I only met my South-African born brother-in-law three times. Twice in 1982 and again in 1986, but in those few visits, our readiness to share a joke and a smile developed a bond that survived throughout the years of separation. We never exchanged mail directly, but he always had a quip or a quote to add to my sister’s replies.
Beneath the façade of humour, he managed to supress some immense tragedies that had occurred in his life. He outlived all three of his children from his first marriage. His two daughters died together when their mother was involved in a car accident. His son, who was also in the car, bore the physical and mental scars for twenty-five years, until one night, burglars broke into his Johannesburg home and shot him dead.
When humour failed him, he found solace in alcohol, and perhaps alcohol caused his death at 73, just a month ago today.
My sister was in her thirties when they married. They never had children.
I live 6,000 miles away from his home, 6000 miles away from my sister and over thirty years have gone by since I last saw either of them, but for some inexplicable reason, his passing has taken something deep and meaningful from my soul. How can I miss a man I barely knew so much? I feel full of grief and mourning coupled with worry for my sister, now very alone in her world, 6000 miles away from our home.