Exactly one year ago, my baby brother was born.
I was raised to adulthood an only child. Naturally, I got really excited about the birth of my little brother. I imagined how we would play and what we could do together, me being 25 years above his age. I asked myself seemingly adult questions, too: what would I be able to pass on to him? How could I contribute to his upbringing?
But I was also curious if he would end up enjoying to think in code maybe ten years later. If I taught him what I know, would he be smarter than me eventually? And, most importantly, would he fare better with the girls because his older brother is there to give him the occasional hint?
Roughly six months and two weeks later, he died. That was October.
I grew fond of the lil’ cuddler very quick. Yeah, I know, babies are designed to induce awww’s and all. Regardless, this knowledge hardly influenced my feelings.
It was just a week before his death that he was noticeably growing more and more aware of his surroundings. He caught my eye more often and followed my movements. We played with each other for the first time. At least to me it felt as if we were finally interacting. To me, this was a way in which he was already giving something back, namely in the universal human currency of attention he gave.
I was puzzled about my feelings after he died. Interestingly, I mostly felt cheated: he left me and all the plans I made for the two of us behind.
Back then, when I thought about the mixture of feelings which blended into sorrow, I wasn’t able to cleanly dissect what was going on. My fuzzy feeling of sorrow consisted largely of me feeling cheated. Then there was the feeling of loss or letdown. Also, the way we’re brought up to cope with death was mixed in—our cultural upbringing to express sorrow. People expect you rather have a sad look on your face and you don’t want to talk a lot and prefer being on your own sometimes, or that you’d dress in black. Clearly, there was a lot happening on autopilot on the inside. My growing awareness of the process helped to cope with the situation.
Nevertheless, I was surprised and disappointed of myself that the feeling he cheated me dominated my thoughts. I felt really selfish then. But it doesn’t puzzle me that much anymore, for being and feeling self-centered in the face of someone’s death makes perfect sense to me now. It blends into my mental model of human feeling and thought.
If someone is taken from you, you tighten and you turn your attention inwards to check if everything is still okay. The hurt makes you take care of yourself. You’re forced toward your core, so to speak. You may not pay that much attention to your soul during everyday life, though. Thus, whatever you feel during that period has to appear more self-centered than usual. This doesn’t mean it really is and you’d have to feel bad.
Makes sense to me, at least.
Ben, I really hope you liked it here despite your fast departure. I for one surely had a hell of a time with you.
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