Like it or not, we just stepped into a brand New Year. For those who’ve lost an other, a parent, or child the thought of moving ahead is more than layered. The past holds the person who is gone from us and we cling to it fiercely. Though we want and need to move forward, it’s hard not to worry that we will forget the sound of their voice, their scent, the way they hugged, laughed or…sung in the shower. But I don’t think it works that way; the past has a mind of its own.
My once young brother has been gone a very long time. Sometimes I can’t recall the planes of his face or how tall he was but I can still envision his eyes, his pranks and the way he loved anything to do with cars or building radios. We all remember how he would do anything he could think of to tease my father – and it always worked. And that same wise-ass little bro surprised me with a booklet entitled ‘How To Boil Water’ his handwritten engagement joke gift.
His siblings grew up, married, had kids, and he never was gifted with any of it. A long life is promised to no one. To his family, he will always be frozen in time, a 19 year old boy never to forgotten but not his memory not the stark, raw pain that followed his death. His pictures are a bit faded now, the color a fainter hue but he still exists in spirit. No matter how long he’s gone, he’ll always be my little brother. We never forget; the pain just loses some of its bruising edges.
Unlike my brother, my husband died only a year ago and though he certainly wasn’t 19, he was not close to elderly either. The pain of his passing is hardly in the past. The edges have not softened all that much though the holiday just passed was slightly better than last year’s, which was only 6 weeks after he died. I still feel like a newbie on moving-ahead path yet, I’m definitely moving. There’s just no straight path and no matter how many people hold you up, support and encourage you, you are on your own. And sometimes, just when you think you’re on smooth asphalt, you drop like a rock into a pothole. Welcome to reality.
‘They’ say those who’ve gone are still very much present to us; we just can’t see them. Hello? I’m a visual person, not a ouiji board! Still, I’d like to think my brother watches me laughing, knowing I can do MUCH more than boil water. He might even be the culprit for the pictures in my living room always needing to be straightened, a gig he performed often to frustrate my father. I imagine my husband hanging over my shoulder as I try to make his master-chef omelets and could picture him on Christmas chowing down blissfully on my daughter’s famous cupcakes hoping for her weekly delivery. Mostly, I’d like to think he knows that in everything I’ve done this year, I’ve tried to honor him. Growing older without him is not something I look forward to but then, as the joke goes, ‘when I consider the alternative’…..
We’ve just started on the twisty highway marked 2017. If you’re making your way solo, the air seems a little sharper, the sun more glaring. Any numbness or protective fog has passed and ready or not, the only choice we have is to go forward. But, when you consider that not everyone gets that chance, it kind of changes the perspective.
So bring it on, 2017. No, I’m not a transformed person, happily content in my sudden singleness and I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to live without the love of my life. But I have to choose to live each day the way I would have if he were here, maybe even a little better, more aware, and more consciously. Life has a habit of reminding us again and again just how short it is. I’m going to TRY to look at this new year as a new chance to get things right, to make things count, and to make all those I loved who’ve left this world – proud. Thomas Campbell said, “To live on in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” I’m pretty sure our hearts are inhabited by all who’ve touched us and whom we’ve loved. I know, it’s easier to say than feel and see; boy, do I know that.
Maybe I’m just whistling in the new year dark, hoping that our absent loved ones really are by our side.
But, hey, we need all the help we can get.