The Death of a brother and the regrets one has.

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations —  one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.”

― Soren Kierkegaard, Either Or: A Fragment of Life.

If you are having problems dealing with the loss of someone you love you may find The loss of a loved one… and how to cope article useful.

My grandmother always used to say “Give it a go. Pain is only temporary, but regrets… well they are forever” as I’m older and I reflect upon her words I think to my self how very true and how it would be better to live with remorse than to live with regrets.

It’s been fourteen months of sgonfiamento ‘having the wind knocked out of’ within our family. My sister in law Anita, died, several months later her husband, my brother Barry died. Barry and I had been close as children, there was only a one year difference between us, unlike to our other four brothers and one sister, we were closer. Barry and I played jokes on others together, we got into trouble together, we sometimes were mistaken as one for the other, we did a paper round together (got told off there too), and when Anita became pregnant with their first child I used to walk with Barry to the next town at 4am in order to fulfil Anita’s pregnancy cravings. Or if we’d gone out give Anita a piggyback back to their house. I remember those days with fondness.

I then went to uni to study theology, followed by some years in the military, travelled the world, came back home, decided to marry but changed my mind, back into the army, became a priest, then a monk and now a hermit. And to be completely honest in all of this, I do have one regret. And that is that over the years, that close bond that brothers have seemed to dissolve slowly, different responsibilities, interests, new friends, opportunities that take you far away, all these can contribute to a distancing from a brother or sister whom you love. I was unable to attend Anita’s funeral as I had been very ill; I was unable to visit my brother Barry in hospital or attend his funeral due to covid-19. I had to content myself with celebrating a requiem mass for the repose of their soul’s. But it has left a void within me.

As I have mentioned there are another four brothers and I became close and protective toward my little brother Justin whilst I was on eight months sick leave after an injury sustained during my tour of duty with the army. Justin had been adopted with his biological brother into our family. As a child of 7 or 8 he’d witnessed something that had effected him deeply, he always seemed forlorn, withdrawn, shy, did not trust easily; and would only speak in hushed voice to some of us but not all of us. It had become my and Barry’s mission to help him open up. Which eventually he did, and over the years it grew into a great and at times extremely rewarding friendship. In thought, temperament, inquisitiveness and travel we were, very much alike, which obviously at times caused brotherly discord and strife, but never for long.

Justin James Danton (Courtney) † August 9, 2021.

I’d have always been of the opinion that even when I am far away, that I was still close to them. No one can ever break the bond that brothers have, not even death. But I was wrong, Justin was murdered on August 9, 2021, whilst on a project for his company in Medellín, Antioquia in the Republic of Colombia. Hit by a high speed vehicle, which was followed by a lorry which also went over him, he sustained traumatic injuries to his head and torso, both drivers fled the scene; witnesses had to take him to a hospital nearby as the ambulance would have taken too long, alas, Justin lost his fight for life at the Las Américas Clinic where a doctor told us “he presented multiple severe traumas, he was unresponsive to stimuli and was manifesting signs of brain stem death; the neurological change is not favourable, and he presented hemodynamic deterioration.” Police are treating the incident as a murder.

Hospital Release a statement of Justin’s death the following day.

Justin also worked as an actor, having studied for two years at the London Academy of Media, Film & TV, his last film had been a supporting role as Brett Stevenson in The Legend of the Mad Axeman directed by Philip Mearns in 2017, and he’d also done some shorts called Just talk to me (2013), Beacon (2013), Ready or Not (2010), Aston Martin Cygnet in London (2012) The Door (2010) and Resentment (2010). I was once fortunate to be the locations manager for one of his shorts, and glad to say that having secured the Rothschild’s Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire the film had the desired effect, or so I’m told.

I did not know that Justin had left for Colombia, nor did I know that he had fallen in love with a woman called Maria or that they were expecting their first child “Ethan” who is due in November. A GoFundMe fund has been set up for Ethan the son who will never know his father.

I did not know, simply because we had lost touch, as I often do, for a while, before I reestablish contact again. This occasion we lost touch after one of those silly brother arguments, where neither one of us is right or wrong, yet will not concede due to stubbornness.  Five weeks ago, I reminded myself to touch base with him again, find out what he’s doing, where he’s at, and what’s happening, only to be delayed due to my being ill again. It then went to the back of mind, well until I received a message from my distraught mother. Who told me what had happened.

The strangest thing was, and what worried me most of all is, I was feeling nothing at all. I even changed the subject with my mother. Emotionally, I felt nothing at all about my brothers murder. I contacted the British Embassy in Bogotá, who surprisingly answered within a few hours, but added very little to what I had already been told. 

Justin and Maria

I then wondered, how on earth is Justin’s girlfriend, Maria coping. She just unexpectedly lost her partner, the father of their unborn child, without having a say in what happens to Justin. She must be distraught beyond belief. And therefore I set out to contact her, sending her a message in my broken Catalan to see if I could do anything. Maria answered, her short note to me in English. When I started reading it I was overcome by grief and regret. I finally broke down and it took two days before I could compose myself. I’ve still not replied to Maria, I simply and regretfully don’t know what to say to her at the moment, every time I try to write to her my tears come back. But I will reply to her this week. I have to do it as soon as I’ve completed this article. I will also ensure that Ethan will get to know the type of man Justin was, simply by telling him and giving Ethan some items that Justin left at my house during his last visit.

I then started to see things on the internet, articles by Colombian newspapers on the web, our local paper and elsewhere, not all of them are accurate, others confuse information or relay it inaccurately, but I’m not upset, newspapers these days simply do not research the facts properly and then have to mould the story according to their needs. I then noted a sarcastic comment in Portuguese on one of the paper articles which stated “the only reason this person’s death is receiving this publicity is because he’s an actor, rich and famous, if it had been one of us no one would have mentioned it.” I had to say something and annoyingly, replied to anonymous “thank you for your kind comments, I’m sure that my brother will do well with the publicity now that he has been murdered. My family and I thank you for your kind comments. I will pray for you. God Bless.”

Location of Justin’s death police are still investigating…

Regret can be counted among one of the most difficult emotions to pigeonhole or to frame. It’s secondary when it comes to other emotions such as anger, happiness, jealousy, sadness and embarrassment. Regret is often described as essentially an ex post facto sensation. We often regret things in our past, such as not having completed your studies, having treated someone badly or a relationship that did not end well. In a sense it can be argued that all these feelings are, to all intents and purposes, utterly Sisyphean: why should we regret something that we are unable to change?

I believe that regret is not just a retrospective emotional state, it is also an emotional state which allows you to look ahead; it’s a state that can also cause very strong emotions to the point of influencing one’s behaviour both in the present and in the future. This is because we have the ability to anticipate our feelings of regret for the future, and therefore we try to avoid this feeling at all costs. A lot of psychological and social research has been done on the subject of regret, one of which concerns a simple study dealing with lottery tickets and pens.

I’ve frequently heard people exclaim “well, I’ve have no regrets,” but I wonder, are there really people who have never had at least one regret in their lives? At the very least, I would be interested to know if at least once they have stumbled upon any expected regret. Would that not be something to be proud of. After all, the past is past, but don’t you think you have a chance to shape your own future? If you are too skeptical you can go wrong just as easily as you would go wrong by being too confident.

We tend to regret not spending time with those whom we loved. We don’t care as much for those whom we’ve always had near us, simply because they are always there. But it will not always be so. Pain will often remind us that nothing lasts forever; it reminds us that we always tend to underestimated from the very beginning, as though we think of ourselves as being immortal, putting off indefinitely what needs to be done now, right away, giving priority to that which is urgent rather than that which we consider to be important.

God doesn’t just erase our regrets. He makes all things new. Unseen possibilities or unfulfilled dreams often cause regrets in our life. In our mind there always hangs the question “What if …” and filled with assumptions which we base on “If only …”. But, I ask myself, are regrets simply thoughts that haunt us at night when we try to relax and sleep or can they actually be transformed into something that has any form of salvific benefit?

If we consider the origin’s of the emotion of regret. Most of the regrets that appear on our board have a common negative connotations. It is not from the fact that people have tried and failed, but the fact of not trying at all, not doing anything and not exploring what caused our feeling of regret in the first place. Simply ignoring it because we think it will simply ‘go away.’ But it doesn’t have to be like that at all!

Our regrets for omissions may stem from our fears of failing, of a past experience which to us was bad, or perhaps another obstacle. These obstacles are our Goliath, an unconquerable giant; and to defeat a Goliath we have to have faith; faith in God. We will not regret it because we have acted in good faith, and that is what matters most of all. The story of David and Goliath is not meant to relay to us that David triumphed over Goliath, but to teach us that David had trusted that God would cause something extraordinary out of a situation which to us seems completely daunting and suffocating.

Most of us already have some form of regret in our lives? I’m not hopeless. St. Paul exhorts us to persevere beyond our regrets: “Brethren, I do not claim to have taken hold of it as yet. Only this one thing: forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the finishing line to win the heavenly prize to which God has called me in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Paul is aware that he will not reach perfection whilst he is still alive. He he knew that he would reach it only on the day when Christ returns and raises the righteous from death. But, as he now belongs to Christ, Paul believes that perfection is the only goal he can aim toward. Nothing less would be in keeping with such a prominent position. Paul therefore puts all his efforts and energy toward reaching this singular goal, just like an athlete who strains every muscle just to reach the finishing line and gaining his crown of laurels.

Sensible Christians will have the same attitude toward life which Paul has just outlined for us. Or if you think differently, you will very soon come to agree, if only you allow God to instil it within you. Whatever the situation may be, we should all ensure that we never slip backwards from the standards of practical holiness that we have already achieved.

Rather than simply erasing our regrets as though they were words written on a classroom chalkboard, God can take them and draw the good out of them in a way that this good can be seen without residual feelings of regret. For example, Adam is guilty of mankind’s greatest mistake — having eaten the forbidden fruit. He was definitely wrong, but God’s answer was to send his only Son into the world! When Christ arrived, He became the “new Adam” sent to save us. God can also transform us into a “new us’s” — as a forgiven and redeemed people. These “new we’s” will still be us, but without the regrets we have and the traces of sin within us. Without these negativities hindering us, will come closer to Christ, our Lord and Saviour. If God can save us from Adam’s error, we can be wholeheartedly confident that He will help us as well. “Adam’s sin was actually necessary, and it was eradicated with Christ’s death.”

There are no regrets from which God cannot free us. During confession, God forgives us unreservedly. We begin anew — with a clean slate, we are left without even the smudges of the eraser or the chalk dust — allowing us to face the world without the  regrets which have kept us awake at night.

In closing, I would ask you to please take a moment in your busy lives and contact your loved ones  brothers or sisters, if you’ve not been in touch for a while, by just sending them a short simple note or email to tell them you are thinking of them, that you love them, miss them and that they are still in your heart; even if your lives have taken different twists and turns in life. Because as I have learnt, they are not there forever, and they may leave this world without a moments notice. 

This article is dedicated to the memory of my brother Justin James Danton (Courtney), who was tragically murdered on 9th August 2021. He was an important person in my life, a friend, someone I confided in and a brother one could be proud of. If I know anything at all for definite is that I dearly loved my brother Justin. Now I have lost those rare moments of being in his company, his brotherly affection, the composure of his judgments, I have, at this moment and to all effects temporarily lost my inner peace. I have lost part of that little bit of tenderness that was still within me in this world. My every day ends with a prayer on my lips for you, my brother. You died on earth but you are and will remain forever alive in my heart. One day we will meet again and make up for the time we lost. You disappeared so suddenly and we didn’t even say goodbye. I truly feel your absence but I know that brothers can never be truly separate. My best memories and the funny ones will never die.

Into your hands, O Lord, I humbly entrust my brother Justin. In this life you have embraced him with your tender love; free him now from all evil and offer him eternal rest. Please welcome Justin into heaven, where there will be no more pain for him, no more crying nor suffering, but fullness of peace and joy with your Son and the Holy Spirit for all of eternity. Requiescat in Pace et Amore.