As promised last time, I have indeed written a blog about bridges. It’s a chirpy but methodical analysis of the task in hand. It breaks down the bridges into phases that I can tick off one-by-one. It also characterises the river as a spiteful child, in a humorous yet affectionate tone. I think you will enjoy it.
But I’m not going to post that today. That would not be an authentic representation of how I am feeling.
Because today is the two-year anniversary of the death of my wee brother Scott.
Scott died at about 1.20 a.m. on 9 May 2018. I know this because I watched the CCTV of him leaving the Dakota Hotel in South Queensferry at 1.05 and then separate footage of an unidentifiable, but familiar, figure walking onto the south side of the Forth Road Bridge at 1.15. There was no footage of this figure walking off the bridge.
Scott was found by a kayaker on the banks of the Forth at 7.30 p.m. the following day and pronounced dead at 8.05 p.m. on the 10th of May. The police notified us shortly thereafter and we identified his body the next morning.
These are the facts. I take comfort in facts – numbers, dates, places. But they only tell part of the story.
My feelings of grief for Scott have three distinct flavours. Let’s call them past, present and future.
The “past” is the collection of real actual memories I have of Scott, from our childhood together right up to the days of early May 2018, when we exchanged messages about topics as diverse as the cost of a pint of beer, hemorrhoids (his), and checking if he’d called Mum recently.
These are happy memories in the main. I loved my brother very much and I had lots of joyful and fun times with him. I was, and still am, incredibly proud of the person he turned out to be and the things he went on to achieve.
I am grateful that this “past” grief is the predominant one inside my head most of the time.
What I call “present” grief is the grief that I only really feel about this time of year, when I recall in minute and vivid detail the events of early May 2018.
I am occasionally brought back to this time at other points in the calendar – whenever I drive across the new Forth Road Bridge, for example, or past the city morgue in the Cowgate. But really this is an annual feeling that passes with time.
As well as the actual memories of those days, I also speculate about how Scott spent his last couple of days. We know from his credit card receipts that he bought a chocolate and caramel cheesecake from Tesco at about 7.15 p.m. on the 8th of May. I picture him enjoying that amid the unbearable torment he must have been feeling at the time. I try not to go too much deeper into how he would have been feeling that night. It’s not a helpful or healthy place for my mind to be.
Then there is the “future” grief, for the parts of Scott’s life that would have happened but didn’t. This is the most acutely painful aspect of the grief for me. My three kids remember him as their beloved Uncle Scott. And he has a new niece that didn’t get the chance to meet him. This really is the aspect that I find most tragic – the lost time with him for the next generation of his family.
He was a classic fun Uncle to my kids. He was a bit of a shambles generally, so his was not the first number on the babysitting list. But there is no doubt at all that he loved them dearly and they absolutely adored spending time with him.
But I am so grateful that they (and all of us) have his songs, drawings and words to remember him by. What a legacy, what an amazing contribution to the world from a single life.
One of the ways I try to manage this “future” grief is through my work for the charity that we set up in his name. I can’t write new Frightened Rabbit songs or do new Owl John drawings, but I can take his words and the way he lived his life and try to carry that on in some way.
But most of all, I can fulfil the promise that I made to him when I saw him for the last time on the 11th of May.
I thanked him for the life he had led and the example he had set to the world. And I told him then that I would not waste another second of my life.
I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. It just sort of came out amidst the howling sobs in that dark, red-curtained room. But now I understand it. I think if he could have wished one thing for us, it would be for us to enjoy every moment AS IT HAPPENS. Don’t fixate on what has happened, what should happen or what might happen. Be exactly where you are now and be grateful for whatever that moment brings.
I don’t always manage it Scott, I’ve wasted many seconds since I made that promise to you and I’ll waste many more. But I’ll keep trying man.
Miss you bro. Lots of love, Nx.