After they’re gone.

It’s always a funny day for our family, this one.

It should be my brother’s birthday. Well, I say should be – it is.

But he isn’t here.

My brother Ross passed away 13 years ago, when he was 27, following complications during surgery on a brain tumour. There’s no getting away from the fact that we all loved him very much, and his loss really was just that – a loss.

But it never seems quite right to be mournful on his birthday. Because my brother wasn’t that sort of guy.

He’s the one who taught me some of the silly games that are now my favourites to play with Flea. Like, if you’re walking down a busy street, pick a stranger and say, “Wow, Hi!” in a really surprised voice and then watch as they try and work out where the heck they know you from.

My brother had the most ridiculous sense of humour. He loved pranks. Like the time he put on a hoodie and knocked on the front door and asked me, “Is Ross home?” and I spent 10 minutes scouring the house for my brother. And I still haven’t fully lived down the time he hid under the stairs and somehow convinced me he was stuck in the microwave – and I opened it to check. Yes, I DO know how ridiculous that sounds.

He also taught me the game where as kids, we would walk into the road as a car was coming and then just as they almost make contact with you, fall over and shriek in pain. I didn’t teach that one to Flea, for obvious reasons. Although we gave it up after the day we played it and the driver who thought they’d run me over turned out to be our head teacher. Oops.

So it doesn’t seem right to mourn him on days like today. And besides, life moves on. Life’s a bastard like that.

So I suppose I’ll mark it with a few moment’s thought about my brother, and after school I’ll take Flea to the park, or the beach, and I’ll think about how lucky I was to have someone like my brother in my life while I was growing up. And I’ll write a blog post, so you all know, now, that he was here. And now he’s not. And that’s a shame.


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 3rd May 2012 / 8:47 am

    Life’s too short innit? Reminds me of the time my brother hid in my built in wardrobe for almost two hours, so he could jump out at me half an hour or so after I turned the lights out. I might have shrieked like a girl but at least I didn’t soil myself. Sounds like you had a great childhood 🙂
    Alex recently posted..Extreme Ironing with Mamasaurus #blogitforbabiesMy Profile

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:07 pm

      Yes, brothers are evil, aren’t they? Having 3 older brothers was certainly character building when I was a kid 😉

  2. 3rd May 2012 / 8:54 am

    He sounds such a fantastic brother and how great doing the things with Flea like the two of you did. I may well try that hello to a stranger 🙂

    Enjoy the park or beach with Flea and maybe a prank or two xxx
    Ali recently posted..Guest Post – Planting tomatoes with childrenMy Profile

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:07 pm

      Thanks Ali x

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:07 pm

      Flea has a great sense of humour, which I’m really thankful for.

  3. 3rd May 2012 / 9:06 am

    He sounds a fantastic brother, some people are just too amazing to stay on this planet for long and your brother certainly sounds like one of those people.

    I am glad you were able to ‘celebrate’ his birthday.
    saiditall recently posted..Support NetworksMy Profile

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:08 pm

      Yes, we’re not big ‘mourners’ I don’t think – and time does heal, so we mostly celebrate the life that was, I think.

  4. 3rd May 2012 / 9:21 am

    Reading this reminds me of my eldest sister. She was full of tricks too. How many times did I fall for her “smell this” trick, where she’d end up squashing whatever it was that she got me to sniff into my face! Then there was her habit of flashing or mooning passing cars. And the time she climbed into one of those netting machines that they use to wrap up Christmas trees. Great memories. She died of cancer in 1995 and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and smile. We are lucky to have had them in our lives. x
    Inside the Wendy House recently posted..School Dinners!My Profile

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:08 pm

      Gosh Wendy, that’s sad but such wonderful memories, thanks for commenting.

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:08 pm

      Thanks lovely x

  5. 3rd May 2012 / 9:26 am

    I feel the same way on my brother’s birthday – I try not to feel sad on his birthday because I know he wouldn’t have wanted that but I can’t help but feel that it’s just not fair.

    Thinking of you x

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:09 pm

      Life’s a complicated thing, but yes, although I miss him it doesn’t seem like it’s right to be sad, entirely.

  6. 3rd May 2012 / 10:33 am

    Sally – you are a brick – as always focused on the good things rather than the sad and on remembering the right reasons

    Am so tempted to try the microwave thing out on Mr M (and if you teach my girls the car thing be warned…)
    Muddling Along recently posted..Why do people expect siblings to be similar?My Profile

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:09 pm

      The microwave thing. God, my family still derives so much amusement from those sorts of stories.

  7. Domestic Goddesque
    3rd May 2012 / 12:19 pm

    OMG those sound like the sort of pranks that would have gotten me every time. My brother had to be satisfied with setting fire to his other brother. Glad that you wrote this post. Sad that you had to xxx

    • 4th May 2012 / 8:35 am

      I was a tremendously gullible child. Sigh.

  8. 3rd May 2012 / 11:53 am

    It’s so unfair and it must hurt sometimes – especially on his birthday no doubt. I love that he lives on through his games that you teach to Flea (not the car accident one). Better if he could teach her himself but, as you say, life’s a bastard like that. Btw, Flea is the image of you then except blonder. Thinking of you and sending love. xxx
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted..Growing UpMy Profile

    • 3rd May 2012 / 12:10 pm

      Yes, it’s funny how people die but they’re still a part of the family – we still chat about him and Flea’s very aware of who he was. Not in a sad way but just in a – that’s who he was – way. It’s nice. It really is.

  9. 3rd May 2012 / 12:57 pm

    It never gets easier. Say hi to him and put some beautiful flowers in a vase on your table. Every time you see them, you can think of him

    • 4th May 2012 / 8:35 am

      Thanks Helen x

    • 3rd May 2012 / 7:09 pm

      Well, I’m not sure about that but I do my best 🙂

  10. 3rd May 2012 / 6:55 pm

    I’m not usually at a loss for words. I remember reading about your brother on your blog once before. Then you left a comment on my blog not so long ago about how adjusting to loss is hard, and I found that really helpful because I knew you were speaking from the position of someone who knew about loss. And I thought about your brother. Such a shame he can’t be with you in person, but he is clearly still there with you.
    Rosie Scribble recently posted..Worrying timesMy Profile

    • 3rd May 2012 / 7:09 pm

      Yes, I’m a big believer that we carry people with us in memories and words and deeds, rather than them lingering as spirits and such.

  11. 3rd May 2012 / 7:16 pm

    Love the simplicity of this post ( and really love the microwave trick! Reminded me of the time my brother hid in my wardrobe and pretended to be the childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!) It’s my Mums birthday this saturday – only the second one since she died. Glad I found this post as it’s reminded me to concentrate on the positives xxx

    • 4th May 2012 / 8:37 am

      Brothers are always a bit evil, I think it’s in the job description. And yes, I think being grateful for happy times and knowing that he was loved and happy, well, it gives a lot of comfort.

  12. 3rd May 2012 / 7:22 pm

    This has just made me well up. I feel like that about my Dad and his birthday in July and the anniversary of his death (which will be 12 years in December) are similar days. My mum gets a bit mournful but I prefer to remember the living.

    One day a few years ago, after we’d not long been back from my Mum’s, Monkey asked me why Granddad always went away whenever we went there. This has just made me realise that the way we talk about him must have made him seem alive to young minds.

    Loving the picture. Hope your day went as well as could be expected and that you cherish the memories that you have of your brother.
    Kate recently posted..LifeCircle 2012: Outside the comfort zone, but not what I was expectingMy Profile

    • 4th May 2012 / 8:36 am

      Yes, we talk such a lot about my brother that despite the fact they never met him, all the children in the family know who he is. We had a lovely day, thanks 🙂

  13. TheBoyandMe
    3rd May 2012 / 7:29 pm

    So sorry for your loss Sally. Brothers are special things and Ross certainly seems to have given you plenty of memories to laugh about.

    • 4th May 2012 / 8:36 am

      Yes, definitely lots of lovely memories, we’re very lucky like that.

  14. 3rd May 2012 / 7:29 pm

    That’s a lovely post Sally, It’s clear to me that your brother is still with you although I agree that teaching Flea the “pretending a car has run you over lark” is not a good move!

    I also used to love going up to people and saying “Oh my gosh, it’s you – how are you?!”

    Hope my Pixie has such lovely memories of her big brothers

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    • 4th May 2012 / 8:36 am

      I think LOTS of people secretly play the ‘pretend you know a stranger’ game.

  15. 4th May 2012 / 8:21 am

    Posts like that remind the rest of us to rejoice in what and whom we have while we have them. Your brother sounds like someone I would like to have known. I can’t imagine a lovelier epitaph than the one you’ve just written. You’ve brought him to life with such joy and without a trace of sentimental self-pity.
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    • 4th May 2012 / 8:37 am

      Thanks, that’s really kind of you to say.

  16. 8th May 2012 / 8:39 am

    Made me laugh and cry at the same time. A wonderful tribute to someone who sounds like he really was very special and also a reminder to us all that it’s the simple things and actual people, not things that make our life and memories xx
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  17. Merry
    16th May 2012 / 10:56 pm

    A bit late to the moment, life bring what it is, but here is a little nod of notice fom me. This is graceful; I hope I manage to do the same over the coming years. Xxx

    • 17th May 2012 / 8:31 am

      Thanks Merry x

  18. 19th May 2012 / 8:55 pm

    A lovely post. Sounds like your brother was a really fun and much loved member of your family, and yes, from what you say about him, he wouldn’t want you being sad. Glad you have so many happy memories xx
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