It will be my birthday soon, and that brings all sorts of memories. I was having a barbecue with my in-laws and my brother rang up to wish me a happy birthday. He popped around and sat down with us for a drink and a feed and a laugh as always. He’d just come back from an amazing trip to India, Nepal and Thailand. He brought me a pashmina, purple of course. Three days later he died. The first time I got to wear it was to his funeral.
There are only a few people I am really close to, and who truly know me. These are the ones that get under my skin, and I can be so mad at them and love them fiercely at the same time. My family, my husband, my kids, my siblings.
When we were growing up, my brother would punch me, but never let anyone else hurt me. He would tell me beautiful, long stories and then tell me I was annoying when I wanted to hang around him all the time. The three of us siblings would all jump into bed together to wait for Father Christmas, or because we were in trouble. If Mum or Aunty got mad at us, we would plot ways to run away from home. He would hide and I would bring him supplies. We laughed at “in” jokes between siblings that no one understood, from the Goodies, The Young Ones, movies we’d watched, stories we’d told, adventures we’d had. All the cool stuff I got to do was because my brother would take me. A Kiss concert, a camping trip, the pub even though I was still 17.
I never understood about sudden death, and how it knocks the wind out of you for weeks, months… forever. Everything becomes divided into “before my brother died” and “after my brother died”. Grief gets hold of you in inexplicable ways. The stages of grief you experience can’t be found in any text book, and they aren’t linear. You are sad, then angry, then accepting, then in denial again, then angry and sad at the same time - all over the place.
This is exactly the theme that Dr Brooke Davis explores in her book, entitled Lost & Found. I may have been almost 50 before I experienced a sudden death of someone very close, but Millie is just seven. She’s recorded twenty seven dead things, and one of them was her Dad.
When her mother leaves her at a shopping centre, and doesn’t return, Karl and Agatha decide to help her find her mother. Three lost people, all in different stages of grief, yet all in it together.
Millie’s mother, a woman in crisis, is barely visible in the book and yet, she has an important story.
This powerful novel explores these themes, and more. It explores life. What it is to be young and not know things, while also knowing too much for your age. What it means to be old and yet still think and feel as you did when you were younger. Friendship, and family and the kindness of strangers, come together in a tale of eccentric and yet familiar characters.
I heard Dr Davis speak at a Curtin Alumni breakfast, about writing her novel to obtain her PhD. I bought a copy of her book, and had it signed. I put it on my “To Be Read” list, and promptly forgot about it. It was waiting there for me… this year… when I needed it… and when it would speak to me the most.