.
It’s also my little brother’s birthday. Yes, we were born on the same day – the exact same time in fact – though we aren’t twins. We used to joke that we were. And to be honest I’m not sure that the ‘fate’ of our identical birth dates/times wasn’t actually spiritual intention. He wasn’t just my little brother. We had a connection that went beyond siblings. We looked out for each other. He was like a part of me come home. Like a part of spirit that missed the first incarnation and so had to come along later! He annoyed me as little brothers do, when we were kids, but as we grew that bond grew and he was always there for me – always.
As kids we hated sharing a birthday cake. One cake, neatly iced down the middle with different colours on each side; my name on one side, his on the other. He’d always try and beat me to blowing out all the candles so mum would have to relight them. We’d often complain: why can’t we have our ‘own’ special day?
As we got older we began to realise how special it truly was and when he was posted overseas, for the first time we had a birthday in different time zones and on different days … and we didn’t like it!
But today is different. Today I won’t get his call or hear him say “Your birthday is the perfect opportunity for me to remind you that it’s MY birthday too!” My birthday will forever remind me that he’s no longer here to share ‘our’ special day.
Because last October 27th, at just 53, he died suddenly and without warning of a heart attack.
I was there for his first day on this planet but unfortunately couldn’t be there to say goodbye to him on his last. He was quite literally my 2nd birthday present!
I started out as his protector, looking after him when he was scared and alone during his first few days at kindy, and later he became mine – driving the 2-hour round trip to pick me up when I left an abusive partner in my early 20s, and later, helping me last minute to fund a trip to visit him in the UK when I needed space to regroup and get my head together.
Whenever I asked, he was there, no questions. He just did it.
He was like that for a lot of people – always there with an ear, a shoulder, advice. Whatever you needed. A place to vent, to problem solve. He was the better part of me.
He was “SLOTH!” – something he’d shout and wrap himself around me so I’d have to drag him along attached like a limpet to my leg. When he later attempted this as a man he’d nearly crush me!
He lived his life with compassion, honour and integrity – together these made him the perfect godfather to our daughter – a role he embraced wholeheartedly and he treated her as if she were his own.
If I have learned one thing from the absolutely senseless loss of an amazing human being it’s this. In the end, we are not our jobs, our hobbies, the level of our income, our possessions. We are how we made others feel, the impact we had on them, the effect we had on the course of THEIR trajectory, and the imprint we leave. I miss how he made people feel – the effect of his humour, compassion, friendship and love. I try to live his example.
Rod loved his friends. He fiercely loved and was devoted to his family. He rarely spoke ill of anyone. I can’t remember ever seeing him truly angry. When he disagreed, he did so respectfully. You never came away from a conversation with him feeling small, stupid or insignificant. His silences spoke volumes.
“Please don’t worry so much. Because in the end none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky, when the stars are strung across the velvety night, and when a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish, think of me. And make your life spectacular. I know I did.”– Robin Williams, from the 1996 movie “Jack”
This quote makes me think of Rod. He crammed so much into his relatively short life. And his energy is still around. I take comfort from knowing that since we are energy, the law of the conservation of energy tells us not one bit of him is gone. He’s just less orderly. He is a part of every life he touched. He is a part of everything around us. We can breathe him back into existence just for a moment or two by being all those things he was, and allowing his best traits to filter through us shaping our words, thoughts and actions. We can keep a part of him alive by giving the love we had for him a place in our heart and when called on, giving that away to those who need it.
My spiritual beliefs help me to remember that death is not the end but the start of a new journey. Clearly he had finished what was needed in this life and he was required to do great things in his next. That doesn’t make our pain or loss any less … we should all have had at least another 30 years with him – but it helps me to know that he’s still there, somewhere, bringing joy and love and laughter to more people.
Rod – little brother – ‘Frog’: you were the best of us, taken far too soon. I love you more than words can say. I’ll miss our calls, your spine re-aligning hugs, your notorious Jib Jabs, the painstakingly selected and relevant birthday cards, your larrikinism, cheeky monkey humour, your giggles, the “in YOUR face!”, your call ending “love you lots sis”, and our GIF-filled messages, your beautiful soul, your support and wisdom.
Broder vyghan. Mab, gour, ewnter, souder, koweth.
My a’th kar. My a borth kov.
Little brother. Son, husband, uncle, soldier, mate.
I love you. I remember.
You’ll be with me forever.