Monday, June 16, 2014

Ian, Part II

I met Ian's dad, Peter, when I was still a reporter/columnist for a local newspaper. Sent to cover the story of two Berkshire photographers, one from Pittsfield, MA and one from the UK who'd teamed up to have a show of their photographs, I shook hands with both of them, but looking at Peter was a bit of a shock. I was sure I knew him from somewhere. Subsequent conversation and questioning uncovered not a single connection so we half-jokingly settled on the assumption that we'd known each other on a different plane of existence.

A year or so later, when I traveled to England with a friend for an extended stay with Peter and his partner, Jane (with whom I experienced that same shock of recognition), I met Ian and his sister Jeni. They were delightful teenagers, funny, engaging, intent on learning to speak with an American accent and laughing hysterically at my attempts to speak like a Brit.

We all kept in touch after that visit. Ian and Jeni and I exchanged emails or talked on Skype and a year or so after my visit to them, they all came to spend some time with me. We laughed and ate and traveled about seeing the sights and talked and talked and talked. After they flew back across the pond we renewed our long-distance conversations. Some months before Ian's death, we - he, Jeni, and I - had a delightful Skype session in which they both promised to come back to the States to visit with me.

Then a few weeks ago, came the devastating news. I've spoken at length to Peter and Jane and Jeni. Because I could not attend the funeral they graciously agreed to share their parts in the service with me. Herewith are Peter and Jeni's tributes to their darling son and brother.

Peter Bryenton

A shooting star burns briefly bright. Although the arc of Ian’s life was cut short, it traced a path full of successes. There were academic achievements in abundance. Plenty of professional accomplishments. Loads of really good fun with friends and family. Thoughtfulness, caring, loving and loyalty in spades. Satisfying, rewarding performances in musical and theatrical companies. Ian constantly entertained all those who knew him with his quick and ready wit. He radiated a ridiculously comical sense of humour. Therefore how very surprising it is that Ian always saw himself as a failure, while we applauded his success.

Structure was crucial to Ian’s happiness. He flourished wherever and whenever he could employ his great attention to detail. He set tough targets for himself, then met them. His built-in perfectionism drove him to become a high achiever, but it was also to become a self-generated source of acute stress.

For all his extrovert appearance, Ian was very secretive. He was a really complicated person. He was often troubled. Somehow, sadly, he never seemed to be able to love himself, in spite of being so very much loved by so very many others. Sometimes his lightning-sharp sarcasm could be devastating. Which was, of course, merely a cover for his deep insecurity.

There is an Ian-shaped hole in my heart as I write this tribute. In his final letter to everyone, which he had, thankfully, most carefully and thoughtfully constructed, Ian explained with crystal clarity that he did not want to die, but that he found living with his fears, depression and OCD too painful. In the end he felt that he had no option left but to give himself a permanent peace.

The challenge which Ian’s death has set us all is deceptively simple. It is that we must all now find our own ways to go on living without him. It is my sincere hope that our wonderful memories of him when he was at the very top of his game will remain sharply focussed, while those memories of his behaviour when he was so chronically mentally ill will eventually become an irrelevant blur.

My darling brother,

No words can even come close to expressing how heavy my heart is as I stand and do this speech.

Being your little sister has been one huge honour, and a consistent joy in my life, which I will always treasure deep inside my heart. I really hit jackpot having you as my brother. I couldn't have asked for a more amazing brother to look up to. You were always so funny, witty, amazingly intelligent, warm and caring. 

You have always been there for me, in my good times, and in times of need, constantly looking over my shoulder from afar, in your own thoughtful, non-aggressive way. You have always supported me in everything I do, and for that I want to thank you.

You have always been present at my birthdays, leaving do's, finding time to visit me when I returned home on holidays from South Africa, and coming early in the morning last year to Heathrow to collect me from the airport for my new life back in England. You even made the effort to venture out on a holiday to Spain whilst I was living out there all those years ago. These are just a few snippets of a long, lasting list of endless memories I have of you.

Ian, I have one last promise I want to tell you. my promise is that a day will not go by that I won't think of you, or speak fondly about you to family and friends. I will miss you endlessly, until the day we meet again.

I hope that being your little sister has made you proud. As my big brother, I am tremendously proud of you, and always will be. You have touched so many peoples lives, even when you have been terribly ill and tormented by those vicious demons, you still found the time, love and strength to help others in their time of need. You were such a lovely, kind, gentle soul, and we are all thankful to have had you in our lives.

Thank you for loving me, and teaching me the ways of the world, but mostly, thank you for being you.

Sleep tight in your new, happy place of rest. I hope that the sun's rays shine onto your beautiful face and soul, each and everyday for an entire eternity.

i love you always and forever,

Your baby sister, Jen


Brian Miller said...

hard to even fathom losing a is devastating...fitting words though...

Out on the prairie said...

When one leaves this world they forget what is left behind for their decision.

PhilipH said...

Sincere and heartfelt words. Sadness melds with happiness when we speak and write about those we loved so much, so deeply.

Wisewebwoman said...

I have known many who left this world feeling not quite up to it, feeling unloved and alone.

I share your grief.



Judith said...

How complicated people are, minds are, hearts are. Life is.
Sad, the loss. But obviously much joy in the living alongside the demons.