When you lose someone you love, certain dates become memories we never forget.
It was 12 years ago today we took my 33-year-old brother off of life support. He died eight days later. It was the worst eight days of my life. The struggle of questioning whether we were doing the right thing by taking him off life support. Sitting with the doctors as they told us he was brain dead, or more specifically, “He’s in a vegetative state.” What if they were wrong? But they’re the doctors and you trust them when they go over the test results again and again.
When the time came to turn off the life support, we surrounded his bed and we said our good-byes. But unlike in the movies when the person goes quickly, my brother lasted eight days. We were told he had a young heart and that’s why his body hung on. Either way, it was horrible and my heart goes out to those who have to make that choice.
I share this experience today not for empathy or to depress you, but rather more for myself. It’s my own little moment of therapy crammed in between my typical motherly duties of carpool, after-school activities and diaper changes. When you lose someone you love, you want to remember them so badly and you want someone else to remember too. But more often than not, you, and maybe a few other family members are the only ones who remember this kind of day. And you know what, it’s okay. It’s life and life moves forward whether we like it at times or not.
Time supposedly heals us in some way, but I think it has more of a numbing effect. Frankly, I’m kind of upset with time today because it’s taken me further away from my memories and experiences with my brother. There’s more distance between the moments we shared, and it makes me sad. My kids are growing older and my brother is relegated to a memory I share with them or a picture on our family wall. They’ll never know my brother on this side of Heaven. But boy what a day it’ll be when we see him in Heaven. And that’s a thought which brings me some happiness today.
In one of my last conversations with my brother he told me one of his best accomplishments was becoming an uncle. He died five weeks after my first daughter was born. He never got to meet his nieces or nephew, but I know he would have enjoyed them and been a pretty cool uncle. I now get to watch them grow up and navigate their own sibling relationships. I’m both thrilled for them and kind of jealous.
For those who’ve lost a loved one, which is probably most of you, I just want you know I remember them with you. And even though years pass by and we get further away from the life we lived with them, they’re still with us in some way. Just today I scrolled through the car radio stations on my way home and heard Tom Petty’s song, Free Fallin. This was one of my brother’s favorite songs. Mom, you were right. He’s with me no matter how many years go by and it’s in those moments I get a little closer to him.
My favorite moment is when I laugh. It’s in my laughter I actually hear him laugh. For some strange reason we share the same laugh and that brings a smile to my face. Even on a day like today.