One evening recently I found an email on my computer from the Port Macquarie (NSW) police. Dave phoned for me next morning and as expected it was sad news about my brother Barry. He had died peacefully in his sleep on 29 January. Nine days earlier. NINE DAYS.
He’d had bad emphysema, two strokes and a heart attack in previous years, so the news was not unexpected. He was in a very pleasant, caring Retirement Village complex near Port Macquarie, which Dave and I visited last year. At that time we made sure they had all my contact details, both at the main office and the Hostel where he was living.
But the Retirement Village ‘lost’ my contact details. When contacted they claimed to be “unable to explain” why my details were not still on record. They pointed out that if my brother had expressed a wish for me not to be listed as a contact, then they would have been required to honour that. I do not believe that this happened. We were on good terms, plus I doubt he even knew they had my contact details. Two strokes and a heart attack play havoc with short-term memory. He knew me, he introduced me to members of staff as his sister (which eventually helped the police to find me), but once Dave and I left his room I was most likely “out of sight out of mind”. He had named a friend as a contact person, but no mention of next of kin (he also had three grown children), no nothing. The Retirement Village would not release any information to this contact person. They did however get him to remove all my brother’s belongings! They would not recognise him as an executor, hence the police involvement.
The Police Constable was kind. He said they had tracked me down via a number of ways including a member of staff who remembered me, and the NZ Consulate. Still not the best way to receive the news.
So now as the officially recognised Next of Kin I have forms to fill in and cremation arrangements to authorise. Fortunately the police gave me the contact details for several of my brother’s friends who we will meet when we return to Australia in March. We will have a little scattering-the-ashes ceremony then, as Barry verbally requested his friend to organise.