Today would have been my brothers 36th birthday. It feels strange talking about Dan, because as I rule I don’t, except with close friends and family. It seems morkish somehow, like awkwardly laying my heart out. And I know what your thinking, this isn’t history and this whole site is about history! But Dan is very much the reason F Yeah History exists (We’ll get to that).
I don’t have a huge platform, but I’d like to use what I have to take a minute to tell you about Dan. My brother.
Dan died a little under five years ago. It was quick, sudden and with no time for goodbyes. Just a 4am phone call, where my mum stood in the hospitals family room, trying to hold it together long enough to tell me the worst news possible.
Dan was my big brother. Older by eight years and believe me when I say, I very much played the role of annoying little sister to the best of my ability. We argued a lot and knew exactly how to wind each other up. The pair of us were very similar, though we would have had a fit if anyone dared say that! We rocketed between finding new and brilliant ways to torture each other and laughing over the silliest things.
He was caring and kind, going on to work with children with special needs (even though he faced many a jibe for often being the sole man on his child care courses). But Dan was also no saint. Wickedly sarcastic and able to rile you up with just a word, we spent much of our adult years in and out of arguments.
But despite our frequent fallings out, he was always my big brother. A person to look up to. He shone in his work. Able to turn the most difficult situation into something positive. When the day of his funeral rolled round, it was a reflection of that. There were more people than seats; friends, colleagues and those his work had touched.
Dan’s funeral was by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done. But it was also one of the greatest. Hearing so many people warmly remembering his achievements, smiling at the stupid things he’d said and celebrating him as the spiky yet soft, generous and hilarious man that he was.
Dan’s death knocked my whole family for six. A light had gone out and we were lost without him.
I was working in history at the time, but I wanted to somehow continue the work Dan couldn’t, so I moved to a charity that helped people with learning disabilities. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t a patch on Dan, but I did my best!
Still I missed history, so one Sunday on a whim, I created F Yeah History.
Soon it became my outlet, the sunny spot in my day where I learnt to smile again.
If you’ve ever wondered why F Yeah is full of so many terrible jokes, well that’s straight Dan. A love for god awful dad jokes is something we shared. Even on his last night, after he’d been rushed to Intensive Care struggling to breath, he was regaling the nurses with shit jokes to the last.
As time went on and we could all talk about Dan with less pain, it was easier to embrace another thing I shared with Dan, history.
It turned out he’d been proud of the fact his little sister worked in history. Obviously that’s not something he dared tell me (big brother issues) but it’s something he did tell our friends and family.
He loved history and always had. Admittedly his tastes were more military and medieval than mine, but it was a shared passion. We also shared the fact that neither of us felt comfortable within the stifling academic and tweedy side of things. We liked to have fun and immerse ourselves, which felt harder to do the older we got.
So as F Yeah History went on, it became not only something I wrote to let the sun back in after Dan’s death, but something I wrote for Dan. Shit jokes and all.
If you’ve gotten this far, a huge thank you.
If you’d like to do something today for Dan’s birthday, then I can’t think of anything better than to do something nice for those you love. Send a message, buy a coffee, or give a hug.
Oh and click here if you’d like donate to The Marfans Trust. Marfans is the rare heart diesease that Dan died from. https://www.marfantrust.org