My younger brother Simon would have been sixty seven years old tomorrow - March 22nd. For months I have been wrangling with the pensions company he entrusted with his savings. On his pensions plan I was named as the sole beneficiary in the event of his death. It was very clear and Simon had no dependents.
Almost on his death bed, he told me what he wanted me to do with his money and probably died believing implicitly that the well-known pensions/assurance company would do the right thing in a professional manner. For my part, I promised Simon that I would fulfil his wishes.
There have been regular phone calls, e-mails and most recently a strongly worded letter which I posted to the Customer Relations department of the pensions company at their head office in Edinburgh. I have found the whole experience to be both infuriating and stressful. The quality and efficiency of their communications have both been dreadful..
Now, eight months after Simon's death, it seems that the agony is about to end. They requested my bank details and though they say payouts are currently taking ten working days to process, I expect to receive the money before the end of April. Then I can distribute the funds as my brother instructed.
We should not speak ill of the dead but as I said in my eulogy last August, Simon had his demons and his difficulties as he travelled through life. I won't go into details but he caused both of my parents a lot of anguish and sleepless nights.
Amongst his things, I discovered a letter I had sent to him in the summer of 1978 during a phase when things were pretty bad. I was crying out to him, tying to bring back the Simon we once knew:
"I don't hate you - nor will I ever do. I will always send you birthday cards and presents. Always love you, even if I am a thousand miles away. Always open up my arms for you if you need help. Always.....
...We have moved and grown in different ways but you are still Simon and I am still Neil and I still want the best for you. I want to be sixty six with you my little brother at sixty four, still touching lamb's ears by the pond where we once played. And we'll be looking back upon our lives. Weathered and weary, still wondering but smiling all the same.
It is for all of this and more besides that I have shed tears for you. Tears which rolled down my cheeks, surprising me - tears for you. In the month of July 1978. I am Neil - your brother and I am here for you."
I was twenty four years old and he was twenty two. At the time, he was detained in a mental hospital under what is called a police "section". It is true what some say about cannabis. It really can trigger psychotic episodes and utterly change someone's character.