My brother died a year ago, on 19th of December in 2016.
The day was the worst of my life. We were driving with Annika and Pekka to a ski center in Helsinki. The mood was giddy, we were listening to some 90’s snowboard punk, I was rather nervous because it was to be my first time snowboarding, but Annika and Pekka promised me I’d learn to love the sport. (Later on, it turned out, they were wrong.)
The phonecall was just a regular one, my dad. He sounded slightly distant, but I couldn’t read between the lines that something had happened. I answered my typical way, happy to hear of him.
Then: “I have bad news. Ville has died.”
The feeling was strange: a dark cloud engulfed my head in mere seconds. Everything outside faded into darkness and it was just myself, and my father on the other end, and the knowledge that one of the most loved persons in our lives would be no more.
And the worst was, he had died thousands of kilometers away from home, in Nigeria, where he had gone to meet his children. He had been expecting the trip so much, but from the beginning I had the feeling something wasn’t right with the trip. Starting with the way he got his flight tickets was dubious to say the least: the father of the mother of his children had purchased the tickets to ask him to help them with the house, but as soon as they got there, the family had ended up in some kind of a row and they had to move out. A lot of strange things were going on around that time and I was afraid there would be some bigger troubles lined up, but I didn’t expect this. Nobody did.
After my father’s phonecall, all hell broke loose. I had no time to even realize what had happened – and I didn’t know, all I knew was that he was dead – before I had to start dealing with the Nigerian hospital staff, discussing things like autopsy, how much the hospital bill would be and how to transport the body to Finland. My family around me was breaking apart and I was thousands of kilometers away from anywhere where I could be of any help, talking in phone with people I had no idea who they were asking me thousands of dollars immediately, talking with an English accent I just couldn’t understand (the Nigerians have a very peculiar way to speak English).
I still have only a faint understanding of what transpired on the evening and night of my brother’s death, but the bottom line is that he had been complaining about being slightly sick – and then, even more sick – to his friends in Finland. I know he didn’t tell about this to us because he didn’t want us to worry, the ones who worried about him anyway quite a lot. I bet he didn’t have any idea how ill he actually was.
He had no idea he would not wake up the next morning.
It’s interesting to see how many strings and nerve ends we create around ourselves. We may find ourselves in a place where we think we’re very alone, but in reality, we are hubs emanating memories, history, future, expectations, stories, longing and love, nerve connections that pulsate through the whole society constantly. If a hub gets cut out, it hurts so many people. The closer and the more connections, the harder it hurts, but the ripples can be felt far away. We are never alone.
We still don’t know for sure what took him.
First, it was suspected to be malaria, but just few weeks ago as I got the autopsy reports, it turned out it was something else: an unindentified hemorragic fever. These fevers are rather rare, but can be transferred to a human by something as small as a mosquito bite.
So, just bad luck.
Nevertheless, he’s gone. There’s one fewer of us, the sons and daughters of Juurikatu. He is missed not only by his family, but also his friends in Tampere and all over the world. He was known as Pee-Pee in the Finnish rap circles, he recorded an EP few years back. His plan was to write new music while in Nigeria. He had two kids – twins.
He was not without flaws, but the most important thing about him was that he had a kind, loving heart and crooked sense of humour. We shared with him a very specific kind of dry comedic view on life. He was a fighter, and although life wasn’t too kind for him, he soldiered through it. I consider he died a happy man: he was where he wanted to be, with his kids, in a country he loved, with a bright future ahead of him. Sadly, he never got there. I miss him daily.
His death left a gaping hole in me. It’s now been a year, and I still feel the cloud of grief washing over me when I look at his photos, listen to his Whatsapp messages. He was only person whom I had known for all of his life. The older we get, the more important these kind of long-running connections are. Friends fade in and out, family stays; now, there’s one fewer of us. All the things he missed, seeing his children grow, all the people he would meet… It kills me to think of all this.
Annika was there for me, when it all went down, and she was there through it all. She saw me on my darkest moments, she saw our family going through a tragedy of such magnitude. She held my hand, wept with me, sat next to me at the small, simple chapel where he lied in a simple casket. She walked with me through the icy graveyard, just as the sun crept out from behind the clouds to greet him on his final journey, as I carried his urn of ashes down to his final resting place. The last time I held him. Thank you for that, Annika.
And thank you, Ville. So much was lost when you left us, but that’s because you brought so much more into our lives.
Rest in peace, brother.
This here is a personal account on things I wanted to put in writing to my diary, which has helped me through the loneliness in China and I would’ve neglected my brother’s memory if I hadn’t spoke about him here. Nevertheless, I sincerely ask no entity quotes it, writes articles based on it or attempts to create a story out of it.