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My younger brother died tragically five years ago this coming November. His death changed the face of my world, and that of many others, forever.

Not. a. day. goes. by.

It’s especially when the sun is shining in a beautiful place where I happen to be, on a day when I have felt the greatest sense of achievement at work, when a song I love is reaching me and making me smile, that I feel his presence.

The beauty and achievement collides with this presence and then the sense of absence comes, keenly and sharply.

I have learnt to live with these moments. I have learnt to learn from them. But still they catch me, not unlike the moment when I found out about his death. The stillest moment of absence against a day of pure sunlight and the greenest of trees. Me sitting there unable to move, still trying to take it in. After all this time, I have learnt that you really never fully can take it in; you just keep trying.

Reflecting on this has made me search for the poem that came resonating back in recent days, the quintessential poem that equates such joy and sorrow, such beauty and pain. It is John Keat’s ‘Ode on Melancholy‘ and it captures the feeling of where the saddest feelings so closely align with joy and beauty, as if the extreme counterpoint brings the other into play.

So it is for me: sometimes I go deeper into the sadness as below, feeling it or thinking about what it means; other times, I celebrate the beauty I am experiencing, my achievements or  happiness and think of how it relates to my brother, our family, our achievements and our happiness over the years before all the pain and that makes me smile.

That you couldn’t feel the possible beauty

of this sunlit day, beside the harbour,
by the edge of the aquarium,
the sails of yachts lashed with gold
like the promise of the treasure,
of another day, buried, while
the lean bodies of dark fish move past.

That you couldn’t feel the possible beauty
that night, of a small shard of hope,
a tendril of smooth glass to hold
to cut through past midnight,
to something like the chance
to hear again a song you loved.

That you couldn’t feel the possible beauty
of the ordinary flags of another day,
rainbows littered around,
scraps of coloured paper you could
write a life on, strung together
to harmonise the way.

That you couldn’t feel the possible beauty
of this very ordinary day now
finds me sitting by the harbour
as I bathe in the brightest warmth of light:
your absence shouting from the sparkling seas
and speaking from each body fleeting past.