Jeremy died on September 13, 1993. He was 26 years of age; an older brother to me and my sister Kathryn. He was seven years older than me, and so was very much someone to look up to. When he died I felt that I’d lost a mentor in life – I think he would have been very flattered to think I saw him that way. He was warm and funny, and also very gifted at whatever he turned his hand to. He was never conceited about his gifts, but rather was winning in his tendency toward self-deprecation.
Jeremy was a pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force; there was a great deal of mystery surrounding the cause of the “peacetime” plane crash which killed both Jeremy and his air craft navigator, Mark Cairns-Cowan. That mystery just added to the grief our family experienced. Things always felt unresolved; although I think in bereavement, there is always a degree of a lack of resolution you grapple with.
It was difficult to see Mum and Dad so grief stricken, but on the other hand, it was very understandable too. They had lost their flesh and blood; what an awful trial to have to bear. Another difficulty was interacting with peers; life was just opening up for them and they did not appear to want to be slowed down by a grief stricken peer. This was a trial for my sister, Kathryn, and me.
I really withdrew into myself and into my room. I know family members were as worried about me as I was about each of them. Those early years are so difficult; emotionally and physically exhausting, and you are living with a severely broken heart.
Over the years I have learnt to live more peaceably with the fact of Jeremy’s death. I think all of the McNess family has. I still wonder at times what path our lives would have taken had he lived, but his death is now so firmly intertwined in our lives it is increasingly difficult to imagine. I would have him back in an instant, but I have also met many wonderful people in this grief “journey”, people similarly wounded by untimely death, but perhaps enlightened beyond the usual hustle and bustle of life. All that probably sounds like a bit of a cliché, but on the whole, I have found it to be true.
It can be a drag to be a bereaved sibling; some people seem to think the essence of sibling relationships is competition, so they overlook the close bonds you had with your sibling. Other times, they can centre on your parents grief to the exclusion of your own. Added to that, the behaviour of peers can be very isolating.
31 May 2011