I don’t write much about my family here, some things are too tender to ply with and I guard the subject dearly. Too many years of misunderstandings and hurts and battles keep my mouth silent on that front. I love them each dearly, even though we are spread to all corners of the United States and the globe. I am grateful for our story, as haphazard and dysfunctional as it may seem to both the casual observer and the intimate friend. That’s the thing about not knowing someone at all or knowing someone very well: you can imagine the worst or know the worst, so it’s better to just get it over with and know people well.
But once in a while I do let myself think about this living, breathing organism that birthed me, crafted me, grew me, released me, and still lets me call them family. And once in a great while, when I am brave enough to let you peek at those thoughts, I write them here:
Today is April 19 and to you that is just another day. Perhaps you thought of the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, perhaps it’s your birthday, perhaps you remembered a bill that was due today, or perhaps it was just another Tuesday.
To me, though, April 19 is never just another day and only one thought pulses through me all of this day every year. Five years, six years, seven years, last year it was ten years and this year it makes eleven years.
Soon, he will have been dead longer than he was alive.
I think about that a lot.
Something about it still being less than 14 years since he died, keeps me feeling like I know him still, he is still fresh in my mind, his voice is still present, familiar to me, his crooked smile is stayed, permanently crooked.
But soon, in a few years, then the baby who was born so soon after he died will turn 14 and we will all know then, then it has been a long time. A very long time.
Soon, all the photos I have of him will begin to look their age.
It will stop feeling like he was here, real, a part of us.
I remember worrying that I would forget him. Those months and weeks after he died, I would lay in bed at night and try my best to remember his voice, his steps, his smell. I would cry sometimes, more from the worry of forgetting than the actual missing. The missing becomes normal, but even the possibility of forgetting feels like a betrayal.
But it is more than a decade now and I don’t worry about forgetting. I remember. More clearly than so many other memories in my life (Perhaps this is why I forget so many things in my past; my energy goes to remember this one Very Important Thing.).
It is sometimes strange to me, people’s response when they learn that I have lost a brother. I’m so sorry, they say, their heads drop, they feel my past pain so acutely for one moment. But I am quick to reassure them that it is not an awkward subject for me, nor one I’m uncomfortable discussing. This is a mark of the gospel, death has no sting.
A family in my church lost their young son this week and after the service I made my way to the very last row, where they sat, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand.
I ask to pray with them, for them. And I say to them to not worry, to let themselves grieve without the worry that they will forget or that his siblings will forget or that someone will forget. God gives grace to the humble and there is nothing more humbling, I say, than losing a part of yourself.
Especially because he’s not really lost, is he?
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up together with them
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,
and so we will always be with the Lord.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:17-18