My brother Steve recently passed away suddenly after a short illness. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Losing a loved one is bad enough, but not being able to attend the funeral and be part of a grieving process firsthand leaves me feeling completely empty, and experienci­ng another layer of isolation. I’ve had enough of COVID-19 restrictio­ns. I am sure, readers, that some of you have had the same experience over the past year.

Grief is all-consuming. A feeling that is so raw, I just can’t seem to shake it off and it fluctuates from making me feel incredibly sad – so much so that there are feelings of absolute despair – through to anger, disbelief and an immense feeling of loss and loneliness. It’s like trying to catch your breath but you just can’t seem to.

Since being phoned with this sad news, life has not felt the same. A huge weight of sadness is with me. I find I drift off, staring into space and thinking about what has happened. I cry a lot and sometimes when I least expect it. Time seems to continue on, but everyday routine has just slowed, and regular tasks and jobs for the moment don’t seem very important.

Losing a sibling feels very different to losing both my parents. There is a feeling of being robbed of a life cut too short, with future plans and dreams never being realised. When someone you love dies suddenly, you are left with just this absolute shock and disbelief.

Steve was a good man. He would hate that I am writing about him as he was a private man. A loving husband and father, brother, uncle, great-uncle, godfather and friend. He loved sport and fishing, and his world revolved around that and his love for his family. He had a great sense of humour and was always there at any family event, sitting back enjoying it all. There was a strength in knowing that he was there.

That quiet strength of character, a man who’d chat and talk to the kids and teenagers, he also gravitated to the new babies in the family. Steve was a kind soul and any family gathering would see him sitting back, watching what was going on, loving being part of it all and observing. In his own way he would navigate all the noise and carry-on that any family gathering generated when coming together.

Steve’s death notice said: “Beloved husband and soulmate and adored dad”. That he certainly was. As we try and resolve what has happened and regroup our lives, it is Steve’s wife and daughters that I constantly return to in my thinking. We must and will always be there for them. Things will be different, not having Steve with us. In coming together as a family I have realised that it is out of both love and respect for my brother and for his family that he would not want us to be sad. He was never someone to sit around and feel sorry for himself. I tell myself this and know that to be true, but it’s difficult as I still imagine him to be at those family events and in his lounge when we call in.

There has been an enormous outpouring of love, support, flowers and cards from his workplace as they received the devastatin­g news. It’s strange having complete strangers talk about your brother you have known all your life in such glowing terms. In some ways, I have learnt even more about my brother and what he was like away from the family structure. He was kind, fun and looked out for people, never making a fuss and got on with the job at hand. I, too, experience­d all that but to have people reference that makes me proud to call Steve my brother.

Steve attended the last MiNDFOOD event we had, sitting at the bar having dinner with his wife and family, watching and apparently loving everything that was going on around him that night. He could see the food being made in the kitchen, the notes and discussion around what wine was being served; he had a good night and enjoyed it all. Although I wasn’t able to be there, I have seen photos. In them, I see him smiling, sitting alongside his wife and family.

It is those moments I want to remember. In retelling stories of him and keeping the memory of Steve alive, he somehow is still with us.

So what now? I guess we focus on what’s important in life, and spend time doing the things we love doing the most. One thing is clear, we must not waste a single minute in life; it’s too precious to just let slip by. And always, always tell those you love the most that you love them. Love you, Stevie.

Michael McHugh

Editor-in-chief michael@mindfood.com Instagram@mindfoodmi­ke

 ??  ?? With my brothers, from left: Peter, me, Greg, Steve and Andrew.
With my brothers, from left: Peter, me, Greg, Steve and Andrew.

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