I was with Sam in the ICU.  I don't know what time it was, it was always dark in there, but he started mouthing something.  He couldn't talk at the time, and I couldn't understand, and I watched him try again and again to make himself clear and then start crying.  I just felt so hopeless.  It turns out he was just desperately thirsty and wanted water.

My overriding memory of that time is of feeling powerless.  My brother was in pain and there was nothing I could do.  And my parents were in pain, and there was nothing I could do.  Never have I wanted to do so much to help.

That first month was miserable.  I gave up doing the things I enjoyed because if Sam was in pain, how could I justify enjoying myself?  And anyway, how could I go off and play rugby, when to do so would only remind Sam that that was something that he couldn't do anymore.  I'd be in the middle of class, and just burst into tears, but when friends tried to talk to me I'd tell them I was fine; it wouldn't be right to tell people I was struggling, because what was my struggle compared to Sam's?  And I tried to hide my tears from my parents, pretended I was fine, because in a twisted way I thought that was what they needed and that I was helping.  It was exhausting.

I'd been deliberately making myself miserable

At some point, I just felt like I needed to hit something so I went back to rugby.  I dreaded telling Sam but he made it very clear that of course my playing rugby wasn't going to make him feel worse.  And he helped me realise that because I'd been deliberately making myself miserable, I was miserable company.  Sam's life had been thrown up in the air and changed.  But he wanted to know that not everything had changed.  I came to see that my role was being myself, being his brother, proving that life is the same and carries on.  I wish someone early on had made me understand that Sam was still the same dry-witted, intelligent, caring, aggravating older brother he always was.  Perhaps it was something that he needed to know too.  And by being happy, not being exhausted and miserable, by being myself, I was doing good for both of us.  That doesn't mean that the pain goes away, and I'd get times when the venom would rise up again, that deep guilt when I was off doing something that Sam can no longer do.  Even now, I get those twinges of sadness in my centre when I see photos of Sam kicking a ball or of us out climbing - you have to recognise that those gut reactions aren't always right, realise that there's a difference between head and heart.

As the older brother, Sam had forbidden me from getting married - he said it would make him feel really old.  But when I got engaged, I knew that there was no one I'd want up there at the front with me but him.  When I asked him to be my best man, his reaction was typically, 'Oh no, I've been dreading this' but I know secretly that he's really happy to be asked.  He'd never let me know that, of course, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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