Today I went to see my big brother, my cousin Barney. I haven’t been to see him in a long while now, but he has been my oracle for as long as I can remember. I would always go to see him to talk to him, to ask him for help. I know he has always always been there for me. He was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a big brother, he loved me unconditionally, believed in me and was always good to me. In fact, I think he’s the only person in my life I can never remember being nasty, hurtful or mean to me. I lost him from my life on 27th April 1993. He was 26.
Barney was the star of my family. Everyone who knew him loved him. He was this outgoing, talented, funny and intelligent man who I adored. He rarely got into trouble because people respected him. He was an amazing singer and had his rendition of Pretty Woman down to a tee (when I’m drunk and I hear that song I well up like a dick). From later years conversations I found out he was a hit with the ladies as well.
He came to our house every other Friday to have a few beers with my Da, and every time he arrived he bought me a pound mix-up. A pound mix-up is like crack to a 7 year old. When I spoke to him he actually paid attention to me and had a conversation with me, which was not standard from most adults when I was 7.
When I was a kid I didn’t have much going for me. I was chubby and had absolutely no confidence. I got bullied by most of the people around me and at times was a bit of a loner. But I was lucky I inherited a trait our Barney had. I could sing. It was really all I had going for me, and he only ever encouraged me. He always try and get me to sing. To this day if I ever gig or play in front of people I remember him and his confidence. He was just an amazing performer, and he tried to pass that on to me. “Finto Kid, you’ve got it. And see if you’ve got it, ya flaunt it”. That was his whole out look on life.
He played football for a team in Belfast with my cousin Bobby and his best friend Terry. They had a league match but Barney was just getting over the flu, he wasn’t sure if he would play but Bobby and Terry convinced him to go, they said the team needed him (another string to his bow, apparently he was quality at the soccer-ball). He decided he was feeling better so he went to the match. About 40 minutes in, he went up for a header from a kick out. He fell to the ground and never got back up. A muscle under his heart, under so much pressure from the flu, the exercise and what turned out to be an almost undedectable heart condition, basically exploded. He died before his feet hit the ground. There have been alot of young deaths and tragedies in my family, but none hit home to everyone, and to me, like this one. My first experience with Death was losing the person I probably loved the most in my life. I think about him every single day. I’m not sure if there is an afterlife, but I would know if there was he’d be there for me when I needed him. I hope he’s there now.