For some reason whenever I see this photo I imagine the two of you at a festival in 18 years time.
I am writing this now because I imagine one day you will go looking for this blog and you will survey a small but defining part of your family’s history through it’s words.
The fabric of our family is woven with love and friendship. In so many ways we all chose each other and what we would become to one another.
When you look back at this time I hope you remember it with the fierce love that has come to define it but I know you may not. I know that teenagers can have angst. I know that hindsight can create imagined regret, manufactured guilt and should that happen for you I don’t want my words to seem retrospectively comforting for the sake of comfort.
I am writing this to you today so you can undoubtedly know the truth. The truth of this moment as it was lived; repeatedly.
You have been the best brother we could have ever imagined for our Bede and when we tell you that you always remind us that he is the best brother you could have ever asked for. You tell him how awesome he is everyday.
You wrap him in love and hope and pure unmitigated acceptance. You fill his days with laughter, sincere chats, playfulness and you educate us all on how to settle him. You tell me about how your hearts talk to each other.
When Bede is crying in the mornings I put him into your bed and even if you are cranky at being woken up for school you never show it. You snuggle into him. He snuggles in to you and he smiles. You bounce him in the crook of your arm.
You are Bede’s safe place. You are his happy place. He has a gentle ease with you. You couldn’t possibly be more than you are to him because to him you are everything.
I want you to know at 7 years old you were scared to tell me you were hoping Bede would die. You couldn’t bare to see him suffer, you weren’t sure how much longer we could go on. It was a particularly difficult time in Bede’s treatment and you were not alone in those thoughts.
In that moment my heart broke that my beautiful Gussy that I had held so tenderly for so many years had to grapple with compassionately hoping his brother would die, a concept far to adult for my little boy. But as my heart broke my pride for you put all the pieces back together. I was in awe of your love, your empathy, your depth of reflection. Never feel guilt for this you have loved him purely and unselfishly.
I am not sure if you have ever felt a moment’s resentment for your brother. If you have you haven’t shown it and he has certainly never known it. You make allowances and cancel plans with a happy and understanding coolness.
There has never been a moment you haven’t hoped for what was best for your brother.
I remember you telling me that you didn’t see a down side to Bede not getting better and I said “well darling I explained to you the down side is that Bede will die”. Your reply has become one of our classic family tales. You said
“well that is all about us mum and this is actually about Bede. If he dies he will go to heaven and be with Molly Gran and Poppa and if he lives he gets to stay here and know our love”
You have given your brother the greatest gift in the world. You have made cancer irrelevant. When he is with you you are his big brother, he is your baby bro and he gets to be all he was meant to be and all that he is. He gets to play.
The medical team aren’t sure how good Bede’s eye sight is right now but when you walk into a room he seeks you out. He is drawn to you. He loves you happily, tenderly, with the awe of a little brother and soaks up whatever you are happy to teach him.
He uses his little arms to pull your face into his own and hug and kiss you. He gets to be a playful little boy with you and as I type this you are both lying on the living room floor laughing.
Your light fills every crevice. Bede’s light is no accident it is clearly a familial trait amongst brothers. You have led by example.
Your matter of factness, your groundedness and your ability to simultaneously hold defiant faith fuelled hope and the grim reality at the same time is truly humbling. Most adults I have encountered cannot do that.
People have told me and one day they may tell you that this has been the making of you. Do not listen to them son. How wrong they are.
You were born the most compassionate, loving, tender, affectionate, empathetic, clever, dry, funny, joyful, thoughtful little boy. This has not made you, or defined you. You have always been your own incredible person.
It can only be an act by the grace of God that Bede got to have you, he got to grow with you in your nurturing, cooling shade.
How much love can a bear bare.
I have grown up with you. Being your mother grew me. I so often wish I could spare you from the pain ahead, from the sorrow. I wish I could protect you but in some round about way I hope our positivity, our love and the happiness we find in one another will help us all.
If I could offer future you any comfort it would be that you make him happiest. He is at home with you. He has truly lived because he got to have you.
This post is to future you but if I had to think about present you I’d say:
I know that sometimes I am hard on you but I want you to continue to grow into the remarkable young man you are set to become and part of that is respect and discipline.
I know that sometimes I am soft on you and I spoil you but I want you to continue to grow into the remarkable young man you are set to become and part of that is embracing you gently with tender easiness and protecting from the bruises.
If I had to make present you a promise I’d say:
I will continue to try to live up to the gift of being your mother (and I promise to beat you in every water fight this summer).
You were my first love. You are my whole world. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Your wit, intelligence, faith, affection and hope sustain our family. You are our anchor. Your Daddy and I love you so very much Gussy. You are doing brilliantly.
Thank you darling.