Kevin’s Story by Michele Wilson

Kevin WilsonMichele Wilson
I was 21 when my brother died. A few months before I remember telling friends how fantastic life was. We had no idea that Kevin’s life was about to end. I was in bed the morning of 20th September 2006, when Dad rang saying Kevin wasn’t well and in hospital. He told me to get ready quickly as Nan and Grandad were on their way to me in a taxi. They didn’t say a word the whole journey to the hospital. Mum was standing outside with a Priest when we arrived and cried “Michele, Kevin died”. I screamed and fell into her arms. They took me to see him and he looked so dead. Not peaceful like they appear in the movies, but his body in spasm, presumably from shocking his heart countless times in hope of revival; his mouth was open like he was gasping for air and he had a cut on his face from when he had fallen to the ground.
We learnt that the cut indicated Kevin had died before he hit the floor, as he hadn’t tried to break his fall. I lay on Kevin’s chest in shock in the hospital bed whilst family and friends circled around us both, holding hands as the Priest read his ‘last rights’. Mum and Dad looked as numb as I felt. Their healthy, happy 23 year old son had died at work, mid-conversation, whilst sitting at his desk. On what planet does that make sense? How is this real? Outside afterwards I overheard the Priest telling Mum to focus on the blessing of her daughter, and thought: that’s me – I’m all they have left!
In the week before the funeral the house was full of people, bringing food, flowers and cards. It was weird. I remember not feeling sad at all. The three of us read each card together every night, and it gave Mum and Dad an enormous amount of pride thinking of the amazing young man they had brought up and the outstanding job they had done as parents! We had always been as close as a family can be, and that didn’t change the day Kevin died, as I was included in every decision made about donating Kevin’s organs, the funeral details and what would be done with his ashes. Mum and Dad have never ever made me feel as though they lost more than I did – we all lost Kevin.
Two days before Kevin’s funeral, his body came home – that was the day it hit me. He didn’t look like my brother – his body was swollen and grey and I could see under his eyelashes that Kevin’s beautiful blue eyes were gone. We were meant to be watching the final episode of that year’s ‘Lost’ series together the following night. We had planned a ‘Lost’ night in with pizza and goodies. How was he going to watch it without his eyes?! The three of us said goodbye to Kevin privately the morning of the funeral. I remember being really scared of how he looked. A dead body is a frightening thing, and I was 21 years old, looking at my 23 year old brother. The church was so full they couldn’t all fit inside and the adjoining parish hall had to be opened. I spoke because it was a chance to tell everyone how much Kevin meant to me, how fantastic a big brother he was, that he was my best friend. I swore I would live my life for the both of us and make him proud of me every single day.

Friends who had come to support me at the funeral didn’t have a clue what to say as none of us had ever lost anyone younger than a grandparent before. I had never felt so alone. Where was my brother? Where was my best friend? I wanted to talk to Kevin – he would understand how I was feeling. I didn’t want to be at my brother’s funeral. I wanted to go back home where we could pretend this wasn’t happening.

At the Inquest we sat together and learnt my 23 year old brother had died of ‘natural causes’. Not having a reason for Kevin’s death made it hard to accept. How can someone so seemingly fit and healthy just die sitting down? This thought haunted me. I was so afraid that Mum and Dad would die without notice. What would I do? What if I died? What would happen to Mum and Dad? They wouldn’t be able to cope. What would happen to me? What if there isn’t an afterlife? I was absolutely terrified.

Two and a half years after Kevin had died I became totally consumed by these fears and every single night for about seven months, lay awake petrified that if I closed my eyes I wouldn’t wake up.

I felt I had no control over my life – It didn’t matter how healthy my lifestyle was, or how cautious I was when driving my car, because at any moment, without feeling the slightest bit unwell, I could just be sitting in a chair and my heart would decide to stop beating. It wasn’t irrational, because it had happened to Kevin! We are no longer a family whose bubble has been untouched: and suddenly the incredibly unlikely, is frighteningly possible.

Mum and Dad dedicated their lives to making their children’s lives the best they could be. Just as they were about to see their son prosper, he died, and a part of my parents died with him. The awful sound of their crying would wake me each morning and there was nothing I could do to take their pain away. It would have been so easy for them to give up on life, but they didn’t and I am so grateful for that.

I quickly learnt that the one thing that gave my parents happiness in this new version of life, was me. My happiness and plans for the future gave them hope. How can I be happy when Kevin has lost his life? He can’t go on the amazing holidays I have enjoyed and learn to ski or swim with dolphins. Kevin can’t meet the love of his life and get excited about their future together. Kevin has no future! I place an awful lot of guilt on myself for being the sibling who didn’t die! I feel an immense pressure to live my life for two people and to give my parents enough love for two children.

Relationships with friends changed after Kevin died… I changed when Kevin died. My friends were a fantastic support initially, but after about two years, stopped asking me how I was feeling. Those with boyfriend problems seemed to get more sympathy than I did; but then my friends could relate to that: they knew what that type of pain felt like. I couldn’t talk about it with Mum and Dad because they got upset and I couldn’t bear seeing my parents cry anymore… Maybe my friends couldn’t bear to see me cry anymore?

I’m not angry with them. I’m not sure I would have realised the intensity of bereavement before losing Kevin. Someone new in my life did understand the grief I was feeling; my now fiancé Andrew. Unfortunately he never met Kevin, but somehow, he just ‘got it’. He has never complained and is unbelievably patient and understanding… He has been there for me every step of the way, in every way possible and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He is my happiness and my hope for the future.

I wouldn’t change my life or the 21 years I had with my big brother Kevin for 80 years with someone else’s brother. The details of our childhood together and the memories we created are so precious. I love my brother so much, and miss him more than words can express.

I will continue to do as much as I can in life, because he can’t; and know one day we will meet again… but not yet, not yet.

Kevin Wilson Memorial Fund