Recently in Letters to my brother Category

Dear Bryan,

I've talked about the randomness of my grieving before. I'll be totally fine and then hit a hard day out of nowhere. Once it was watching Disney song clips on youtube with River. Specifically, the intro to The Lion King. I can distinctly remember going to the drive-in with you and laying on the roof of our father's car under blankets to watch the Lion King lit up against the night sky. I sobbed so hard I couldn't breathe through my nose (at the movie). Watching it again, thinking of you, slow tears dribbled down my cheeks.

Then, randomly, I dreamed of you. 

Probably it has something to do with looking at the memorial our mother had put in the newspaper on the anniversary of your death. Your smiling black and white photo. At first I left it in the envelope. Then I put it on the fridge. I'm unsure what I am is supposed to do with such things. Is it morbid to put it on my fridge where anyone can see? Then I realized, it doesn't matter. I could do whatever I want. I was going to put it there. In the photo mom picked, you have your typical sheepish expression. I can't think of a better picture! Maybe looking at this photo each day, touching it with a fingertip as a way to say "Hello, you." influenced my latest dream of you. 

When I dreamed of you, what remained after the dream faded, was my marveling at how precisely my mind recreated your expressions, your nuances, your voice. In my dream I was sure you were real, even while I knew I was only dreaming. You leaned against one wall in a hall, I against the other and we both cried. I said, "I want you to come home. I want you to come home." I can remember you saying something about a list, you made three lists. You held out three trembling, thin fingers with your big bony knuckles. You said it like you couldn't believe you had made these lists at all. You said it like, I made them and it came to nothing. You said it like, I wish I had had more time

And there I was telling you I wanted you to come home. I wanted you to. Not you had to or you should.

I knew even in my dream that you couldn't. 

Love,

Sissy
Dear Bryan, 

One year ago tomorrow, you died. Now I don't put much stock in the meaning of a day. An anniversary. A deathiersary. What a year means to me is a time to reflect. I am in awe and disbelief that it's been one year already. 

An entire year with so much stuffed in it flashing by so quickly I feel breathless. A year filled with my pregnancy and the new life of my daughter. A year that River has grown so much in. A year of little adventures with my family. A year of joy and loss, of celebration and grieving. It doesn't seem right that life has given me both, that I can feel both, that life can still go on without you in it...

It's been a year of absence. A year where I expected to see you on Mother's Day. A year I thought you'd start playing with River and he'd adore you. A year I'd force you to hold your niece despite your nervous protests. Christmas went by without you in it. The first Christmas I can remember that didn't include you. 

I still remember you so clearly. Your expressions. Your voice. Your movements. I want to curl up and cry when I think that those things might fade, will fade, as the years roll by. One day I might have lived more days without you than with you in this life. How can that happen? How can my little brother be no more? 

It was a year I was sure you'd fill with drama. One that I dreaded because I was so worried over you and so angry in my helplessness. Would you recover this year? Would you kick your addictions? Would you find happiness or at least shed your despair? Would you make our mother cry? Would I feel like kicking you in the ass in frustration? Would I have to watch you morph further into some ironic mimic of our father? 

I hoped. I hoped you would recover. Would want to thrive in your life. I was so afraid you wouldn't. I was so afraid you would turn into OUR FATHER, PART II. I was afraid of the way living through something like that again would affect our mother and me. 

I thought that was the worse thing.

I was wrong.

Instead, so suddenly, you were gone. There was not even a chance of something better for you. 

I lived ignorantly for hours and hours before I learned that my world had changed and would never be the way it was. 

Loosing you has made me afraid. Afraid to suffer loss again. Afraid of how quickly and senselessly people can die. A flutter of panic easily begins in my chest when I rock my daughter or wake up with a start to hurry down the hall and watch River's sleeping face, count his breaths, place my hand gently on his chest and feel the life in him. I think, "How would I live if I lost my babies? How could my heart contain that pain?" Even thinking of it feels like I dropped balls of iron under my ribcage. 

I find calm by reminding myself that I have no control over these things. That I need to savor each day. To be thankful for what I have now. To stop tearing myself up over nothing. 

But, I know now.

I know what it is like to say goodbye. 

Not a goodbye, I'll miss you till I see you next.

No.

A goodbye, I will miss you for the rest of my life because I know, I know, I will never see you again.

I will never know how you would have turned out. I can never hope for something better for you or cheer you from the sidelines of your life or extend my hand to you in aid when you are fallen. 

One year ago tomorrow your dying blew a crater in me. 

Yes, grass and flowers spring over that wound. Life goes on. I'm happy. But the landscape is forever changed. I will live every single day feeling that hole that is your absence. It's heavy. It still hurts. I will always, always love you. 

Missing you baby brother, 

Your Sissy

Letters to my brother, tribute

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Dear Bryan,

What did I do on your birthday?

I was up at 3:30 in the morning with painful postpartum cramping, watching the video I helped mom make for your birthday, crying, and eating cereal. Then back to bed, awake, changing diapers, nursing Sage, and cleaning half the apartment slowly, ever so slowly. Hanging out endless string of diapers to dry in the sun, reading books to River, and lusting after a nap. I wish I had more time for you in my life.

Instead, you have to float at the back of my mind. I'm so busy living.

What was mom doing?

She said she was going to the site where you died to release 26 balloons for your birthday. She's been planning this day for months. The entire day will be about you. She'll think about you every moment. Maybe you would be surprised by her mourning. You never had to chance to be a parent and I wish you had, if for no other reason than to understand the depth of our mother's love for you.

What were your friends doing?

They were having a bonfire in your honor--something you enjoyed. You would have been living it up with them, were you still with us.

You would have been twenty-six. I wonder how you would have celebrated your birthday. I would have called you. Last year, we had a long conversation on the phone--the longest ever. You told me about your pinball machines. I was at the playground with River. You sounded so happy that I had called you on your birthday. 

I never forgot--not once. Sometimes I sent cards. Sometimes I even put some money in those cards if I had any to spare. You seldom remembered to contact me on my birthday, but I never minded. It was more important that you knew I remembered yours. I always did and I always will.



Love,

Autumn

P.S. I love how out of all the photos in this video, it shows the one where I look like I have some kind of mental disability! Laugh, Bryan, laugh.
(written the day before Sage was born)

Dear Bryan,

When I heard you had died I was eight weeks pregnant--at the peak of how sick I would feel. It was a typical morning. I blogged, I played with River. I had no idea you were dead. I didn't sense a thing. My mind couldn't have gone there. I had just laid down to take a nap with River when Jason came home and walked into the bedroom. I could tell by his face that something was wrong and beneath my alarm I was seriously annoyed that he couldn't have just waited until I woke up. I was so tired. So sick. At first I guessed he had lost his job. My stomach dropped to my toes.

He was crying. He said, "No, it's much worse than that." I knew then, "Someone died!" and I didn't think it was you. When Jason told me I was lost for a moment. Saying things I wasn't aware I was saying, rocking, clutching my toes with my knees to my chest. 

I know what I wanted to do then. I wanted to sleep all day and not talk to anyone, but in moments like that I don't think people generally have the liberty to do what they'd like to. Instead I wondered around in a fog making phone calls, speaking randomly like I was drunk, packing, not eating, trying to make myself eat. Heather came by at some point and I wonder what it was like to watch someone in the state of shock I was in. I remember when my dear friend's mother died. I wasn't there right away, but Jason and I stayed with her before and after the funeral. It was like seeing her strangely all together, but reeling. If I looked in her eyes, I could see she was a little bit crazy with it. That's how I felt. Somehow holding it all together but really just plan crazy. I felt horribly, physically ill from being pregnant at the same time.

But in moments when we need to keep our shit together, I think most people do amazingly well. You don't know how hard you can push yourself until life collapses beneath your feet. 

I think I got three hours of sleep that night and then got up the next day to drive all the way to New York solo with River going 80mph the entire time. I didn't want to speed too badly but I knew if I got pulled over--the raw grief in my face and easy to flow tears would probably get me out of any ticket. 

When I got there mom had been arranging photos of you into about a billion frames for collages. I was incredibly drained, but started arranging all these photos. The ones I'd brought up first. Then all the others. It was easy. I knew just where to set each photo. I quickly got that done. My hidden talent--arranging photos into collages. Somehow still keeping an eye on my son and doing it well enough that he was his normal, cheerful self. All having known you were dead for just less than 48 hours.

I guess I am shocked by how when the most horrible happens people still find the strength to function, to get through it, to even move. The following weeks are a blur. I know I walked around feeling as if everyone could see my hurt in my face. That being social was a challenge because I was so raw inside. I cried often, I yelled, and raged. When spring came round, I started to feel better. Grief had become a part of who I was. I had to live with it.

Bryan, your birthday is coming up and once again my pregnancy is getting in the way! I want to donate money to a local animal shelter since you were always taking in and feeding stray cats. That means I'd like to take River to visit there to see the animals we'll be helping. And it's hard to remember to do that, to find the time to do it, to remember that your birthday this coming Saturday when all these days stretch in front of me as possibilities for my daughter to be born. It doesn't seem fair to you--that my life catches me up. That I can feel happy and distracted and excited and thankful when you aren't hear to experience any of those things. I sat in the rocker on the porch, hands folded over my belly (your niece) and told Jason, "The closer it gets to the end of this pregnancy, the more sad I am that Bryan isn't here."

Life goes on without you in it. It seems horribly wrong. You would have been twenty-six on the fourth. Maybe baby girl will come tomorrow (indeed she did), maybe she will come on your birthday, maybe she will come after. But every year we will think of your birthday should have-beens and my daughter's increasing age. She will change, you will always remain the same.

Happy Birthday little brother.

Once you puked up soda and spaghetti all over the kitchen floor. Mom was always pissed when you were going to be sick. You never even tried to make it to the toilet. You would just heave over wherever you were, ignore her frantic yelling, and vomit all over. It was vile.

You also would cry when you had to swallow pills. Our mom would have to crush it up in jelly. You drove me nuts always carrying on about everything--much more quick to tears than I was. Dude, Bryan just stop freak'in crying.

Together we helped our cat, Gypsy, give birth to her first litter of kittens. She yowled after that first baby came out and ran away, diving under your bed. You cursed and dove after her leaving me watching a kitten squirming in it's sack. I tore the sack open, you returned Gypsy to her birthing box. Together we watched two more babies be born.

Happy Birthday, Bryan.

I can't believe I have to grow older without you.

Love,

Sissy
Dear Bryan,

On Thursday night I dreamed of you for the second time since you died. In the first dream, months and months ago, you were telling me to talk to our father. Something you would had said when you were living too. I was telling you that you didn't know all the horrible shit he had done since you died. You didn't know you were dead and I was sorry to bring it up. Still, you told me again to talk to our father. We were sitting on a bus having this conversation--a school bus.

I don't put much stock in dreams, except as self expression. So, I don't think you were really telling me to talk to our father. I think maybe this time you would have shrugged your shoulders and let me be as stubborn as the man who is responsible for half our genetics (the half responsible for our stubbornness too, might I add. So, it's his own damn fault.) But I knew I was dealing with my own guilt. Should I? Shouldn't I? What was right? What was wrong? What would you think of everything that blew up in our faces while we were grieving your death?

In this second dream, our mom, my friends Amanda and Karen, and I had found some way to visit you in the place your consciousness went when you died. My sleeping brain wasn't too clear on where exactly that was. (blame the bulk of this on having seen Inception a few weeks ago) When we first got there, to you, I told you that you were dead and what had happened since you died. Mom got mad and somehow we took that knowledge away from you. I know we had a limited amount of time to visit with you and Mom wanted us to all spend it celebrating our memories of you and being happy. But towards the end, pieces of your death were cropping up--bits of twisted metal buried in the driveway of the houses we used to live in (the one of the corner of 302 and Blackhawk). 

We were upstairs in the attic in front of the double windows. We were going to paint your best memories on the slanted ceiling to remind you of us when we were gone. The paints were named things about you. We were missing some and Amanda and Karen rushed out to find them for us. Mom was crying because our time was almost done and I'd slipped up and mentioned how you were dead.

"Oh, yeah." you said. You'd remembered and your nose started to bleed, you look depressed, you took up a needle and shot it into your arm. Mom was, by this time, hysterical.

I took you by your shoulders and looked at mom and back to you and said, "Would you both listen to me? Listen to me for once. I'm always right about things like this."

You both waited.

"Bryan, you might be dead, but you are in heaven. This is heaven. It's nirvana."

Your eyes lit up. You looked around as if seeing everything new.

"It's like a dream that never ends here. You can make it anything you want. Time will pass quickly and one day, we'll be here with you always. You can do anything here."

"I can fly?" you asked, excited.

"I guess so."

You jumped up, thrilled and jumped out the open window. You didn't fly but you weren't hurt.

"Maybe it takes practice?" I shouted down to you. "I mean, you've never actually flown before."

But you weren't really listening. You were jumping higher and higher, closer and closer to flying. You were blissfully, perfectly happy.

I woke up then, smiling.


Love,

Sissy 
Dear Bryan,

It's been awhile since I wrote to you, though that doesn't mean you haven't been in my thoughts or spoken of. I'm a very public very private person. A total contradiction. I am very forthcoming to others, except when it comes to anything negative. I can't bring people down. I really do believe on focusing out mostly positive energy. I also can't stand to expend the energy to bang my head against a wall, to agonize over things out of my control, or to keep mourning something that just can't be changed. One of those things is that you are dead. 

That doesn't mean I am unable to miss you. I miss you each time I mention your name--which is still quite often. Being sad about it is just part of who I am now. The other day on the way to a park play date, I even cried a bit. I know, I know, it doesn't happen often. I"m quick to tears over all kinds of things but I'm just not one to all out cry anymore. Crying seems more troublesome than not. It has it's place though and I let it happen when it needs to. That day, I was just plain sad. Sad that here I was bring my son to a park and you were dead. That my life moves on in small and simple ways and you are dead. That soon my daughter would be born and you are dead.

Image (95).jpgBryan and I the day of my high school graduation, June 2001

I can accept yes, but sometimes the rules of living (birth and death) seem unreal. Like a dream I might wake up from. I can create new life. I couldn't save yours. Bitter sweet is a clever description, but it still seems baffling. I should be able to go to our mother's this Christmas and see you walk through the door. The fact that I can't ever again is truth, but it doesn't seem like it should be. 

Driving, that day I felt a wave of loneliness.

This was my first emotion after denial when I heard the news that your were gone. My brother, my balancing act, my is-not-myself, my foil--I suppose. And linked to all that. I'm the only one who will give our mother grandchildren. You will not have children. You are like a branch cut from a tree. My babies will never play with your babies. It is a thought that reeks of wrong. 

This is the emotion that causes me the greatest sadness--loneliness. I lost you, a person that understood a part of myself better than anyone else ever could. This is followed by anger, not at you (never, for some reason, at you) and then a return to acceptance because I can't change our shared past anymore than I can change what happened to you. I can only change me. 

What do I want? 

That's an easy question. I move on from there. 

I move on with you tied up in my memories and in who I am as a person because of you. I know that when I am in a great deal of pain birthing my daughter, I will think of you. I will tell myself to feel blessed in my pain. My pain will be one of life. I am lucky to be alive and create more life. I should be glad of my pain. That pain will just be a pin prick in a sea of experiences. That pain is better than being dead. 

I know when I hold my baby girl I will think of you. Of that strange balance of death and life, grieving and celebration, emptiness and fulfillment. Something we all come to understand but can never really embrace. No, life isn't fair. Life can be cruel. It can also be miraculous. It is when we find that razor's edge between then two--when we accept both--that I think we can find happiness again.  

Love,

Sissy


Dear Bryan,

We didn't exchange many of our personal stories as we grew older. I only have the roughest idea of what your life was like since the onset of puberty. I'd have to say that in many ways we were more different than alike. Looking at our parents, I feel I can claim the flag of black sheep of the family. I wonder if you would agree or say that my coasting along without causing too many bumps in the family dynamic would cast you as the black sheep instead. 

I know you started smoking cigarettes around age thirteen because you told me. I watched you snatch up a half smoked butts from the side of the road to smoke while we walked together. I your buffer for nefarious activity. Mom certainty wouldn't expect me to go along with you doing something wicked. 

You were obsessed with pot. This is why I bought you tapestries with marijuana leaves and new pipes for Christmas more often than not. You knew all kinds of crazy shit I didn't understand. Once, you made me walk with you into the woods to see the pot plant you were growing in a patch of sunlight. Later on a deer ate it--we assumed. In some of your remaining paperwork and memorabilia, there is a packet of Morning Glory seeds and printed notes on how to extract something or another to get high. You studied and informed me on how to grow shrooms. (I can't even write this stuff without wondering if I am making any sense!) Mom put this covertly in her speech about you at your funeral as you being a scientist.

You spoke to me about your addiction to pills and how it was to kick that. Explaining our father's addiction to heroin via his addiction to pills. Enlightening me on this drug culture I was ignorant to. How one thing leads to another like a rock rolling down hill and starting an avalanche.  

During our last conversation you talked to me about your heroin addiction. I was shocked that with all your knowledge and disapproval over our father's problem, that you would have let yourself fall so far. I said to you, "How could you do that? You said you would never do that!" 

I've been depressed, maybe not as depressed as you. I can't quantify sadness, especially not with a dead man. But to this day, I don't understand what made you feel like you had to self treat or avoid your pain with drugs. How could you think that was wise? Especially after all we knew and had seen from our father. Or maybe you just didn't care? 

When you were sick and detoxing off pills, I wanted to shake you till your teeth rattles and demand, how could you? How could you put our mother and me through this crap again? How could you be so much like our father? You were better than him! Smarter than him! And at the same time I felt this insane panic because I knew there was nothing I could really say or do to make you stop or smack some sense into you. And so it simply came down to telling you, "I love you. Mom loves you. Please, don't hesitate to ask for help or come stay with us if you need somewhere to go."

But going back before everything spiraled out of control--I never knew what to say to you about your enamor with 'drug culture'. (I sound like a total newbish snob, don't I? So sorry.) I mean, you were right in speaking to me like I was ignorant. I was. I tried to listen all the time thinking, 'How is this cool?' while you were probably thinking, 'My sister is such a newb'. I knew I couldn't dissuade you. We were stubborn in a similar way. I also know you were glad I didn't have these demons to wrestle with. You never offered me anything, never pushed, never judged and I tried to do likewise. In fact, if I so much as had a glass of wine--you seemed disappointed, concerned and would take me aside to tell me how horrible it was to drink. When you found out I had smoked pot, you offered to smoke with me, and when I refused--you never asked again. 

I never drank until college and the first time my roommates badgered a bottle of SkyBlue into my hands, I sat there and cried while I sipped it. One of my roommates, the same one that stood outside the stall door and talked me through tampon insertion (you so wanted to know that), also had an alcoholic father. When she told me I needed to let go and try to drink, that it wouldn't make me my Dad, I trusted her. She was right. She didn't laugh at me while I cried. Not sobs, but a slow drip of tears and a horrible burn of guilt. 

The times I drank and drink, even to this day, are few and far between. I've never been so drunk I blacked out, puked, or forgot where I was. I don't think I am capable of that kind of loss of control. There is always a part of myself holding me back that I am glad of. A part that remembers our father shouting at our mother, passed out on the couch, repeating the same endearments over and over again to me while holding my hand with his breath reeking. I wonder why you didn't feel this same way. 

But I'm not a complete newb.

I once drank an entire bottle of wine with before mentioned roommate and spent a blissful span of minutes rolling around in the grass on a hot spring night laughing uproariously. 

I see you are not impressed. 

Well then, let me share the story of the second only ever party I went to in college. I suppose I should mention the first. It was my very first night in school and I and a small herd of girls felt like we just had to attend a party. We clamored onto the bus and went downtown to shove our bodies into a small dirty apartment and turn our noses up at prepared red cups full of beer. Then we left. Not very exciting. 

My second and last party was in the spring of my senior year hosted by one of the classmates from my methods courses. All of us were invited. That means the 26 or so students that had shared  five of my courses for the entire semester and, better yet, it was walking distance from where I lived. They even got the one mom in our class to go. 

I didn't donate money for a keg since I didn't drink beer. So I brought whatever booze was laying around our apartment collecting dust. I think there was some brandy and snopes. Shit, I had probably bought for the underagers I knew and never bothered to drink myself.

So I'm sipping at that when someone offers me boxed wine. I love wine. So I drink a little wine and feel a buzz start behind my brow. Next came the brownie. I'd never eaten a pot brownie before but I loved brownies, so what the hell. Yum. 

At this point one of the boys from my class staggered over reeking of beer and seriously explained to me how I had to do a keg stand right then. 

But, I don't drink beer.

No, no, no Autumn. You don't have to drink the beer. Everyone is wasted. All you have to do is pretend. I will hold (the hose) in your mouth but I will not put beer in your mouth. They will think you are fucking awesome. I will not put the beer in your mouth. I swear. No beer in your mouth. 

So I agreed. Another classmate held my left leg and Jason held the other and I was upside down in a room of people with this keg hose thing in my mouth held by druken classmate the first. Then they started counting and everyone was counting. Meanwhile, I was just upside down with blood rushing to my head and, as promised, no beer in my mouth. Eventually, I twitched signaling I had swallowed so much beer I could not take it anymore--as if. Everyone cheered--either totally believing I was a virginal master of keg stands or not. It was no mystery to my classmates that I did not go to the bars, did not party and did not drink. What I did was read a lot--before class, during breaks, and afterwards as I wove through a hall packed with human bodies. I think they all took much relish in that night's corruption of Autumn.

Then another classmate started passing around a joint and I am like, what the hell, why not. Not only would I have my first keg stand, albeit faked, I would also have my first circle smoke. (If circle smoke is an accurate term even!) Soon after I start drifting and then coming to and shoving pretzels in my mouth like machine gun fire. I was so...toasted, stoned, drunk, ingloriously drugged that I couldn't even get my coat on without Jason's assistance. I had to give myself directions about how to put my arm into my sleeve and then my other arm. Eventually, we wound up outside with me running down the street laughing.

That was my only party. 

I don't think I ever shared that story with you but I can imagine your amused expression if I had. When you looked at me that way, I always felt like the younger sibling who didn't know how the world worked or what life was really like. 

I wonder how we went in such opposite directions from our shared experiences and what, if any difference, it would have made to you if we had not.  

Love,

Sissy
Dear Bryan,

It's a strange life, being a parent. Lots of talking about kids and babies. Though I am still myself, I feel very changed. I love nothing and no one as much as I love my son. You had no interest in being a parent so parenting was something I never discussed with you. I don't know what you thought of me as a mother. I never got to talk with you about being pregnant a second time because I found our right after Christmas and the last time I spoke to you on the phone, it was mentioned, but hardly important compared to everything else going on. We didn't know then I was having a daughter. We didn't have any names picked out. I wonder if your life is like a book you didn't get to finish reading or if, liberated from your body, you gained an all encompassing knowledge. Unfettered from time or maybe just from desires and yearning and curiosity to a state of peace. And unknowing, I ramble to you now as I never would have written or spoken to you were you still here as I once knew you.

You never had children. You never lost anyone precious to you either. So you never lived with loss, or grief, or the mindless fear of loosing someone else you love. You never learned that the first loss shatters something. You can know that life is precious. That life is fragile. That you must savor each moment. But you don't really know this until someone dear to you dies. Now I have a panic that I will feel this overwhelming pain again. That Jason will die or my son. And because River is so innocent and vulnerable, my panic for him flies into my throat and has me trembling with anxiety. Only for a moment though, because no one can live happily worrying about tomorrow. Like so much else, happiness is only gained by a sustaining faith. A faith that things will be alright and that you don't really have any control over what happens next.  

You never really had faith. And I don't just mean in a higher power. You didn't have faith that time would heal wounds, that you could overcome your problems, that the people who were your family would have taken you in and truly cared. You were plagued with doubts and despair. It seemed you thought you only really had yourself and that only you knew best. 

And so I wonder, if you had the chance to be a father or if you had lived past the death of a loved one, or if you had more faith--might things have turned out different? Might you have gotten off the drugs or maybe not used them at all? Might you have driven slower? Had a better night's sleep? Seen our father in a different light? Not begun abusing heroin when he pushed it at you? 

Were you born with these things already in you like seeds-planted and running riot? Or did we make you this way? Did you not get enough water? Was it too bright in your patch of ground? Too much shade? Choke vines? Slugs? Ladybug infestations?

You see, while I accept that you are gone and accept the grief, the fact of the matter is, as a parent, I can't accept what I know about our childhood. I'm not as mindlessly angry as I was when you first died--when I thought I could trace the footprints of your death back in time and see the foreshadowing of it in my memories of you. No, I'm not as angry, but I am somewhat merciless. I might forgive, but the knowledge remains. I don't ever want to mudsling what is gone and by just to cause anyone pain, but the knowledge remains. The age for throwing tantrums is long past. I try to understand. None of us had it easy and everyone is far from perfect. Still, I'm a parent and I know how I love my child with my entire being. And it wasn't till I became a parent that I could look back and make judgments. 

I remember you as a boy and a young man. I remember. And everything in me demands that you were made, and though you made all your own stupid choices that night and the nights before, and the months and months and years before your death--that people did wrong by you. The people that owed it the most to you to be better than themselves, to always put you first, did wrong by you. And that is the one splinter in my skin that keeps me distant. You, more than any other, would understand. You did understand. 

Those of us that remain can very well beat ourselves with our grief and feel we deserve no better than to wallow in our grief and cry until our eyes ache. But, guilt is a selfish, ugly thing. I've said it before. I said it at your god damn funeral. I'll say it again. Guilt does nothing for anyone else. It keeps us locked in the past. With guilt, nothing changes. All that we can do now is move forward. Be better parents. Learn from our errors. Be better people in general. 

I can't go back and hold you each time you cried or take back whatever ugly words I might have said. I can't open my door, when I locked it to be alone, to share our hard moment together instead. I can't defend you where I didn't or jump into my car and speed to New York when I wish I would have. What I can do, is treasure my son, try to be kind, to listen instead of judge, to try not to yell but offer comfort first. I won't always do the best thing but as long as I keep trying to, I honor you. 

I imagine you shaking your head at me, a small smile on your lips. I know. I know. I never would have rambled to you like this, but I think you would have agreed, maybe, if I put it to you as cliff notes. 

Love,

Sissy
Dear Bryan,

I find that I don't have as much need to write these letters anymore. My grief is so firmly a part of myself, I don't question it. Thoughts about you flow naturally into my conversation. Missing you strikes at random times. I have a few photos of you scattered around our home. I wonder why I didn't before you had died. It seems unfair to have not, but that's how it is.

Our sister sent me this one, etched into wood. My favorite photo of you holding River on your wedding day. Regaurdless of all that has taken place since, I look back at that time and smile. 

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It rained when you started to say your vows. We all had to run for the building and the wedding commenced inside from the beginning with our perfect hair and makeup ruined from the rain. I cried when you got married and was so honored that Jason and I were part of your wedding party. You were so happy that day. I love to remember you that way.

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I wish with everything in me that I could watch you grow older and hold your babies and all those other milestones of life that you will never experience and I will never get to be a part of. 

Love,

Sissy
Dear Bryan,

Lately I've been thinking back to those first days, weeks and months after you died when my grief was raw with shock and horror. When I denied and raged and felt lost. Looking back I can clearly see that I went a bit crazy. That the hardest part was not being able to just let myself go. I think I needed to lay in bed all day and cry, not eat, not bathe. You know, the typical depression indulgences. I didn't have the luxury of letting myself live in my grief and even if I could have, for a day or two, I was too stubborn to let myself. I had River to care for and a new baby growing in my body. One that needed food I often was repulsed by and rest I forced myself to give my body. And River needed so much more. He needed me to smile and laugh and play. He needed my care and supervision. He needed me present. The times I was able to turn myself inward to my own pain were few and far between and often only happened after Jason came home from work when I knew it was safe and okay to indulge a bit.

Sometimes I'd burst out shouting, crying, running down the hall. I did things I'm ashamed of during those dark months. But I can honestly say, I was not in my right mind. Even going in public was a lot of work. Especially my doctor appointments. Was I supposed to be thrilled about the new baby? Concerned? Tears in my eyes at the sound of its heartbeat? I didn't feel any of that. I'd go to those doctor appointments and think that you were dead. That I didn't have room in my head left to be concerned for myself or overjoyed for new life or worry about what could happened when the worse had just occurred. It was hard enough just to get through the day.

I felt like my grief must live on my face like a huge brand. When I had to fill out a pre-birth survey on depression I laughed bitterly. Then I scribbled in the margin "My brother just died two weeks ago so I think that may effect the results of this survey." Still, every time I go to my appointments, I feel a dread and panic. I still feel that lingering trace and a pall of sudden apathy. The midwife holds the doppler over my belly, the baby's heartbeat thumps into the air and she looks at me with a wide grin waiting for my smile, my excitement. Something. I have nothing to give...still. 

I'm late to all my appointments. I am late getting my blood work done. I turn down extra testing. I wonder if I really need to get tested for anything else. I'm just not very excited. This pregnancy doesn't consume my thoughts and life like my first one did--and maybe that's just because it is my second. But I think after loosing you this year, I'm still a bit numb. So much of my time and effort goes towards River and family that in the end, I feel like I don't have much left for anything else. I consider it as conserving my resources for when my daughter arrives. Right now, I have faith that everything will go as it needs to while she is safe in my body. I can't worry about what-ifs or could be's. I'm still very much one-day-at-a-time. 

Still, at the same time I am thankful for the timing of this pregnancy, though it has made loosing you somehow..harder. Not only because of those first trimester moods that combined with the worse of my grieving, but the distraction of having to care for myself. Not even being able to have a glass of wine. You don't know how bad I wanted just one glass of wine to relax my head, to help me sleep, to indulge in with a friend. But no, couldn't do that. And I couldn't take mental days off, not when I sometimes was so physically drained from being pregnant that I needed days off for those. So tired and sick that I once dragged myself out of the bathtub and crawled into bed soaking wet, naked, unable to find the energy to move. I slept and slept and slept. Jason called in to work the next day. When was I supposed to take a mental health day when my body was so unreliable already?

And now, only months after you died, I will have a second child. How can I properly grieve when I am so busy with my children? It's both a positive and a negative. My salvation, you could say, and my distraction. But sometimes I need to find a place just for you.

When Jason's family visited I found myself very sad that first night. I was watching River play and basically worship his Uncle Joe. I thought about how scared you were of little River. Afraid to hold him. And if we forced you, you'd hastily pass him back. But I'd seen you with toddlers--our cousins when they were small and neighbors children. You were always very willing to play with them, to swing them, wrestle them, listen. And so when you told me, "He's almost to that age where I can really play with him." I knew that was the truth. I looked forward to it. Now it is here and you are not. River won't walk in your shadow and demand that Uncle Bryan play with him. He asks about you less and less. Recognizes you in photos, but that is all and that is all it will ever be. And when that knowledge crept into my chest, seeing River with his Uncle Joe, I felt so sad.  Though my sadness has been tempered by time, reality and acceptance--it still lives. I mentioned my thought to Jason and later when I went to bed, I tucked your hacky sack under my chin and fell asleep that way. I remembered those nights when it would take hours to fall asleep thinking about you being dead and how I'd wake in the early hours and think about you being dead and then wake up and think about you being dead.

Life isn't like that anymore. How could someone even bear that? Wounds have to heal. Pain has to be accepted and embraced. It becomes a part of me. Still, your death will always feel very wrong. Like a glaring addition of magenta lines to a steady patten of white and then black rectangles. 

I guess what I want you to know is that I though I can say I am happy, I still miss you. Though I don't think about you being gone every second of every day, I have my moments when I just think of you and I grieve. Though I am having a daughter mere months after you passed, she doesn't fill the void that you have left. That healing is a process I don't think will ever really end.

I'm doing pretty good.

I am often very happy. 

Even though the reality of you no longer existing as you once did, is still to this moment, unbelievable. 

Love,

Sissy

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