My brother Paul died suddenly last September.
His death completely silenced me on social media. I wanted my next public words to be a tribute to him and, because it's me, they had to be perfect. Sadly no words are perfect on the first try and so I was silent. I knew in my heart my brother wouldn't mind whether my words were perfect or not, he would just like to be remembered, in whatever way I chose. But I couldn't do it. Writing about his death makes it real, and despite all the very real things I had to do during that time, I don't want it to be real or to think it has really happened as it's too painful. It still is too painful as I miss him so much. But I think I will never find those perfect words, as in a perfect world he would still be here, so instead here is my eulogy. And to all those people who stand up to speak about their loved ones at such a sad time, my heart goes out to you. x
Most of you will know that I am Paul’s sister. ‘His lovely sister’ he called me on occasion, usually in a birthday card that arrived a month later than my birthday. He liked to give me various humorous nicknames when we were growing up, mainly in retribution for stepping on and breaking his drum when I was a toddler, something I was never allowed to forget. Aged five, I went to my next-door neighbour to ask her what nickname I could call my fourteen-year old brother that would bring him to his knees. She thought about it and told me to tell him he was a ‘funny boy’. So I did, and I did bring him to his knees, but in laughter.
I’d like to think that Paul delighted in having a younger sister, mainly because my role was quickly established early on as ‘audience’. I was his willing page-turner when he played guitar, his foil and accomplice in all our games, and, despite our age difference, we were best friends. Although that’s not to say that my brother wasn’t above being sneaky or clever with his little sister.
I’ll share with you two favourite memories that illustrate Paul’s sneaky cleverness.
We used to share an advent calendar and would race each-other down the stairs on December mornings to be first to open the door and see what picture was revealed. As Christmas got closer, I found it harder and harder to reach the calendar, because unbeknownst to me each day Paul was sticking it higher and higher up the wall. It was only when I was starting to jump to reach it that I realised something was amiss.
The other memory is of playing football in the garden. The goal I would be given to aim for was the narrow shed door. The goal I was given to defend was the entire width of the patio. Needless to say, and of course on pure skill, Paul always won.
But it is hard to limit fond memories to just two. I have a wealth of remembrances that will equally make me groan, cry, laugh, or shake my head. Paul was always a delight to be around, he was a kind-hearted, soft-centred soul who only wanted to repeat Michael McIntyre jokes and make people laugh. He had a wealth of knowledge about sport, music, comedy and film, spoke fluent Italian, was an accomplished musician, and had a range of talent and skill that he modestly under-played, apart from when playing Trivial Pursuits.
As well as games, Paul loved music. We started a tradition of going to gigs and shows together some years ago – a full day out where we’d explore London, and then head to the venue. These days shine so brightly for me. On one occasion we went to see The Beach Boys, and everyone in our section was seated. One song came on and me and Paul looked at each-other and without any words we both knew we wanted to dance, so up we got, and the entire section followed us. I like to think the standing ovation at the Royal Albert Hall was actually because of us.
But that's what brothers and sisters are to each-other, people who love and know each-other so well that there is no need for words. And so I can always hear his voice and know what he'd be saying. Right now he'd be saying that I'm being soppy but he'd be very chuffed with me all the same.
And so on his behalf and mine, I'd like to say a few words for my mother. She and Paul would spend every Sunday together and I know how much my brother worshipped and adored his mum. Thank you all for supporting her during this time and beyond.
I'd also like to say thank you to his colleagues from his company. He really enjoyed his time with you and I know he was a valued member of your team.
There are so many ways in which everyone, and I, will miss Paul, but his legend lives on our collective memories, and most especially in his son, his daughter, and his little grand-daughter.
So although my brother was a funny boy, he was also always my lovely brother. And for that, Paul, I want gig tickets to see The Beatles one day. I'll leave it for you to arrange.
One day you'll look to see I've gone
For tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun
My brother Paul, 1966 – 2016. God I miss you. Say hi to dad, nanny Freda, nanny and grandad, aunt Olly, aunt Shirley, Uncle Bob and aunty Eileen, great-aunt Betty, great uncle John and great uncle Alec, our cousins Derek and Nicky.
You went too soon, brother of mine, but I know they were all probably waiting for you to arrive to get the party started. Without you they wouldn't have a fab DJ for a start. x
Addendum: Please look after my lovely naughty tortie cat, Abigail, who was 18 years old when she decided it was time to join you. Paul, please do not try to give her an entire tin of Whiskas. She will only give you a look (you know the look I mean) and explain she only eats tuna. Humour her for me, my darlings! x