Grief is a pervasive thing. It is a relentless companion, sometimes falling into shallow slumber, only to wake when least expected – at mundane times, like when one is making a cup of tea or eating a sandwich. It comes awake ruthlessly, hacking with icy fingers at the chambers of the heart and bringing one to one’s knees.

My brother died two weeks ago. It was a brutal death. He was in a coma for seven days and, at first, I prayed for his recovery, and then I prayed for his death and a merciful release for the tortured body that was being kept alive by machines. I held his hand, kissed his forehead and told him it was OK to let go. The end of his life was senseless, hope of recovery from the grotesque dance that his alcoholism had trod with him came, but it was too late.

I’ve chosen to remember him happy, young and carefree. I hope he has found that place again. shawn


6 MARCH 1968 – 9 SEPTEMBER 2014


(Photo credit: Peter Gerber)

And a repost of something I wrote long ago, about the day he came into my life:


There were no children my age to play with; it was a brand new suburb; all red earth and building rubble. Both parties of most couples went out to work, walking together to catch busses. My mom and dad each had a car, which was quite unusual at the time. They misguidedly thought nursery school was a cruel business, an enclave for neglected children; only marginally less horrible than the orphanage they threatened to send me to if I didn’t eat my spinach.

There was, apart from the lovely, fat and funny Willemienah who cleaned and cooked; a nanny who’s sole purpose was to feed me, clean me and make sure that I didn’t engage in any activities that would lead to my needing stitches or the services of the Police Force. Her name was Martha and to this day I remember what it felt like when she wiped my face with a warm facecloth, sprinkled with 4711 cologne, after I cried because of a fall. I ate my meals with them, sitting on the concrete courtyard floor; tomato and onion gravy with stiff maize porridge. I’d have it for lunch any day, still. Only much later did it dawn that Sotho was not the only language on daytime radio.

I begged and pleaded for a brother and my parents kept telling me it was not the right time. I was six before I realised that I was lonely.

From time to time my paternal grandparents would come to take me to their farms, early on to Excelsior and later to Tweespruit. My Ganny Sue taught my to sew a neat stitch and my Gampy let me walk out with him after supper, ostensibly to make sure the cows were tucked in, but really to smoke his secret cigarettes. They allowed all the rules to be broken; I didn’t have to bath every day, especially not if I’d swum in the reservoir. We sometimes had stewed peaches and custard as our supper!

On returning from a long visit, I walked into our bathroom, where my mother was drying herself after a shower. She had become fat, something I hadn’t noticed during everyday contact and I told her so. My dad overheard and joined us in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub and pulling me onto his lap. He told me that my mom was growing a surprise for me in her tummy and could I guess what it was? I said ‘a bike?’, but they laughed and said I’d have to wait and see.

Perhaps a fortnight or so later, I’d taken my skipping rope and gone up the road to visit with an old lady whom I’d befriended and who allowed me to pretend that we were grand ladies taking high tea on a cruise ship. Her kettle had just boiled when Martha puffed in and said I should come home at once. She hoiked me onto her back and trotted down the block.

My parents were sitting in the lounge, my mom holding a soft parcel. They beckoned me to join them and my mom opened the parcel so that I could see the scrunched up little person they were giving me.

His name is Shawn and he is one of the best friends I have ever had; my little brother who grew to be bigger than me in every way conceivable.

I’m really quite fond of you, grumpy old codger. And so very proud.



  1. I remember that post so well.
    It is a horrid journey, this trip called grief.
    All I can say is when it brings you to your knees – release all the emotions, don’t keep them in. It helps with the recovery.
    Love you gazillions Cinderella.

  2. I’m so sorry Cindy… I’m sorry that you lost such a big part of you and I’m sorry you lost a friend. I hope you find peace in the happy memories of him and I hope you find solace in the love you guys had for each other. (((big hugs)))

  3. I’m so sorry to hear of your devastating loss, Cin. What a vile tragedy. Being your only sibling, and with you being older than him, I just know how precious he must be to you. I’m glad you were able to say your goodbyes before he left this earth. I hope you have supportive people around you at this very challenging time xx

  4. Oh Cindy my heart squeezed tight and my eyes overflowed as I read this. You are in my heart and prayers. So glad you had the time to let him go. I love you! Deepest condolences again to you and your sister on the loss of your beloved brother. RIP Shawn!

  5. Hi there Ms Cin, condolences dearest Cin. It should bring some comfort that you saw him and were able to accept and release him. Hugs dear one.

  6. Hey Cindy I am so sorry about Shawn. Thank God that he was so close to victory in the end, and that you are staying strong. May He keep you and uphold you. Much much love xxxx

  7. What a beautiful tribute to your brother. You’re such a good writer Cin. I love the “happy young and carefree” photo you’ve chosen to remember Shawn. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  8. Grief – it’s a double edged sword. It is both comforting and yet it has the abilitly to cut so deep and hurt like hell. It is both beautiful and ugly at the same time. And time, time heals but thankfully it does not erase the good memories, those special nano seconds when you know that the best thing in the world since sliced bread (or tinned peaches and custard) is a brother. All love to you dear Cindy …. and lots of time! xxxxxxx

  9. Oh, I’m so sorry! You wrote beautifully about both the grief and the love of a younger brother. I lost my little brother, too, from the side affects of alcoholism. It’s a terrible waste of a good life, and a terrible loss. My sympathy to you, Cindy.

  10. Beautifully written, Cindy. Losing someone we love is difficult, especially a sibling. I lost my brother two years ago and it doesn’t hurt as much now, but still there are some days it overwhelms me.

  11. Cindy, what a beautiful picture:amd your wprds celebrate the best about the brother you so longed for. So very sorry this has happened. Loss is fathomlesss in the early days. My thoughts are with you, my friend, as you face the road ahead.

  12. I am so sorry, I pray that God will give you the strength you need moving forward and that all those wonderful memories will sustain you. As for the surprises that tend to sneak up on you at any given moment, I will just say they continue for a long time. It is still happening to me after 8 years, and I never know when they will come. I am so glad you were there with him, it gives us a small amount of closure. He was certainly a very handsome young man, relive all those wonderful times together.

  13. Cindy, my deepest condolences on your loss. Your words really touched my heart, especially this part “The end of his life was senseless, hope of recovery from the grotesque dance that his alcoholism had trod with him came, but it was too late.” It rings true for my husbands death. My prayers stay with you xxx

  14. There is a terrible moment when one stops hoping for the recovery of a loved one and wishes, as you did, for death and a merciful release. It is the right thing to wish for, but it is brutal, I have only known this feeling once and yet I know it so well. My condolences to you and your family and I wish for you all Love,Light and Peace.

  15. I am so sorry. I have lost two siblings although in very different circumstances so cannot imagine what you are going through. It is clear from your writing that he was a gem in your crown. Surround yourself with love and light as you go through this time Cin.

  16. There is a bitter sweet feeling that death brings when you watch someone slowly slip away. My brother in law was in a coma for 68 days with no hope of recovery and no one brave enough to let him go. May Shawn’s memory live within you in a place full of happiness xxx

  17. I’m sorry I missed this post, Cindy. I was in England at the time, and had my notifications turned off. What a tragic loss for you. I really can’t imagine what you must have gone through. So nice to see your happy and positive post today. Hugs to you. xx

  18. Sorry for your loss Cin – my brother also died in similar circumstances re the alcohol and the same age as your brother (1968 to October 2014) – an unhappy coincidence – big hugs to you

  19. “You live on earth only for a few short years
    which you call an incarnation,
    and then you leave your body as an outworn dress
    and go for refreshment to your true home in the spirit.”

    Native American Indian – White Eagle

    Belated condolences Cindy. I have only just found your blog

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