I recall having a slight disagreement with him on the phone three days before his death. He wanted to organise a surprise party for our mother's 75th birthday. He was very excited about the idea, as he always was with ideas like that. I said she would hate it, that she loathed being unprepared and having things sprung on her at the last minute. He was disappointed and I felt bad for deflating his plans. He was a little withdrawn when we said goodbye. But he rang again two days later and said he thought I was right. He was cheerful once more and I was so relieved that I hadn't hurt his feelings after all. That was the last conversation we had.
It is good not to let differences of opinion fester. I have been the world's worst at sulking with people when things don't go my way. But I try not to these days, because you don't know if the chance to speak to that person again will ever come. And I could never have forgiven myself if my lovely brother had died when we were at loggerheads with each other.
He had been having a troubled life, but it was finally coming together for him. He could be infuriating, but was also funny and kind. Once, to help me out, he fed mashed Weetabix and banana to my daughter when she was just about a year old. It was a labour of love because he was repulsed by banana. However, he was actually a little intoxicated at the time. He sat her in the highchair and spooned it all in. Eventually, he announced proudly, "There, she's eaten all that!" He was a bit too unsteady to unstrap her and lift her out. So I did that. And a mountain of mashed Weetabix and banana cascaded from her lap onto the carpet.
He helped with gardening and wallpapering. When we were short of money, he gave us his car for nothing. He had a mischievous sense of humour. There was always a sparkle in his very dark blue eyes. The only child he had was adopted, back in the seventies, because he and his girlfriend were only young at the time. He would have been the sweetest father.
He is often in my stories, or at least many of his characteristics are, and I love and miss him more than I could ever express.
(And at the funeral I discovered he'd already invited everyone to the surprise party before suggesting it to me!)