Eulogy for my Brother with Downs Syndrome
by Cyprian Payne
Eulogy for Christophe Payne 1968 - 2016
50 years ago when Chris was born, a Downs Syndrome child was considered a family tragedy - that a child should remain a child for life. To us children he was just another brother.
The Brothers of Charity became our brother's world and, it was no tragedy. It was clear to all that he was happy here. As he grew older and became a man, the world changed around him but the Brothers of Charity remained a source of stability, familiarity, love and care; his family.
John, Catherine and the rest of the staff in his bungalows were reassuring constants in his life; he loved them and they loved him.
Christophe was loved by all who came to know him; he couldn't speak or communicate in the traditional sense, but he was funny, kind and gentle.
I remember when Chris arrived at the Brothers of Charity, he was a child who would continually bang his fore head resulting in a permanently open wound. This simply disappeared after he arrived here. Here he was taught to dress himself and use the toilet independently; two things I never thought would be possible.
He started going to arts classes and was encouraged to work in the garden with the other clients. It has to be said that this work was something which didn't interest him at all; rather he liked to watch others work. I can empathize with that!
Chris loved going for walks. He particularly loved to push his friends and carers along the road from behind -very useful when going uphill -a bit less so downhill.
He also loved being pushed on the swing when he was younger, and he loved his food. He really loved his food; especially crisps - actually bags of crisps.
Chris had quite a bit of weight on him in his prime; and if he made up his mind he wanted to go somewhere - good luck stopping him!
I remember Gregory telling me how one sunny day he took him for a walk in the park. Now Greg was not paying as much attention as he should have been, and suddenly he heard a loud, sustained screaming noise. He looked up just in time to see a crowd of picnickers scattering off their blankets as Chris charged down the hill at full speed. He had spotted a big bag of crisps; and he wanted it.
Greg was left to flounder hopelessly in his wake, trying to shout out over the screams that Christophe only wanted the bag of crisps and that he wasn't dangerous! Greg smiles about it now; we all do.
One thing that remained a constant source of enjoyment in Christophe's life was driving. He loved to go for a drive. He didn't care where he was going, so long as it involved driving - OK, not driving, being a passenger.
The longer the drive the better. Even before the bus started - before anyone else was even in the bus, you could see the anticipation in his face, the little smile, sitting in his seat waiting for the journey to start.
Another constant was music, well actually ABBA. He did like to watch live music and but there was something in the ABBA melodies that really floated his boat. He would be grinning ear to ear and doing his little dances and twirls as he listened to 'Dancing Queen', 'Fernando', 'The Winner Takes It All', and all the rest of them.
Chris could be tricky too, or he thought he was being tricky. In later years when he was only allowed to eat pureed food (mush) he would try to sneak real food. Staff had to constantly keep an eye on him if there was a plate of biscuits nearby. If a biscuit was within range his arm would shoot out like a rattlesnake and the biscuit would be in his mouth before you know it. The staff would be left trying to frantically extract it - and with the same resolve, he would be frantically trying to eat it.
Christophe invented some smooth moves for the purposes of food acquisition. He would sidle up to you (the biscuit guard) and walk by, turning so that his back was always to you as he passed. At first I didn't understand what he was doing and had to ask Cathy. She explained that since he couldn't see you, it was obvious to him, you couldn't see him!
Anyway, he would then try to dodge in and grab a biscuit. It almost never worked but that didn't stop him trying. Even when his ambitions were thwarted, he would just get that little smile on his face. That lovely little smile that everyone knows.
I never, ever heard of Chris getting angry; something to think about.
I’ll end with an oft repeated quote from my father’s later years. It's a couple of lines from Shelley's poem "To the Skylark".
"We look before and after, And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."