• Stephanie Hammond

A brother's love

Throughout the last few posts, writing about all this trauma, I barely mentioned my brother. He was in the army and posted to Malaysia and then to Vietnam. He was in Vietnam when my husband died. To this day I regret how we handled telling him the news. We didn’t.

We were so afraid that it might distract him. We knew the soldiers were having a hard time there and we didn’t know the half of how horrific it was. But what we did know was enough to make mum and me fearful. If we told him, might he be distracted and injured or even killed.

So we left it until he arrived home on the ship. What a joyous time it was for us to know he’d made it and was coming home. Mum, my sister, my two girls and I gathered at the wharves on the Brisbane River along with hundreds of other family members to welcome our boys home. What a sight that must have been for battle weary eyes. Colourful clothes, banners of welcome, bands playing and sun shining - all welcoming them home.

He was not happy that we’d kept the truth from him. It was so hard for him to care for us from that distance and to know he was totally unaware that we were going through such hard times really upset him. He seemed to forgive us in time, but I never knew if he really did. We didn’t discuss this time in our later years.

Now he was home, he was posted to the local Army barracks and we saw a lot of him. Like dad, he was a loving influence in my daughters’ lives - and in mine. He didn’t drive and it was fun for me to show off my driving skills and chauffeur him. With the girls in the back seat, we got him all to ourselves on those trips. They were so young, but I know they treasure what memories they have of him.

For as long as he lived, whenever I was with him and our sister I felt at home. Peace, confidence and joy always filled me. I knew I belonged. I knew I was loved. I loved freely and unconditionally. When I look back on all the photos of we three together, it is this that I see in my face and eyes. These are the only photos I ever liked of myself.

This was a rare state for me, I know that now. Looking back over my life. Even in my happiest moments with others, it was rare for me to feel such total freedom with another. Mostly, fear of judgement and censorship determined how I showed up in my life. With my sister and brother, I could be me. This is a rare gift, to be free to be oneself. It’s a gift that not everyone has in their lives. It’s a gift my sister gives me still. It’s a gift my brother gave me until the day he died. It’s a gift I hope with all my heart that others feel from me. The gift of unconditional love.

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