What I've written below is something that I've never been able to say and probably never will be able to say in person to my little brother, Ryan.
On the 19th July 2016 our father shot and killed our mum Claire and our 19-year-old sister Charlotte. It was the result of decades of abuse and controlling and intimidating behaviour. He was a tyrant who wouldn't let his family live outside of his domination. Our father was a terrorist living within our own home; he had no cause but to frighten his family and to generate his own esteem from trampling and bullying us. For over a decade we had tried to leave on numerous occasions but he manipulated and threatened on every occasion.
Ever since we were young boys Ryan and I aspired for a better life for mum and Charlotte and to finally give our family the life our father had deprived us of. Ryan and I had been working abroad since leaving university and had raised enough money to rent a small place for Charlotte and mum whilst we saved to find a place elsewhere for them. We moved mum out of our house whilst our father was out, only a few days before the event on the 19th July. Killing our mother and sister was our father's final denial of the future we had spent our lives trying to create for them, the life they deserved. He killed himself in an act of cowardice, finally showing how little he had to live for outside of punishing his family for his own distorted sense of power.
Leading up to the event on the 19th July, I had always believed I was the strong older brother. I had always tried to put on a brave face and attempted to defuse the tensions of our father, doing my best to calm the environment. However after university, Ryan and I moved away from home for work and our father's behaviour deteriorated further. The effects were becoming unmanageable for me. Charlotte was suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts and had dropped out of university. Mum's multiple sclerosis was deteriorating rapidly from the stress our father was causing her and she was taking prescribed morphine every day in an attempt to dampen the pain that her disease inflicted.
I could no longer face going home because I didn't know what I could do anymore; I didn't feel I could manage, I felt entirely helpless. I was overwhelmed. Ryan had always come home every weekend that he could. At the time, he was working in Holland and made the journey home every weekend to check that mum and Charlotte were OK and to resist our father's behaviour. He would always look after mum and Charlotte and spent his money on them rather than himself. Whether it was for Charlotte to come on holiday to visit him when he was working in Australia or for swimming lessons for mum, he always gave them a powerful optimism in what was a despairing situation for us all.
Since the 19th July last year, it's become clear to me that I wouldn't be here without my little brother. I act strong, but he is stronger. Even when we struggled through our darkest moments against our father, Ryan dared to remain resistant when I had broken down and couldn't face any more. He was still able to love and believe in a world that our father had filled with hate. Ryan's resilience and hope was perceived by our father as a rebuttal to his dominance. For that Ryan suffered the strongest wrath from our father. Throughout it all, I had shut my emotions down because I simply didn't have the courage to confront the reality of our situation; I became more detached and hidden within myself in an attempt to diminish the trauma. Ryan protected us; he never hid but always threw himself in the firing line to protect us.
Nothing can ever replace what we lost on the 19th July and no words can describe what we have endured. Each and every day, I still feel the panic and scramble for the reset button, struggling with the feeling that somehow we live in the wrong world. For the rest of our lives, we must learn to deal with what happened on that day.
The last year has drawn into focus how lucky we all were to have Ryan. I remember when I was with Charlotte and she would only talk of how proud she was to have a brother like Ryan. No mother could hope for a better son, so determined to love his mother no matter what storms it brought him. I often think that Ryan is exactly the kind of man that the world needs more of.
We now live together with our dogs, Indi and Bella, which mum and Charlotte gave so much love and attention to. Ryan currently works abroad and I know that in the future he would love to be able to spend more time with the dogs. If the dogs are happy, then Ryan is happy, and if Ryan is happy then I'm happy.
For all that we've been through; there isn't much I can give Ryan to show my appreciation. It's his determination that has kept me going, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and day-by-day for 26 years and for that I honestly owe him my life. I couldn't have fought the battles by myself and towards the end the battles had beaten me, but not him. He is indestructible; a force for good that cannot be stopped. He is the person I've needed to stand up for me when I am too weak. For everything our father has done to attempt to destroy Ryan, he has failed. Ryan is the strongest, most kind hearted person and refuses to let the hate triumph over the love he fought for. I've piggybacked on his strength for all these years. Ryan refuses to give up fighting for something better, he stares hard-nosed into the face of cruelty and he always finds hope when everything seems futile.
I have started a fundraising page because I want Ryan to know that I care, and I want him to know that other people care too. I could never say what I've said above to his face, in fact, even if I tried, I'm sure he'd punch me. I want Ryan to be able to follow his dreams in life; he doesn't deserve the struggles he's faced. I want him to believe that good things can happen and to believe in the future that lies ahead of him. As we spend the rest of our lives rebuilding; as we look to find new things to believe in, new hope and new meaning, I want him to be free to be whoever he wants to be, the person he deserves to be. I don't think mum and Charlotte could be prouder of him now; if they were looking down I'm sure they'd have tears in their eyes as they wonder what on Earth he is made of. I'm certain that evil is haunted by nightmares of my little brother. Its Ryan's 26th birthday on the 22nd of April and I want to wish him the best future that he could ever hope for; I hope you can join me.
My little brother is my hero and I love him.
I hope that our story can encourage others to stand up to and speak out about the many forms of domestic abuse. I hope it empowers those who are suffering its consequences to take action.
This post originally appeared on Luke's Facebook page.