A Letter That Was Written Too Late

To the one,

Who became my little brother,

Today, you’d have turned 17, and might have been starting Sixth Form, or A-Levels, this September. I wonder what subjects you might have opted for. You and your brothers were always into Maths and Science, so maybe you would have chosen A-Level Maths and Further Maths, or just Maths, Physics, and Chemistry. Or, maybe you’d have switched to Arts and Business-related subjects by now. You were good at Maths in school, I remember clearly. You’d get lots of appreciation certificates from school for your good behaviour, for your class work and homework, and other school activities. Everybody loved you at school, from what I have gathered; they all thought of you a wonderful, a most loving and caring boy. I wonder which college you would have gone to: Bishop Douglas school/college near the East Finchley tube station, or the Mill Hill School just a bus ride away from your home. Or, would it have been that college somewhere near the North Finchley area where your brother applied?

It is your birthday today, but you can’t read this letter.

I can’t see you, ever, except in photographs of us together, and those of you alone. Maybe you can see me, maybe you can’t. I have no way knowing.

You’re gone…to a faraway place…a place where we, the living, can’t follow you before our time.

I don’t grudge you your demise. It was better for you to leave us than live a substandard life, a life where you may or may not have been able to run, walk, play with other boys your age; most of all, not be able to spend time with your best friend doing the typical stuff boys your age would do with their friends. It was better this way, and knowing so made me a little bit stronger in dealing with your loss.

I also knew you were in terrible pain, something that most of us couldn’t even begin to fathom. Your death was your release, and it’s okay. We all understood. And let me just say this: I admire you for your courage in fighting your battles with brain tumour. I truly do.

But I do grudge some things: My own regrets.

I regret the fact that I could never be good elder sister to you. Yes, I could say I was going through a bad phase, that I couldn’t be bothered with a youngster all the time. But that’s no excuse at all, especially when I knew how much you loved and esteemed me. I understood that myself; I’d heard your mother and everybody else in your family had told me that. Even when you left us, your uncle told my mother that a few days before he came to Pakistan, everyone teased you about the fact that you will never have anyone call you ‘Mama’*. You had retorted that my children would. And you know what? They really will. My children will know you and they will know you as their Mama. I promise you that.

I regret that I never cherished you enough while you were here. I now wish I had. You were and will always be the little brother I never had. I’d never thought about having a brother; I had never felt like I needed a brother in my life, younger or elder to me. But, you made me realise that having a brother like you was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

But do you know what I regret the most? It’s never telling you that I loved you. Since your passing, I have thought about this so many times that I have lost count by now. It’s been a little over two years, too. But hear it, remember it, feel it—because I know you are a part of me and you can feel what I feel—know that I have loved you deeply and always will, unconditionally.

Your passing taught me to cherish the people around me, especially my family and those few friends that have always made their way back into my life in one way or the other. Thank you, my Medium One, for teaching me this! I can’t believe I had forgotten such a vital life lesson.

I’m gradually becoming a better sister, a better friend now; I try hard to be a better daughter; basically, a better person, overall.

But now, as I watch myself grow as a person, I sometimes feel guilty about depriving you of the person I have now become, of the sister and friend that I have become now, of not being there for you when you needed me the most. I am so, so, so sorry, little brother. I truly am.

I love you, okay? I really do, and I miss you. I miss the fact that we will never hug again. It fills me with regret about not lingering in your hugs, not hugging you closer because for some reason I never thought you’d go away so soon—that there will always be another chance to rectify this; that there would be a tomorrow when things would be different. I just didn’t want to believe that you could leave me so soon. But you did, eventually, and I understand why, too.

Yet, that doesn’t make it any better for me because I still regret everything I never did for you. My regrets aren’t going anywhere for a very long time, because they have come to define me, in many ways. They have made me the person I am today.

I hope you are having a great birthday party up there in the heavens, little brother.

Rest in peace, my Medium One, I love you.

*Mama – A word used to address one’s maternal uncle in the Sindhi language, which originated from the province of Sindh in Pakistan. In several other languages, especially English and French, the word is used to address one’s mother.

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