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.


93 Comments Add yours

  1. MissChris says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Love you too, my special Chrissie xxx

  2. Lyndatjie says:

    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)))

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Lyndatjie, hugs back at you xxx

  3. hotlyspiced says:

    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

    1. theonlycin says:

      We have a younger sister too, HS, it’s some solace that we share our grief at this time xxx

  4. souldipper says:

    Thank Goodness you had time with Shawn, Cindy. The memory of those gestures will hold comfort as time passes. Many blessings to your sister and you.

  5. Colleen says:

    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!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Colly, and thanks for your constant support through all this xxx

      1. Colleen says:

        Always always here for you. You know that. Love you xx

      2. theonlycin says:

        I DO know that and you know just how much I love and appreciate you xxx

  6. homemadeheaven says:

    Thank you for this. Your pain is my pain. God bless and comfort you in every way you need.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Rosemary, God bless you too xxx

  7. Sparkle says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks my dear Sparky xxx

  8. Sam Woulidge says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. You write so beautifully about all things, Cindy, even the sadness. May you find some comfort in words, both your own and those of others.

  9. adima1 says:

    You always write so beautifully. Love you and praying for you.

  10. Ruth2Day says:

    so sorry to hear this, thinking of you

  11. Erica Liebenberg says:

    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

  12. Oh Cindy, what a bittersweet tribute to your brother. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you must be going through, but I will pray for you. Love you lots xxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Love you too, sweetest girl xxx

  13. Arkenaten says:

    My sincerest condolences, Cin.

  14. dearrosie says:

    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.

  15. Mbini says:

    May your family heal and get comfort from God Cindy. I love how you loved each other. Be a precious aunt you’ve always been.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I will try my best, Mbini xxx

  16. 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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Beautifully said, thanks my Jan Jan xxx

  17. Sue Green says:

    I feel and understand your pain, losing a sibling is like losing a part of your childhood. My sincere sympathy to the whole family.

  18. nrhatch says:

    How sad. It is hard to say good-bye.


    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Nancy. Namaste xxx

  19. 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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      It is a sad and terrible waste, Cindy. Thank you xxx

  20. suzicate says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, Suzicate, I trust that the pain will lessen and I’m lucky to have so many good memories xxx

  21. slpmartin says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your brother and celebration of the times you spent together…peace be with you.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank Charlie, peace to you too xxx

  22. Oh Cindy I am so very sorry for your loss. I don’t think I have ever read anything more beautifully written. Hugs to you.

  23. 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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you so much, Kate xxx

  24. Dee says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      He was gorgeous inside and out, Dee. Thanks for your comment xxx

  25. tarnishedone says:

    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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Sorry about your husband, tarnishedone. Prayers with you too xxx

  26. bandsmoke says:

    Sincerest condolences to you and your family Cin – such a loving tribute. Having recently lost my mom, it resonates hugely with me xx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, bandsmoke, and my sympathy on the loss of your mom xxx

  27. footsy2 says:

    Sympathy to you Cin. Rest assured he is in a happy place.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I believe he is. Thanks Footsy xxx

  28. granny1947 says:

    My heart breaks for you Cindy.
    Love you lots.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Kath, love you MORE!!!

  29. Liane says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss 😦 (You’ve captured your memories so beautifully, though.)

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Liane. Long time no see xxx

  30. nickczardas says:

    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.

  31. Cindy, I cannot comprehend the pain and sorrow you must be enduring. Sending you a love filled healing hug.
    🙂 Mandy xoxoxo

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you Mandy xoxo

  32. I’m so sorry for your lost Cindy,
    i guess he would be always be alive within your sweet memories…
    God bless him and you all the way through!

  33. Zirkie says:

    I am so sorry, Cins! I don’t really know what to say?! Hugs.

  34. beeblu says:

    So very sad, Cin. I am sorry. 😦

  35. I’m so sorry for your loss, Cindy. Our deepest condolences.. xxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, Celia xxx

  36. Tammy says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Beautiful comment, thank you so much Tammy xxx

  37. 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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, Tandy xxx

  38. Anne Lene says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, losing a family member and one so young as well, is heartbreaking. Just remember he will always be with you in your heart.

  39. nrhatch says:

    Hey Cin!

    Hope you are doing OK. When you’re quiet, I always wonder what you’re up to. 😕

    1. theonlycin says:

      Just getting on with life quietly, Nancy. Hope to blog more frequently in the new year. Thanks for checking in xxx

  40. Sparkle says:

    Happy Holidays Ms Cin

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks my darling Sparky, same to you xxx

  41. footsy2 says:

    Wishing you everything of the very best for 2015 and hoping to see more of you this year 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Footsy, I hope to blog more frequently once I’m firmly in the swing of 2015. Best wishes to you too xxx

  42. nrhatch says:

    Hope you had a good birthday yesterday!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Nancy, I did have a lovely day xxx

  43. sonsothunder says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, cindy. I do pray you’ll have a great year in 2015.
    Bless you

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you so much Paul xxx

  44. 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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, AD, hugs back at you xxx

  45. 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

    1. theonlycin says:

      My condolences, Gabrielle xxx

  46. flimflamflik says:

    “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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s