Reflections On Sorry Business A Few Weeks On

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IMG_3210In the wake of my brother’s death, my good friend Gloria pressed me in a gentle way as only a good friend can to look towards my own welfare and that of my brother’s legacy by paying attention to ‘Sorry Business‘.

Most Australians have heard of sorry business, but few really have any understanding of what it means. Gloria’s gentle insistence was probably as close as I will ever come to Bruce Chatwin’s fascinating account of ‘walkabout’ in his book ‘The Songlines’.

I knew it was the right thing to do to continue the journey I was on at the time when my brother fell ill. In effect, as a family, we were forced to come to terms with the immediacy of death in circumstances outside of our own control when he was first diagnosed with leukaemia just after New Year’s Day two years ago.

Just over a month ago when my brother privately revealed to close family and friends that his reading of protein levels in his blood which apparently is the measure for recording the severity of leukaemia, I was again alerted to a question of time. He was disappointed in the news, but strong and fighting. A committed resolve which I admired in him, and which seemed so far from his bookish, gentle-nature. I was the warrior in the family, but here was my brother staring down death.

My brother was idiosyncratically stoic and pragmatic. This is more a reflection on how he approached the display of emotions, and so he and I had a funny language with which to express admiration and love between each other. His final words to me when he was admitted to hospital before the rest of us were acutely aware of what was to come were a reflection of that character: his pragmatic appraisal of the situation, he focus on the needs of others above himself, and perhaps mostly a compelling expression of admiration for what I was doing.

It was an admiration in as much as an acknowledgement that the two of us were different. I knew that. He knew that. We respected each others strengths as complementary to where each of us were ‘less gifted’.

And Gloria was right.

Trust your intuition cause whatever you do to respect his memory will be the right thing to do Matt. You will know what to do for sorry business 

I discussed my intuition with my family that I ought to continue this journey which I was embarked, the 10 City Bridge Run, rather than return for his funeral. My decision was not influenced by Gloria’s words, but she did help me to listen more intently to what I ought to do at that time. My family understood readily and agreed, as much as for my sake, as for honouring my brother’s legacy.

My sister read my eulogy at my brother’s funeral, and I still have to spend some time with her talking about that. It is not really a conversation I can do from the other side of the world. It can wait, but not for too long.

I was able to make some recordings on video and send them to my brother for him to hear before he died. I am thankful for that. My brother said he died knowing he was loved.

Just as the flowers in Martin Place have since been cleared away after the pre-Christmas Lindt Cafe siege, with a few photos around the subway entrance as a reminder, my grief has been aided by the opportunity to pursue this journey as a tribute to my brother. I am indebted to many friends for that opportunity. Your kindness is humbling. Thank you.

There is a lot more I could write, but it need not be mentioned here. Except to say that Gloria was right.

As we enter a New Year, read this as a lesson to look after your friends in the same way that Gloria looked after my welfare. Kindness is a currency that costs nothing, but has an unequalled dividend.

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