The room had become a familiar place to be. It no longer frightened me. It became like his own little flat, he had everything he needed and loved within those four walls.
I’d knock before entering, always bracing myself in case I could spot changes in him that my parents or siblings hadn’t spotted on their earlier visits.
It was the 12th of March when the news came out about all schools closing the very next day due to the Coronavirus. “Must be serious enough so” he stated as I finished reading the emails from my children’s schools. “Aw sh1t “ I sighed, knowing this meant that my eldest son would more than likely not be able to attend his respite center. “Wonder will it last long” he spoke in a soft whisper, a voice which I was now becoming accustomed to. “I hope not”
We played on his computer, took a spin around the grounds and stopped off at the chapel before I left for home.
“See you soon” I gently kissed his forehead. He winced but smiled. Something else I was becoming accustomed too; his everlasting pain.
“Love you” he smiled
“Love you too” I blew a kiss from the door.
She stopped me as I was sterilising my hands.
“You know now with the virus, we are going to have to be stricter on visitors. There are so many of you” she smiled. I nodded, knowing she meant his whole family visiting all the time would probably have to reduce. There were nine of us altogether, so she did have a valid point.
“Will it last long, do you think?” I asked.
“No one knows” she rubbed my arm, “I hope not” she added.
I felt my eyes water. I swallowed hard. I opened my mouth when she smiled sadly at me and knew what I was about to ask.
“He has proved us wrong for the past 4 weeks, let’s just focus on how well he is doing now” she winked.
Ireland went pretty much into Lockdown over the following days.
I visited once more but with restrictions getting stricter and stricter, I decided it was best to ring, FaceTime and text him.
Saturday the 21st of March they rang and asked if all of us could come in as his time was near.
I stood outside fighting for breath before ever pushing the double doors through.
My parents and siblings along with his close friend were sitting around his bedside.
He was asleep.
He wasn’t in any pain.
We played music and told stories.
And we cried some more.
We held him and each other as my brother took his final breath in the early hours of March 22nd, Mother’s Day.
There was no traditional funeral, no wake, no stories told for the first time and no faces to put to the names we had heard so much about.
I've been to my brother's grave twice.
I've not sat with my family.
I've not grieved with my family, we are all apart and will be until this virus leaves our island.
The virus has snatched away the comfort of family and friends during such a devastating time yet; the virus has shown us that people are kind, considerate and that we are indeed a race that thrives on the human touch.
I implore you all to stay at home to protect us all and to let families like ours get together once more so we can say a proper goodbye to our wonderful, beautiful brother.