Hearing the song Jaya Govinda by Kula Shaker coming from the radio for the first time, I became quietly and overwhelmingly convinced that I had lost my mind in a spectacular though not unpleasant fashion. My brother’s name was Jia Govinda and I had recently returned from his memorial ceremony in Canada. I thought that my grief had tipped me over into auditory hallucinations, however it was just one of those strange karmic occurrences that life throws my way to trip me up on occasion.
He would have been 40 this year, and it seems impossible that he was killed 19 years ago because I still think about him all the time.
Jia shared with me some of the most momentous and life changing experiences (many of them in the monster’s house that we lived in for several years of our childhood), but I felt the burden was halved by the fact that they were shared. He was the only person who could qualify the significance and authenticity of these shared experiences. I thought the burden was halved but I don’t know what he thought about this because we didn’t talk about these experiences. Now I wish we had. I have learned from this, I know now I need to ask people how they feel, to not just assume. Back then, I lived so wrapped up in my own world, with so much going on in my mind, that there was not always room for other people’s feelings. This was one of the burdens of growing up with a disability that did not yet have a name but is now known as a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome.
The day I learned of Jia’s death was one that had begun with a a new life. I had helped a woman birth her baby for the first time and was ecstatic, riding high on the endorphin rush of this privileged, magical experience, only to come down with a huge crash when the phone rang at 10pm. I forgot about the miracle of birth, got seriously drunk on Laphroig trying to convince myself that it was all a horrible mistake and that I would soon be told Jia was alive and well. The next day I booked plane tickets to travel to Canada from England. The trip was hellish, the plane filled with young men who freakishly resembled my brother, I had to move seats a few times to escape the mind boggling experience. I arrived in Canada, exhausted from 26 hours travelling in a hollow limbo. This new reality was all wrong, for it did not include my brother.
My aunt collected me from the airport and we went directly to the funeral home where the rest of my family had gathered. I hadn’t seen my brother for six years and in that time he had grown from lanky teenager to young man. I spent considerable time in the funeral parlor approaching his body by increments, drawn by the size of his hands and determined to see them close up; to make that my final image of him. It took me a long time, perhaps an hour, maybe more, but my family and the man who ran the place waited. He had grown to understand the importance of grieving process though many years of close association with it and even though it was late at night, he had stayed open waiting for my plane to arrive.
I was devastated but comforted by the nearness of the strong females in my family. I was devastated but comforted by the nearness of the strong females in my family. I too share their inner strength and sheer determination to live life with joy when possible, and grim acceptance when the former is not an option. When we got back to my aunt’s we grieved by laughing at happy memories of times we had shared together, looking through hundreds of pictures, drinking champagne and playing scrabble to relax and soothe our grief sodden brains. I am blessed with a weird but wonderful family. My mom and aunt told a strange story that night. Mom had phoned her to break the devastating news and then after they said good bye to each other, they both tried to phone one of my aunts who lived in Eastern Canada. None of them have conference calling and yet they were all connected and able to speak to each other, at the same time! It wasn’t until they ended the call that the significance of what had just happened dawned on them…did my brother somehow have a hand in connecting the phone lines? We’ll never know.
The next day, 2 car loads of us drove to the spot where he was killed. The burgundy stain on the road was shockingly large; I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter…Jia didn’t need it anymore. That stain’s portrayal of violent death was in complete contrast with the luxuriant, copious and lush foliage that grew along the sides of the highway. The scent of Cedar wood from the sawmills always accompanies this memory as if trying to purify the impact of the image. I remember feeling saddened to note that there was a restaurant with a deck (just out of camera shot, to the right of the photo), facing the expanse of highway. Anyone who had been innocently sat there would have been unfortunate enough to observe the moment the huge hay truck hit and killed my brother while he was working as a surveyor on that section of road. I say unfortunate for them as that memory will surely disturb them forever as it will my brother’s colleague who was working with him that day. I also can accept that the truck driver will be scarred for life. It all seems such a waste, it will never bring my brother back so why should they have to be punished by their memories of a man they did not share a life with?
We spent the next morning putting together a memorial album, bringing it to life with our laughter, blessing it with our tears. We put the album on the top table with vases of Dahlia’s which were lavishly , abundantly in season along with some other important items for family and friends to look at and hold if they wished.
My cousins and I went through his belongings. Jia had turned 21 the year he died. I had remembered it was a significant birthday for him but I had not remembered to send a card. To my shame I saw he had kept every birthday card he got for that birthday, and there was a figurative black hole where mine should have been. In its place was every single letter I had ever written him. I began to cry when I saw that…my brother had just shown me how very much he loved me. I wish, that I had taken the time to tell him how very much I loved him, one last time before he had been killed. I still forget to send birthday cards sometimes but I make a point as often as possible, to tell everyone I love that I love them. Just in case…
Jia’s ashes are scattered here.
The next day my father phoned. This was a shock in itself as he shares my abhorrence of phones. He told me he was coming to get me and to take me to his for a couple of days. This was a second shock as my father is a bit of a recluse and my mother lived a good 8 hours round trip from his home. When I protested that my mother needed me, he responded with ‘You’ve still got two brothers who are very much alive and wanting to see you!’. I stopped protesting, he was right.
I spent a few restorative days wandering on my dad’s land, breathing in some peace and made sure to tell my brothers that I loved them: the two pictured here with N3S (yes they are twins) who are energetic, deep thinkers and full of life and Jia; still vibrant but shimmering with life elsewhere.