My Big Brother, a letter from the heart

Twins Levon and Aron were identical, yet different in so many ways. Here Aran Morland, 22, explains…

Dear Levon,

Poor Mum was in for a hard time. Gritting her teeth, she pushed once again. With a final heave, the baby popped out. “It’s a boy,” said the midwife. But it wasn’t over yet. Ten minutes later the midwife said: “It’s another boy”. Exhausted, Mum lay back on thepillow. Two bundles were placed in her arms. She nuzzled one brow, then the other.

“Identical twins”, said the midwife. You’d been the first to be born, Levon, I was the second.

It was Mum’s job to choose my name. “Aran” she told Dad. “I love the sound of the name”. Then it was Dad’s turn to name you. He was a big fan of the Seventies group called The Band. One of its members was called Levon. “That’s the name I want,” he said.

morlandfamilyalltogetherSoon we were taken home to meet our brother, Brendan. He was eight years older than us.

Years passed and we grew up side by side. Then we decided to look for a job and called into the newsagent’s together. “It’ll be our business partnership”, I said when we got home. Next morning I struggled out of bed. It was pitch-black. “You can do it tomorrow”, I said.

We took turns doing the paper round. At the end of the week we divided the money evenly.

Few could tell us apart. “Let’s have some fun,” I suggested one day on the way to school. I went to your classes and you went to mine. We did it several times and the teachers never realised.

But then you decided we wouldn’t do it again. You were brighter than I was. “I don’t want you spoiling my grades”, you said. You were more academic, but I was better at sport. I ran for the cross-country team. One year we came first in the county and the team was summoned to have its photo taken for the local newspaper. But I was off sick that day, then the PE teacher spotted you.

“Levon, come here,” he yelled. “Pretend to be your brother.”

So there you were, beaming proudly from the picture, wearing the school colours. “At least they got my name right,” I grumbled, when I found the photo in the sports pages.

The following year, the team won again. This time I took my rightful place on the team photo. I showed you the paper.

Giggling helplessly, you pointed to the caption below. “I don’t believe it,” I sighed. This time they’d used your name instead of mine!

You were 12 when we found out about your illness. The first time it happened you suddenly said, “I’ll have to sit down.” You were breathless, but you hadn’t been running. Two minutes later you were fine.

A few months later it happened again. Mum took you to the doctor. Tests were carried out on your heart. You were diagnosed with Wolfe Parkinson White Syndrome, a dis-rhythm of the heart that makes it race. “It’s very rare”, the doctor said. The attacks could last a few seconds or a few minutes. You’d been born with it. I had tests too. I was clear. “Aren’t you worried?” I asked anxiously. “No,” you replied. “It doesn’t last long and then everything is back to normal. It’s just a nuisance.”

And that was your attitude. You suffered an attack about once every two months but, as soon as it was over, your mind quickly turned to something else. Regular checks over the years showed the condition wasn’t getting any worse.

By 18 we were displaying different characteristics. I was happy and settled at home with my girlfriend, Kim. But you wanted adventure. You became a travel rep. Postcards and photos arrived regularly. And there you’d be, grinning and clowning around. You were clearly enjoying yourself. Kim and I visited you in Magaluf. Everywhere we went, people stopped to say hello.

“Do you know everybody here?” I asked. “Just about”, you laughed. You’d always been outgoing and friendly, but now I saw how good you were at your job. You were posed, self-assured and confident. Your easy manner made you popular. One night we went to a nightclub where Errol Brown, the singer from Hot Chocolate, was performing. I could barely believe my ears when he began swaying to the sound of You Sexy Thing and announced: “This is for Levon”.morlandfamily3men

You burst out laughing in surprise and delight.

“You’re the life and soul of the party,” I said, admiringly.

You spent the next two years working abroad for six months, then coming home to School Avenue, West Rainton, Co Durham, when the season finished.

We’d have rows and I’d tell you off: “You’re getting Mum to do your washing and you’re not paying any board.” But I couldn’t be cross with you for long. That’s how it was with you and me.

At one of your check-ups, the consultant told you an operation could cure your illness. But, he warned, there was a 10% risk you wouldn’t come through. “What’s the point?” you shrugged. “It’s not worth chancing it on the operating table. I can live with it.”

Your next big adventure took you to America, where you taught roller hockey and physical education at a camp for children in California. Then you traveled to Mexico.

“It was from there you phoned Mum.

“I’ve had another attack, but this time it lasted three hours. I had to go and lie down.”

After your trip, you came home. “So what’s your next big project?” I asked.

“I’m going in for Big Brother,” you replied.

“You’re joking,” I said.

“No, I’m serious,” you insisted waiving an application form you had been filling in.

Later that night, we went out to the pub to watch a football match. “Goodnight,” I said as we parted. You were going back to Mum’s, I was going to Kim’s.

In the morning there was a phone call from Brendan. “You’d better come home,” he said.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Just come home,” he said.

I rounded the corner of the street. There was an ambulance in front of our house.

I rushed inside. Mum, Dad and Brendon sat in the front room. You weren’t there. They didn’t need to say anything. I knew something had happened to you.

Wordlessly, I rushed upstairs to your room. I pushed open the door. You still lay wrapped in your bed clothes.

The coroner said you’d probably died at about 5am. You’d had an attack while you were asleep and your heart had given out. You were 22. My legs gave way.

I didn’t know you could die from Wolfe Parkinson White Syndrome. If I had, I’d have made you have the operation. But it was too late.

After your funeral I came across the application form you’d filled in for Big Brother.

One of the questions asked: If you were selected to go into the house, which members of your family and friends would you miss most and why?

Your answer was: My identical twin brother. We argue like mad and are still best mates two minutes after we stop.

My eyes moistened.

Another question asked you to complete the sentence: The way I live my life is…

You’d written: …Worthwhile and I try to get as much out of life as possible.

You’d certainly done that. You called Mum the ‘perfect mother’ and described Dad as ‘cool’.

When it came to your own characteristics, you’d said you were: fun, wild, enjoyable, loving and plentiful.

Here on this form you’d written your own epitaph. Perhaps subconsciously, you’d known you would have a short life, so you lived it in the fast lane.

Finally they’d asked: Why do you think people would want to watch you?

Because I have a gift for making people my friends, you’d answered.

You were right. I couldn’t have put it better.

I miss you, and I always will.
Aran has donated his £300 fee to the charity Cardiac Riask in the Young, CRY