He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother!
That song plays in my head a lot. It’s a tough week. I am keeping my siblings and especially Chris’s children close to my heart. I worry about them all and hope they are given all they need each and every day. It’s like an uphill battle against ferocious winds getting through these days of court dates and new testimony from witnesses – and I am not even there physically! I cannot imagine how tough this is for my teen-aged niece. I love her so much. I text with her every day to let her know I am thinking of her and her brother as they travel this arduous journey.
We cannot know the lessons we may learn from such an experience, but I hope that in the end it will enlighten us, inspire us, and make us all better people. Please. God, let it make us better and not bitter.
I have been writing a lot about my brother’s untimely death and about the trial of the man who killed him, whether by “accident” or not. There are court dates almost every day this week. My family will hear more witnesses describe what they saw. They will learn many painful details. We, as a family, are walking a path filled with jagged stones; the pain and anger that results are like an impossible gulch – deep and seemingly escape proof. I know we will rise above it. I know it deep in my soul. I believe we are all children of God – even the driver who caused my brother’s death. I know some day somehow I will find a way to forgive him. I am asking you, dear reader, to please send positive energy and prayers our way, for the path right down is filled with stones and darkness and the gulch is deep.
One year ago, but it feels like forever – each day a long battle with seconds and minutes leading up to this one. They have been days of unbelievable agony and days of sweet solace as family and friends reached out to one another to comfort, to support, and to befriend; to bind the deep wounds and to heal.
We have learned that at least three other drivers narrowly escaped a fatal collision that day. One was a young mother with her three children in the car. But my brother was not so fortunate. My brother was ripped from our lives in that violent, senseless, so-called “accident”. I have a lot of trouble with that word, mostly because it was no “accident” when that other driver lifted that bottle to his lips prior to getting behind the wheel, transforming his vehicle into a murder weapon.
Still, what does it all matter? Nothing will bring Chris back to us. He is gone and we are left to pick up the pieces. There is anger – no, there is RAGE – like nothing I have ever felt before. It passes. There is pain like I have never known before. It passes, at least until the next wave.
I am reaching deep inside myself for something positive to say. This morning I was thinking of a book I once read by Henri Nouwen. In it he describes his struggles with grief following the death of his mother. And he leaves words of comfort and wisdom with these thoughts: had his mother not died, she would not have been able to infuse the spirits of all her loved ones with her own spirit of love and of peace. I take comfort from his ideas.
Chris has left us all many gifts. His death brought us all even closer to one another. His generosity, his kindness, his ability to make light of life’s struggles, his wit and his incredible sense of humour live on in all of us. Perhaps in some way we are infused with his spirit. That is my hope and my solace. So today I will celebrate his life and give thanks for all the blessings he continues to bestow.
I find myself reminiscing a lot – about my childhood and about my parents and siblings. Today was day 2 of the trial and again I am not there. I live in another province and between work and family obligations I am unable to be there at this horrid time. I had a nice chat with one of my brothers though, hence the reminiscing. I had five brothers and three sisters. Chris was the youngest. He was killed when an impaired driver plowed into him as he was heading home from work. Sorry if this is repetitious, but I don’t know who may be reading this. At any rate, my brother brought me up to speed on the happenings of the day. By all accounts it was rough for my niece (Christopher’s daughter, though she has been a real “little soldier”) and for all the family that was in attendance.
I am doing my best not to dwell on that though and instead I am sitting here with happier memories – like all nine of us children doing “the twist” in the living room as old-time 50s rock blared from the radio (at least I think it was a radio). Dad hated that “new fangled music” so while he and Mom were gone shopping my elder siblings let it rip. That is one of my favourite memories – the older siblings teaching us younger ones how to dance. Or the time we were all playing baseball up in the “back forty” of our property. Chris was so little, but very determined. He played his heart out, his little legs pumping furiously as he ran for home plate. He was the baby of the family and the apple of all our eyes. It was impossible to stay angry with him for long because he had such a sunny and generous nature. I am trying my best to honour him by remembering the good times and all the best facets of his character – of which there are many.
Fair warning, if you are following this blog it will be filled with anecdotes about my younger brother. I am so glad to have had him. I will honor him. I will honor his memory today and every day. Despite the heartache of his passing Chris continues to bless us all by bringing us closer together once again – I just wish he hadn’t had to die to do so!
Life is a funny thing – full of ups and downs. Some days I am fully present to the people I interact with, my listening skills are well honed and I am fully available; on other days, not so much. Some days it’s like a light switch going off and on, off and on. The next court date is this Friday. I am dreading it. I won’t be there to hold a hand or offer a shoulder. I will have to rely on family members to fill me in afterwards. It’s hard being so far away. But I am grateful for my siblings who keep me in the loop, so to speak. I think the worst thing about losing a loved one in such a senseless manner is the continuing saga of grief that has me by the throat in a vice-like grip. I can put it on the back burner in order to continue daily activities like work. I am grateful to have a job that offers distraction from the ever present reality of loss. There have been many deaths in our family – but this is infinitely worse than anything I’ve experienced before. When death is so preventable it leaves a bitterness behind. We are all working through it the best way we can. Impaired drivers take the lives of others on an almost daily basis. I just hope we can find meaning in the death of our brother and I look forward to days when I can fully connect without that light switch going off.
Many of you who follow this blog know my family is faced with a tremendous challenge in the form of a court trial, which began a week ago. It will be ongoing throughout the month of November. In case you don’t know this trial came about due to the death of my brother. He was killed when an impaired driver crashed into his vehicle as he was headed home from work.
It’s been hard – enough said. But this blog is about the support I have received, including that given by my coworkers. People may not realize how much it means, the gestures and the kind words.
My coworkers have lent a sympathetic ear, have given hugs, and have given me reasons to smile. The opportunity to be silly for a few minutes is very important to me – I need to take a break from the stress and pain, it is healing. Laughter acts like a tonic, easing the agony and reminding me of all that is still good in life. So I just wanted to give a shout out to the team at work who have helped me so much, even when they don’t say a word!
Every family is unique. Every family is different. I think we can all agree on that. I was very fortunate to have a mother who was loving, compassionate, and wise.
As a teenager I was grateful that my parents allowed my sister and me to gather in the basement with our friends. Which was also wise – they always knew where we were and who we were with! As a teenager it was wonderful to have a safe haven to listen to music and to socialize with friends. And as long as we kept the music to a reasonable volume we had complete privacy – something that is at the top of the values chain in a teenager’s life.
At any rate, many of my friends were very troubled. Some of them were experiencing with drugs and alcohol. Over the years I watched as an occasional joint became an all out addiction to so-called “harder” drugs. It was sad, this self-medicating behavior; this effort to numb the pain. But before this downward spiral began a few of my friends would seek my mother’s advice or counsel. So many times I would go upstairs to find one particular friend deeply involved in conversation with my Mom. He was lonely and adrift on a sea of troubles, without an anchor or a rudder. At the time I could not understand why he would leave our little group to spend time with her. Many years later I began to understand. I hope he found a measure of peace and guidance through his chats with her.
If a child lives with anger, violence, criticism, or abuse of any kind how can they ever trust people? The frame of reference may become one stunted by neglect. Their perspective clouded by negative experiences. They may have no understanding of what it means to be loved, to be able to trust, to have loyalty. My parents were not perfect and I don’t mean to intimate that they were. Still, they did much that was right and we always knew we were deeply loved and cherished. I wish every child had this.
On the other hand I have met many people who rose above horrible abuse and neglect to become decent, loving individuals. They have learned painful lessons and become wise and wonderful people.
I have heard it said that childhood is what we spend the rest of our lives getting over. I have also heard it said that we are all wounded healers. Yet, not everyone becomes capable of healing and instead perpetuates the circle of pain and abuse. I guess it all comes down to one’s frame of reference; one’s perspective. Kindness is always needed, empathy and compassion can make a difference, regardless of one’s upbringing.