Features - Sunday Island May 5 2002
Appreciation
Michael Muller

At the age of 15, Michael Muller, my younger brother, left with my parents for England. He was a Peterite, big-eyed and quiet, raising hell in his own quiet way. He was our familyís Christmas baby and peace baby ó born on December 29, 1945, born on the same date my youngest son, Destry, died, on December 29, 2001.

Michael died at 10.57 a.m. on April 16 this year. My own son died at 10.57 a.m. Exits and entrances. Somehow, these dates and times were, to me, no coincidence. We have our family "stargates" and we enter and leave through them.

Michael and his British wife, Anne Elizabeth Rose, came to Sri Lanka on April 13th. He was in the advanced stages of lung cancer and had beaten down all family protests. "I must go," he had insisted. "I want to see my brother Carl before I die."

It must have taken immense courage to make the journey. He could scarcely breathe and the 12-hour flight, the drive to the Mount Lavinia Hotel was surely harrowing. What reserves of strength and will he drew on I will never know; but he arrived and phoned me on the night of the 15th "I am looking forward to seeing you," he said.

In Kandy, the rain was bucketing down and he said, "Never mind the weather. No sooner Iím rested Iíll take a mini-van from the hotel and come to your home. Donít you stir. I must come to you."

That was the first time in 42 years that Michael spoke with me. It was also the last.

What does one feel when a brother one hasnít seen for 42 years comes back and dies before one can meet him? When the call came on the 16th saying that he was dead, the shock was devastating. Michael, the quiet one, the steady one. He was always content, never succumbing to the pots of gold. At 57, he was an assistant storekeeper, lived with his wife and young children in Nottingham. He had married in 1970 - the same year I married. We were very much alike, brothers apart and brothers always.

Oh, we did meet! The Inquirer into Sudden Deaths permitted me to see my brother in the mortuary of the Kalubowila Hospital. I looked at him, his hair slightly salted, his face reposed. The cancer had made him a little old man, spindly legged and wasted. I spoke to him, wished him God-speed and stroked his hair, kissed his cold forehead. I had lost yet another love. Is it that we must always lose the ones we love?

Michaelís journey was not in vain. We did meet - he a new blazing pain-free spirit, I a tired old 67 wondering why the young die around me.

His body was flown back to his grieving wife and children, his home in Nottingham, to where he belonged. There, he now lies in the England he had come to know and call his country. Such are the fleeting moments that fill our lives with indescribable pain. Such is life. It comes on stage with much deliberation and preparation and leaves with scant ceremony. Nothing in this country will mark Michaelís life and death. But at St. Lawrenceís Church, Wellawatte lies the records of his birth and baptism and there will remain in gathering files the record of the inquest and certificate of death. Here his life remains on scraps of official paper. Yet, he came back to die in the land of his birth. His pilgrimage is over. May his soul know everlasting peace.
Carl Muller