You Live and You Die

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I write my blogs and then schedule them to appear approximately one week apart. The day before my last blog entry was published my younger brother died suddenly, unexpectedly and without cause.

He was 30 years and 28 days. We were close. We had recently had a nice long visit to celebrate his 30th birthday. I was teasing him gently about turning 30, but went on to explain how much more I was enjoying my 30s than my 20s. In my 30s I feel like I have found myself. I am more confident, less anxious and take life in stride. My brother was an amazing person, he was already a phenomenal young man and I was looking forward to watching him finish his graduate studies, travel, raise a family and become a phenomenal old man.

I was at work when I got the news. It started by my mother leaving a voice mail on my phone that she had received a call from my brother’s land lady who said tenants had phoned her to say there were police at his apartment. She had contacted my Dad who lives in Hamilton and he was on his way over. I was in a meeting when my mother called. When I got the voice mail around 11:00 a.m. I called my Dad immediately. My Dad told me and I collapsed at work. I remember being on the floor with people asking me what was wrong and just saying over and over that my brother was dead.

The next few days are a blur. We went to Hamilton to meet my Dad, and we began a very surreal journey navigating the coroner and police investigation. Because he was young there was an investigation and an autopsy. We were told by the police and coroner that there was no sign of any criminal cause of death. What this means – and it took me some time to unpack it with the coroner – is that there was no indication of homicide or suicide. We asked for a full autopsy, which was scheduled to be done in this case anyways and received the results a few days later. There was no known cause of death. Except for being dead he was the picture of health.

He always had been healthy. He was incredibly conscious of his footprint on this earth. All his foods were organic and local. A little over a year ago he had biked across the country coming back from B.C. where he did his undergraduate studies. He was active, fit, rock climbed. Never preachy or self righteous. He led by example and those who knew him wanted to follow.

We were able to do a 100% green funeral including environmentally friendly embalming fluid (who knew?) and a fully green burial where his body is placed in an eco-conservation in a burlap wrap. We used a 100% local wood casket for the viewing that was all hand made and included no nails or varnish or stain so the wood can be fully recycled.

The best we can figure, and I have no medical basis for this besides a suggestion from the coroner and my own internet digging is that he died of one of a variety of Sudden Adult Death Syndromes you can find more information here: http://www.sads.ca/ He had no warning signs, unlike 50% of cases, and to our knowledge we have no genetic history of SADS, although it is difficult to tell since my father never knew his father, and his mother was an orphan.

There are really no words to express this loss. Everything I say has been said before, and will be said again.

I am lucky, I have been surrounded by friends and family who have been doing their best to support me and they are helping quite a lot. We had a beautiful memorial in a local pub that was packed and we celebrated his life. Friends and family continue to reach out to me to help, and it does day by day.

I could get much more esoteric here and wax on about the grieving process, but I am going to try to keep this blog close to the topic of my health journey.

It likely goes without saying that this kind of grief has a very real physical impact and in terms of plans for getting in shape and eating right throws everything out the window.

I was fully prepared to be an emotional guilt eater. I even emailed a friend in the first few days and told her I may need some company for some no-judgement guilt eating and drinking. Turns our this is not how my body reacts. It was day 8 after his death that I realized I had not consumed anything aside from mint tea. It was day 10 before I was willing to even try to look at food as something that does in fact go into my body.

By the time I was ready to start consuming food again I had dealt my system such a shock that it didn’t want food. My first few attempts were disasters. Even basic broth soup would not stay down at first. A friend of mine helped to put me on a juice diet. We used lots of light juices that contained ginger because ginger helps digestive. We also discovered I could drink some sweet juices with banana which were staying down after a few days.

It has been almost six weeks now and I am only now tentatively back on solid foods.

Part of my plan, before my life fell apart, was to try to transition onto a Paleo Diet. This was part of the plan not so much from a weight loss perspective but to help me navigate some food allergy issues.

From a health and eating perspective grief has been helpful and hurtful.

On the “silver lining” side, I have dropped nearly 20 pounds without trying. I’m also significantly less hungry and interested in food than I can ever remember being. I’m in a place where I need to remember to eat and make a conscious effort to put food into my body. So, over eating is not an issue at the moment.

On the hurtful side I know that this weight is likely to come back on now that I am eating again and might come with a 2-4-1 pound deal. I have put my body through a very unhealthy starvation and I know my body is in shock. I will need to be prepared for my body and digestive to go through some real yo-yo changes as I try to re-acclimatize to how I should eat, which now has a whole new dynamic than it did in early March.

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