Strange Days

Two weeks since Nick died and it's been what you might call a Funny Old Time. Still in a state of mild shock. So many mixed up feelings, and crazy thoughts running at random through my head at all hours like a lunatic shopping list.
So much to take in, even after two weeks of acclimatising. SO much to do.
So many people and organisations to tell! As well as clearing the flat, because when a council tenant dies you get two rent free weeks and then start paying the full whack, which is fairly hefty without Nick's various benefits and exemptions. I couldn't bear or begin to do it all in just two weeks so will pay, but can't afford to for long and what would be the point when he's not there?

Meanwhile, the gigantic web of bureaucracy that had underpinned the last few years with Nick now needs to be dismantled and it all has to be done properly.
Don't worry, though! The government will do it all for you! we're told.
"Tell Us Once" is a brilliant way to save the poor bereaved next of kin from having to plough individually through the vast amount of paperwork and phone calls to inform absolutely everyone: benefits agencies, council, DVLA, the whole shebang. Brilliant.
Unless of course, the person you cared for died in unusual circumstances requiring a coroner's report, meaning that - like us - you won't get a death certificate for almost two weeks, and Tell Us Once is only available on issue of a death certificate.
So I have notified most of the key organisations one by one myself, while also telling the District Nurses and the Neuro team and the care agency and the Citywide alarm service, the Huntington's Disease Association, the butcher the baker the candlestick maker, cancelling the direct debits and also looking for Nick's will and making an appointment with his solicitor in the north east to begin the whole sorry business of winding up his affairs.

Putting all the unused medications in a paper bag to take back to the pharmacy at some point, and the care agency logs for them to collect.
Sorting through his clothes and toiletries and kitchen things and books and photos. A life. A life we had together for so many years as brother and sister, the letters and postcards I'd sent him over the years, the family albums, little bits and pieces from our childhood like his teddy bear and his Tonka truck and the funny clay figure he'd made at school.
I did, in the back of my mind, expect to have to do this one day, but not yet. It's so dreadful to do now that it's almost pleasurable because it brings back so many memories that had been pushed away in the focus of Nick's illness. That has been in the forefront for so long that it's good to remember him now as the person he used to be, the old suave ladykiller Nick, the handsome brother who could always make me laugh, who loved a sharp suit with the repartee to match, and had a watch for every day of the week and two at weekends.

The cards and condolences keep coming in, so many that it's quite overwhelming. So many referencing Nick's cheerfulness and courage and what a gentleman he had been through his illness.
I feel so grateful that Nick had the life he did and felt as loved and connected as he did (even though I agonised that it was never enough) and that his life has so touched the people around him.
That twice, a quirk of luck brought him to live just a few minutes' walking distance from us, and that he left us in the way he did - so quickly, with no pain, and that I'd seen him and hugged him just a few hours earlier.

I feel upbeat, then suddenly poleaxed with a weariness so deep it feels as if no amount of sleep will cure it, even if I could sleep properly which I can't. Waking up at 3am with my head whirring, so many thoughts and memories rushing at me in the dark like meteor showers.
Ridiculous random thoughts like, I must tell people at the Grey Horse where Nick used to go every Thursday night back in Consett. And, remember when we went with Dad on the ferry to France to scatter mum's ashes over the sea and they all blew back in our faces? And, I wonder what happened to that little gold star he used to wear on a chain? And underlying that, just a jumbled sense of relief mixed up with loss that's hard to fathom. Heart aching, bewildered, my compass needle gone.

We still have the funeral to get over with, but bank holiday and waiting for a corners' report (heart failure on two counts) have made it slow going and perhaps just as well. The paramedics at the pub said at the time, take it as slowly as you need to, people always think they have to rush but honestly if it takes you three weeks to arrange then that's fine. Wise words.
They are experts in shock, I suppose and understand things that most of us never see until we're right up close in the middle of it.

Becoming a carer happened almost overnight and it stopped just as suddenly. Being a sister was for most of my life. Now what?
It's much too early to think about the future, even though with a funeral to plan and my Carers' Allowance stopping in 6 weeks' time, there is no possibility of not doing.