It has been the strangest of Christmases. My brother Andrew, who had a disrupted life and was never at peace, is at peace now. He died suddenly of choking, followed by cardiac arrest, on December 23.
He is in a much better place. This is not to say that the Coventry care home where has been for nearly ten years was a bad place: on the contrary, it was excellent, and the staff were lovely – distraught when he died at the age of 74.
Over the years Andrew has been in many different places, some better than others. He was a “miracle” baby – the first to survive an after-birth operation to correct obstructions in the lower abdomen. But as a result he had many other difficulties – repeated bilious attacks as a child, general fearfulness and other mental and emotional problems. He was hard to live with. He undoubtedly found us had to live with.
He went to school and even had jobs for a while, but we believe he was assaulted on a couple of occasions. Our father had died when he was seven, and eventually he was too much for my mother to handle, and in his late teens he went to live with a psychologist friend in Coventry.
He has been in Coventry ever since. When the friend died, in the early 1990s, he moved into a series of different situations. He tried living in sheltered housing, but called the emergency service so often that he had to move to where he could be looked after.
He had several encounters with the police, involving behaviour dangerous to himself or others. There was no intent: he simply did not make connections. On one occasion he was brought home after being found cycling on a motorway.
He said he wanted to remain in Coventry after our mother died in 1994; so he did. Together with our other brother, Phil, I visited him quite often, and he stayed with us in Norwich on many occasions. I think he enjoyed this: it was quite hard to tell.
I took him on holiday once, to Northumberland, but this was so out of his routine that he could not cope. I had to take him home halfway through, which left me with three days alone in Northumberland. It was May, and unseasonably warm.
He has had several severe physical and mental relapses which landed him in hospital, either in Coventry or Warwick. Coming to Norwich gradually became impossible, though the care he received at Minster Lodge in Coventry stabilised him for a longish period up to his death.
In his happier moments he loved walking, watching construction workers and, for quite a long time, cycling. He believed in God, despite what some may consider a very raw deal in life. He was good-looking and had an infectious smile, as well as a genuine sense of humour. With some exceptions, he liked people. He was not stupid, but he forgot a lot.
We won’t forget him.