Life can be tough right? And it wasn't until January 2015 that I found out quite how tough it could be. As Baz Lurhmann once said: "The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday."
Well we were blindsided on an idle Sunday. The news came that my brother who lived in France was in hospital. As it began to unfold, we found out he was in a coma. The more detail we managed to get, the worse it was. It wasn't until my mum and I flew out early the next morning and arrived at the hospital, that we found out he was in intensive care.
We waited for what felt like forever for the staff to find someone who spoke good English (all schoolgirl French just left my head) and then the real news was delivered. Our beautiful Ben was dying. And there it was, the start of a journey that changed all of our lives forever.
Just over two weeks after my brother was admitted to hospital, he lost his battle and died, with mum and dad at his side. We all suddenly knew what it felt like to have our worlds ripped apart.
When dad had been diagnosed with cancer a couple of years previously, we thought that it was the worst of it, how little we knew back then.
Life changed irreversibly and we all dealt with our grief, and still do, in very different ways. Some people have a romanticised view of death, that it brings everyone together in love. I can tell you that any minor cracks that might've been present before suddenly become huge, gaping chasms. Luckily however, Ben's death did bring us closer together as a family, with the realisation that it shouldn't have taken the loss of someone so special to do so. A family of hugely different characters united eternally in a devastating event.
I had always been a bit obsessed with being a better person but namely because I felt I was never good enough to start with. But my fascination with self-improvement has taken a different turn with my big brother's death. I want to be better for him. For his death must not have been in vain. It must've happened to teach us all more about life. About living fully, beautifully, kindly, gratefully, passionately and in a way that makes sure we always let the people we care about know we love them.
Frustratingly, life didn't stop when Ben died. The world kept turning. People got on with their lives. But it was different normal for us. Life's continued to throw extra things at us all; in March this year I was made redundant from a job I loved and had been in for over four years. The support and love I received from across the organisation hit me harder than losing the job itself. I'd been defined by my career. It had been something consistent through a year of grief and suddenly it was gone.
But then I surprised myself. I realised it wasn't the worst that could happen. Yes it was rubbish. Really rubbish. But life went on and so did I.
We have an amazing capacity to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep going. Ben's death taught me to find a lesson in everything, to appreciate the beauty of the world around me just by opening my eyes and to love unconditionally. Even the a***holes that come into our lives are there to teach us something.
Love and be loved and don't let yourself get in the way of having a life.