My brother Declan left the physical world on 9 September 2007. In the hours following his death, and before I heard the news, I ‘knew’ he had gone. All my senses, physical and non-physical, told me this. When I got the news to confirm what I felt in my very bones, I walked in a parallel world. Meanwhile a shell that felt like one of those chalk outlines seen at a murder scene, was the part of me that carried on in the physical world. Outwardly, I looked the same, but it was a shell, an outline of me. My skin hurt and burned, like someone had peeled it all off. The rest of me was hollowed out and was elsewhere.
I remember travelling to his home. I remember stopping at a café and wondering how everyone there could act normally, going about their business of a Sunday lunch, while the shell of me sat at a table, unable to eat, and only just able to take liquid. I remember going to the mortuary. Declan was laid out on a trolley, wearing an operating gown on his upper body, his jeans and boots still on his lower body. His eyes were only partially closed, and through his lashes I could see the blue of his eyes. He looked alive. Declan was a practical joker, and I thought he was suddenly going to leap up with a “Ha-ha! Got you there!” The Police had told us not to touch him, as the other driver had been arrested and Declan was ‘evidence’. Really? You think I’m not going to touch my brother? I just waited until they were out of the room. I touched his shoulders and his head. They were his, alright, but they were icy cold and immoveable.
The following morning, Declan stood at the end of my bed and told me he was OK, “Don’t be worrying”. He gave, and kept on giving me proof that he was still alive, but not in the physical world. People often ask me if this spiritual connection to him makes the grieving easier. To tell the truth, I don’t really know. Declan hadn’t died before. What can I compare it with? What is life, what is death?
After the funeral, I went home. I went back to work. I functioned. The shell was working, but that’s all it was. A shell, a hollowed outline of me. I remember reading a book on grieving, and it described how those affected by trauma being like a piece of pottery that has been fired in too hot an oven. The outside looks the same, but the inside is different, full of cracks. It makes sense to me.
The connection to Declan was still there too. He told me about his life in the spirit world, and how he was adjusting. He reviewed his accident, and I did too. I was inside his helmet. I saw the other vehicle pull out into his path. I told a friend of his, a witness, the detail, including the colour of the other vehicle. The friend told me the colour was different. I was later to be proven right.
It was to be four years before the rest of me ‘reintegrated’ with my physical body. Reunited. My husband, Paul, waited patiently. Waited and waited. Listened and listened. Later, he said that he waited because I was worth it, and because one day, he knew, I would ‘return’. This man loves me like no other.
And now? Well, there is a “before Declan” and an “after Declan”. This applies to all who knew and were connected to him. He is still a part of our lives, he still walks with us; it’s just the connection that has changed. The connection is still there. His passing changed all our lives, re-shaped us. The outside still looks the same, on the inside, the cracks are still there. Not as deep, but will always be there. Trauma does that to you.
I still walk in the parallel place. But now, it is of my choosing, my time. And it is a good place to be, a place of peace and joy, where I meet and talk to Declan and all those in the spirit world. And here on Earth, he meets me here, where we can soar above life’s experience of great distress.
Beauty and wonder can still be found. It is found in compassion, in love, in laughter. In sharing good times, creativity and life. Creating new memories among loved ones on earth, among family and friends; among strangers.
Life and death have been disentangled now.