On this day in 1963, the accidental death occurred of my youngest brother Mark, aged 5.
Here he is, a chubby smiling baby, well swaddled against the cold, his big brother K, 3 years older, looking over the pram wearing the brown cap of which he was inordinately proud.
And again, in a rather frayed terry nappy, toddling sturdily with his little wheeled horse.
At about 3, on his tricycle on a quiet German road, wearing one of the striped tops favoured by my mother. A cheerful, lively, loving child, fair-haired and brown-eyed, often getting into scrapes, requiring rather more of a watchful eye than his brother or his two sisters had ever needed.
Mark's sudden death was to change all our lives for ever. No family really 'gets over' the loss of a child; coping day by day and going forward cautiously, as though walking on splintered glass, trying to bring the remaining children safely through their childhood years, was to take every ounce of strength and commitment that our fragile parents could muster, for a very long time.
Three weeks later, my sister and I, who had been away in England at boarding school, our attendance at Mark's funeral never an option, stepped into a family we could barely recognise, and which was never to be the same again. Overlaying everything was a fog of grief and loss, of unspoken guilt and terrible self-doubt. Our 7-year-old brother's entirely erroneous conviction that, somehow, he could have prevented the accident, was already buried deep and silent within him, not to emerge for 40 years or more. Kind friends and neighbours had removed Mark's larger toys, unwittingly emphasising the loss of a younger playmate and generating a sense that this loss was best not acknowledged too openly.
We learned very quickly not to mention Mark, for fear of adding to parental distress already overwhelming; people were kind, but no one, as was common in that era, seemed to understand much about the grief, fears and fantasies of bereaved children. We three were quiet, tiptoeing, shadowy children throughout those long, tormented summer holidays, and some months later, my father was posted back to Britain. A shipwreck of a family, washed up in winter on the shores of a cold, grim, uncomprehending Edinburgh, a city that even now I cannot return to without a shudder.
In 2003, after my mother's death, we found two little striped t-shirts, one of which Mark had been wearing when he died, and a silk scarf (his bedtime 'shawl' without which he could not, would not, sleep) carefully wrapped up and tucked away in the back of her wardrobe. She had never mentioned them, although sometimes, with sorrow as raw as it had been in 1963, she would talk about Mark himself; we ourselves had learned all those years ago not to mention his name except with extreme sensitivity and caution, and in fact rarely did so. Unresolved grief was the background music of our family life.
My sister and I re-wrapped the 3 small items, adding an extra beautiful layer of tissue paper and ribbon, and put them inside my mother's coffin. They had been hers for all these years, and were not ours to keep.
Little Mark, such a small child, such a large personality, such a grievous loss. Not forgotten.