Tuesday, 12 December 2017

On losing my brother

Phil Vickers (1955 – 2017)

The family has recently suffered the loss of my younger brother, Philip Christopher Vickers. He was a talented individual, who wrote poetry and songs, played the guitar and was an excellent drummer. Apparently in good health as he passed sixty years of age, he was diagnosed with leukaemia just a few months later. Through the good agencies of the doctors and nurses of the National Health Service, and supported constantly by his loving wife, he survived another eighteen months in this world. I have often heard of people who have “died after a long battle with cancer”. This was it. This was what was happening. Sometimes Phil was winning – or the doctors were winning. At other times it was the disease that was winning. He was given stem cells by some kind donor, but the doctors had not been able to find a perfect match. The stem cells did their best, but eventually the poor things had to admit defeat. Phil now knew that his time was up, and he accepted his fate.

I miss him already. I have seen a lot of photos of him recently, mostly from when he was still fit and well. We have a video of him drumming at a Festival, and he looks so natural and healthy. I prefer seeing him like that, before he knew that he was to die an early death. He was a very popular person – considerate and polite. He was witty and funny in his conversation. He was very knowledgeable about several areas of life, and maintained a healthy enthusiasm for learning about new things. A lot of people came to his funeral – friends who knew the family when Phil was younger, friends from his schooldays, friends from work and fellow musicians. And they will all miss him, in one way or another.

He chose the music for his own funeral – songs that had had meaning in his life. But we also watched a video of him drumming (the one I mentioned above), and heard one of his more light-hearted poems read out. Not too many funerals get two rounds of applause during the proceedings. My wife said she sensed that Phil was “looking down” on us all.

Will I see him again? Luckily for me, I believe that the life of the soul continues after death: “To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes, is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage.” What form would we take in the next world? Bahá’u’lláh teaches us that life there is on another plane. In an age when physicists speculate about parallel universes, this suddenly seems quite reasonable!

But would we have a physical form? Would I see Phil at all, or just enjoy his presence? Would I see him as he was at sixty years old, or thirty years old, or as the sweet little five-year-old brother I once had? Certainly a non-physical form makes more sense. Will I recognise him? The Bahá’í Writings say yes: “A love that one may have entertained for another will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom…” “The… beloved ones will recognise each other, and will seek union, but a spiritual union.” They also confirm the idea that the next world does not require a body: “From the moment the soul leaves the body, and arrives in the …[next]… World, its evolution is spiritual.” Then what do we all do? According to the Bahá’í Writings, we continue to develop and progress. I find that comforting, because Phil would have always wanted to develop and progress.

It would seem a pity if such a talented and kind person simply ceased to exist. I find it much more credible to imagine Phil as floating free in another plane of existence. I have not really lost a brother, but it may be a while before we are reunited.


Photograph courtesy of Suzy Jacoby, of the bands “Firefly” and "Love Distraction".