This is a true story of the pain within when losing a loved one
I was just turning 29 when the unthinkable happened........
I had just started the night shift at work when my mum phoned me with the news that knocked me for six. My brother, Sean, had just died!
The shock of what she told me stunned me and i refused to believe it. My brother, the rock in my life, the man I turned to when things got too bad, had suffered a heart attack at the wheel of his lorry and died later in hospital. My world dissolved around me and it felt like i couldnt breath. I couldnt believe that the christmas we had just spent together as a family was the last we would ever have.
With the emotion flooding my system, I had no choice but to close the pub early. We wasn't busy anyway so a couple of hours early would not have mattered any. As i closed the main doors, i broke down and wept.
Sean, to me, was more than a brother. He was a friend. One that could not be replaced easily. I guess you could have called him my hero when i was growing up. Everytime i got into a scrape at school, he was the one who would sort it. I never really appreciated it at the time, but he did it to stop me making the same mistakes that he had done at school.
As a kid I lived in Nottingham. A small area just outside of the city centre called Bestwood. A rough area that had its fair share of trouble yet my mum always stated that we lived in "the quiet part". If you could call cars being burned out on a regular basis quiet, then yeah we did. Anywhere was better in my eyes but home was home.
I didn't really know Sean all that well as a small child. It wasn't until i was around 13 that we really met properly. He was living at the time with his then girlfriend and her son in Top Valley. Relations between them varied from day to day but till the last time i saw him, he always said that her son was his, even though he wasn't. That was the kind of guy he was. Always prepared to take on more than most. Thats what i liked about him. That sense of right and wrong.
My first real memory of Sean as a teenager was when he invited me to come away with him for the weekend. Hell, if his hands had been made of food I would've bitten them off! A weekend away from the "hellhole" that was Bestwood. The smile on my face spoke volumes about what my answer would be. YES!!!!
That weekend was one of the best of my youth. We travelled most of the country in his van delivering furniture for a company called Stagg. I didnt care what we were doing. I was with my brother. Thats what mattered most to me.
We slept in the cab of his van every night we were away and he gave me my first taste of alcohol. I know, hard to believe right? But I was a good boy till then!! Honest!!
When we got back on the Sunday, I felt dejected that we had to come back after having so much fun but it wasnt just that weekend. It became a regular thing with us. "Brothertime" as we came to call it.
What I must do now is tell you all a bit about my brother Sean.
Sean didnt live with us. He was quite a bit older than me and had his own life. For months, maybe years we wouldnt hear from him then BOOM! Out of the blue, a phone call, a knock on the door and there he would be. Larger than life.
Sean was a bit of a lothario. By that I mean he had been around a bit sowing his wild oats. He had more ex partners in the uk than I could count on both hands and both feet. Please, dont think of him as a bit of a male tart. Its just that he could never commit at the time. but we loved him none the less.
He wasnt my full brother. We shared the same mother but had different fathers but i guess the connection we had, people would never have realised or believed it if we told them. We were that close it was scary!
Like I said earlier, he got about a bit and would be gone for ages. Sometimes when he came back, we would pick up where we left off. Other times he was like a different person. So angry with the world.
When he was like that both me and my mum just left him to sort it out in his own time. She felt like it was for the best.
Sean was the type of person who could get on with practically anyone. Even people he hated, he would make an effort to be amicable towards them. I never in all the time we travelled together and worked together saw him get into a fight. We all knew he did, its just he never fought in front of me and my mum.
Sean finally calmed down within himself and settled down with a lovely lady in Ingoldmells called Sarah. She had kids that he loved and adored as much as he did towards his own and trust me on this, family meant a lot to him.
Going to jump a few years now because when I was around 15 or 16 Sean did his usual disappearing act and I didnt see him again until I was around 23.
Here I am aged 24 and my marriage was stumbling along erractically. I had phoned my mother and she told me my brother was coming around to see her. Without hesitation, I was around there like a bullet from a gun. My brother was back in town.
That night at mum's, me and my brother cleared the air between us. I had not invited him to the wedding as i was not talking to either of my sisters and i didnt want it getting back to them via any means. I knew that Sean would not have said anything to them but at the time he was angry with them for not communicating with my mum.
We talked until the sun rose the next day, by which time I had over a dozen missed calls on my phone from my wifes uncle. Me and him did not see eye to eye on anything including his neice, my wife. I have never seen Sean so angry when I told him about what her uncle had done to me. It took all our strength to hold him back and not to go looking for him. I knew if he did then Sean would have been banged up in prison and he had a life to live.
We said our goodbyes and left it at that. I felt happy inside that finally me and my brother had resolved our issues. It felt good but the advise he gave me concerning my marriage didnt change it. We ended up divorcing some years later.
Fast forward to 2007. Christmas.
I had just taken on a new pub in Nottingham, The Willoughby Arms in Wollaton. Things were good for me. I had a new partner and a new career. One that I was good at.
I was just getting ready to open the doors for trade when my phone rang. I didnt recognise the number and after recieving threats before from my ex wifes family I was very tentative about answering it. When I did the first thing I heard was someone asking me if my name was Neil? Alarm bells started ringing but were soon replaced by jubilation when the person introduced themselves
"Its your brother you tart!" he said.
I had never felt so happy to hear from him after so many years but then he scared me again.
"We've got a problem with Mother!"
What could be the problem I wondered. Surely if anything had happened I would have known.
"The problem we have is that Mum is on her own this year. What we going to do about it?"
To me there was only one option available. Invite them all over to the pub for christmas.