Forty-three

Just a few more minutes and July 18th is officially over again till next year.

Today would have been my brother's 43rd birthday. It's a prime age for an exhaustive midlife crisis or, to put it more positively, a prime age to undergo a reinvention of yourself. My brother did neither a full-blown crisis nor reinvention. Instead, last year, he made the sad decision to end his life.

More than anything, I thought about my mom today. As much as a birthday is the celebration of someone's life, a mother gives birth to the person doing the celebrating. I particularly thought about my mom as I lethargically watched two balls of energy: my sons.

My boys sang songs and played guitar while acting out their "Rockstar" game. You know how to play "Rockstar" don't you? If not, it's their game where they say, "Hey, let's be Smashing Pumpkins," or, "Hey, you be Sting and I'll be Slash." Uh-huh. Yes, that Slash. But don't worry, there were no cigarettes hanging out of mouths or anything like that.

There was some naked wrestling on the floor and the ever present echo of their G.I. Joe inspired rallying cry, "Go, Joe!" And finally they played "Volcano" while jumping on the couch. The floor lava was so burning hot that falling off the couch meant instant death.

Once upon a time, my mother surely watched my brother in much the same way.

I can't remember the last time I saw him on his birthday. Either his own personal circumstances or my own distance always seemed to ensure that I didn't see him blowing out birthday candles.

It makes me think about how you never know how long you'll have someone in your life.
We are not guaranteed the pleasure of each other's company for any length of time.

Although it's a great comfort to know his soul's still progressing along it's journey to true happiness, and while I pray for him still, somehow it doesn't change the fact that I always wanted him to be happy in this world, to recognize his nobility here in this existence, to be the son, brother and father he surely wanted to be.

Truly, time does not heal all things.

Comments

Jameil said…
that is deep. i thought about how it never seems like long enough the other day when i saw lady bird johnson's daughter crying over the death of her 94yo mother. you're never really ready to say good-bye. even if its painful you hope they can have just one more pain-free day so you can have just one more good/great day with them.
field negro said…
Wow, nothing I can say, except sorry.

I am glad that you and your family found the strength to keep moving on. In your case, not only did you move on, but through your blogging you continute to contribute to society as well.

Peace.
1969 said…
Very sad. So sorry for your loss and for your family. All you can do is celebrate his life and memory while cherishing yours. God Bless.
Ian Lidster said…
Thanks for coming to my blog and leading me in the direction of yours. Please come back, and I'll come back to yours.
Poignant wisdom at the end of your moving piece about your brother, and it is so true that time does 'not' heal all things. We are always left a bit diminished.
Ian
Anonymous said…
Went with Mom to cemetery to recognize his b-day. Listening to mom say the prayer for the departed from memory hurt even more than seeing his name on his tombstone. Your right time does not heal all things.

love always
Kari Carlson said…
Like others who have commented, I don't have many words to share. Except, I'm sorry for your loss and I'll remember your brother in my prayers tonight.
Dena said…
your words struck a cord with me today. my step-mom passed away 14 months ago and time has not helped this wound. i believe when dealing with loss....our lives continue on, changing and growing and we learn to live in this different place of existence....without our loved ones. death is definitely sadder for the family and friends left behind than for the departed.....
My mother died last year of a heart attack. Funny (not ha-ha) you usually think that would happen to one's dad. My anguish was multiplied by my secret nightmare. That there's no Heaven or Hell, just zero, wink out. As if she never existed and all conscious thought (a soul) ceases. I didn't want my mother to suffer that split second of terror before the lights go out. Doesn't matter if you end your own life or you die naturally.

I had a colleague who once told me that people who commit suicide are cowards. After all, he said, look at those folks in Africa, or after the Tsunami. You think they want to kill themselves? No. Survival is an animal's #1 instinct. They are just doing what comes naturally. It's the unnatural crush that squeezes that out of a person. It's neither a cowardly act or selfish or a way to "end the pain." Shit it is what it is...speeding up something you feel is inevitable. You might be loonyfor saying it's inevitable, but it's legitimate to you, at least. It's probably the last and only act we have utter control over, sadly.
Liz, I'm so very sorry for your loss and your family's, especially your mother's.

There can't be anything worse than outliving your own child because it is out of the natural order of things.

We all have times when we are sure that life is not worth living, but things change. Always. Our personal suns do come out to shine again if we can only hang on through the dark times.

It makes me sad that certain days of every year must be filled with pain for you and yours. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
the last noel said…
I'm sorry to hear about your brother. It's only been a year. I'm sure there's a lot of healing that needs to be done still.
Liz Dwyer said…
Jameil
Girl, I hear you. It's never the right time to say goodbye, especially if there are unresolved issues, feelings, etc. It's hard, isn't it. And I imagine, as the inevitable happens and I lose more folks who are close to me, I will have more moments where I feel like I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Field
Thanks so for saying that. Sometimes there is nothing more that needs to be said, you know?

1969
Thank you so much. It helps to remember good things, like how he was obsessed with model cars and comics, and had more charm than anyone around.

Ian
Glad to visit your blog again. I enjoyed my time over there. I definitely changed in ways I could not have imagined...it was so unthinkable, so unreal. I suppose one thing that was good was that it made me want to live life to the fullest, to go for my dreams more than I had before. It made me feel how very fragile we all are.

Cyndee
So glad you went with her. I wish I could have been there with both of you. You and me could have been a hot mess together, you know.. I don't know how mom does it. I suppose it's her unshakable faith that he is still progressing spiritually in the next world, that this is not it for him or for any of us. If not for that, I can imagine the anguish would be unbearable.

Kari
The prayers are more than anyone could ask for and more than welcome. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dena
So sorry about your stepmom. You're so right. We change as the result of the pain, the emotions we feel, the sense of loss. Last year on his birthday, I couldn't even write about it. Instead, I posted about something completely inane. It was like I couldn't even acknowledge that it had happened.

Whether we change and learn to live in a better way, or whether we become bitter, harder, more fearful of life, is a choice we all make. It is infinitely better for the soul who passes on. My brother is surely much happier and at peace than he was here in this existence.

C.C.
I'm so sorry about your mother. Heart disease in women is not given as much media attention, but I've read that more women have it than men.

The suffering, the terror are all horrible things for those of us still left behind to think about. My brother shot himself in the head and sometimes I find myself wondering if he felt pain, etc...gosh, I can't think about that right now. I think you're right about the desire for control though.

Anyway, yours is a terrible nightmare to have, to have that feeling that this is it, that our existence here is as far as it goes. Fortunately, as wonderful as this world can be, this isn't the end all, be all.

Heart
Thank you so much for your very kind and heartfelt thoughts. Even though I should know better, sometimes I need reminding that everything can be persevered through...I read once that life is like a barbed wire fence. It's smooth and then it has a spiky part that can hurt you, but eventually, you get to a smooth part again.
Liz Dwyer said…
Noel
Oh, you were leaving me a comment while I was responding to comments!

Gosh, I think back to when I was in your class last year, when half the time I was trying to pretend I wasn't a complete emotional wreck and I was working on that psycho pyromaniac story. Whew, I hope I'm more emotionally sound than I was then, but yes, there's still a whole lot of healing that needs to happen. I probably don't even realize how much.
Anonymous said…
The reasons for your writing this, on this day, that I might read it...infinitely greater than you know.

I must go and dry my face.

Goodnight.
Anonymous said…
Sorry to hear that you had such a loss, I pray you and your family well.
Miz JJ said…
There are no words to comfort someone when they lose a loved one. I hope that writing it all out and knowing that you are touching people helps.
Liz Dwyer said…
Kim,
My sister in spirit, I wish I could give you a hug and wipe your tears away myself. I hope you are ok?

DJBA,
Thank you for those prayers. I certainly need them, that's for sure.

Miz JJ,
Writing about it does help. I don't know what I would do without this space. I hope it does touch someone...I know everybody's thoughtfulness and kindness has certainly touched me.
Pearl said…
Liz, thank you for this post. I live in Australia, a country that has the highest youth suicide rate in the western world. In my final year of high school, two of my classmates - one a dear childhood friend - took their own lives. My own brother has bi-polar disorder and has made several attempts on his own life. His illness is unpredictable and his mortality is at always at the forefront of my consciousness.

Because I know how much it hurts to lose someone suddenly with no goodbye and no explanation, I think I've shut my heart to my brother. I'm just so terrified of losing him. Your post was a wake up call to me. I don't want to let fear harden my heart. I don't want to waste the time I do have with him right now. I'm so grateful to God that he's still here, even if it's just for one more day. There's so much more I could do on a daily basis to express my love for him. Thank you for connecting me with all that.

My experience is that time doesn't heal all wounds, but they do hurt less. I'll be keeping you close in my prayers.
Anonymous said…
Your story and perspective are both heart breaking and thought provoking. Essentially though, it also illuminates the point of our existence and the power of Faith in helping us thru this part of the journey and the ups and downs in life.
Many wise people reckon that the passage of time does not heal us but that it is that overtime we learn to cope with the pain, with the reality of it all and i think, that ultimately "time" does heal.

We cope, we move on and we survive.
If we know the meaning of life and we have faith we celebrate the passing of our loved ones regardless of what we are taught,we have to search deep down, search for that meaning deep inside ourselves, we have to search for that compassion, that understanding, that peace, that joy, that knowingness, that confidence that the purpose is positive, that the outcome will be postive , that in the end everything is gonna be alright.
We have to learn to shift our mindsets, our perspectives, our commitment to learn about the meaning of life and essentialy we will smile, find the answers and be happier.
How we define something is always very contentious, what perspective we view things from and who we choose to listen to, who and what we choose to believe!
There are a lot of things in life that we dont quite understand, suicide is one of them but it's not for us to judge it.However, the shame, stigma and sense of hopelessness attached to it is fuelled by our society not by our inner spirit, therefore, we are not as enlightened on the subject as we could be.
Finally, on a personal level, Liz, you are on the right path to this enlightenment and peace. The depth of strength that you are showing is remarkable, only God knows! Your Blog is part of that healing process- i absolutely adore the way you write, for it is with a truthfulness that is uncommon in American Blog sites, you strip things bare, you see things for what they are and you are incredibly brave for doing so. Many of us hide, deny and pretend that we dont feel or believe a certain way but secretly we do, you lay it on the line and allow people to explore the issue. You are in fact better than Oprah Winfrey at this, she should have a word with you and get some tips!
You are indeed one of the worlds best agony aunts! Will you counsel me one day please? I have many unresolved issues. For example, 25 years ago my mother died, (she was my age now 43, we also share the same birthday 22 July), when i was 18. I never told her that i loved her and i was sometimes mean to her. Time as helped me to recover but still now, i smell her essence, still now, i cry like a baby when i think about her, still now i wonder what it will be like if i could see her for just one minute, still now, i yearn for her warm, gentle company, still now, i think that i just saw her waliking down the road.
However, conversely, i know she is in a safe place, happier and at peace. I know that one day we will meet again in a much better place with much brighter outcomes, of the like that i sometimes dream about, where we meet again and i hug her, inhale her motherly fragrance and she kisses me and we share our thoughts and experiences!
Keep it up, love and much respect.
Liz Dwyer said…
Pearl,
I am grateful for your prayers and for all that you shared in your comment. I had no idea Australia had such a high youth suicide rate. I wonder why this is? Your experience with your brother...It really struck a chord with me because although my brother was never officially diagnosed, I know my mother read a lot about it and believes that my brother might be bi-polar. There has been a lot of mental illness in my family and you're right, the unpredictability of it is difficult to deal with, and then there's the social stigma of it, the side effects of medication, etc. I'm so glad you are thinking of how you can open your heart to your brother and not be ruled by fear. It's difficult, especially when there are so many complex emotions and the situations are clearly not the easiest. My heart goes out to you and yours. Come visit me again, let me know how you are doing.

Anonymous,
Eternally grateful for your shared thoughts, and also sitting with tears in my eyes thinking about you and your mother. You were so young when she passed, and this birthday must be very significant to you because of your age being her age. I am very moved by your wisdom, your insight into the human condition and the spiritual connections you make. I think my heart is in my throat.

You make me think how honesty in our culture is incredibly difficult. Once we start being honest about what we hold closest, dearest to us, our eyes open to the true realities around us and we can never sweep those things under the rug again. We can never go back to the way things were before, and that catalyst for change can be a terrifying thing. I am not always as honest as I could be. But I try. We owe it to each other to be honest in a world so filled with lies and falsities.

Tomorrow is your birthday...I wish you well and will keep you in my prayers.
Unknown said…
Liz,

I haven't visited your site for a while, but I'm so glad that I did. Like you, I lost my brother, my only brother. He was six years younger than me, and on May 18, he would have been 43 years old. Even though he died in a car accident on December 12, 1988, there isn't a day that goes by without me thinking about him and wishing he was still here.

I don't have to tell you about the pain and the heartache that's involved. Like you, I felt so bad for my mother. But I had a lot of my own grief to deal with. He was my baby brother. I was his big sis, or as he used to affectionately call me, his "big fish". No one could make me laugh harder than he could. And he would like any other little brother would, do the most outrageous things to embarrass me. Once, while I sitting with my boyfriend in my parents' living room, he decided to reach over and hit me in the back of the head with a piece of fried chicken! Girl! Not only was I embarrassed, but I had pieces of fried chicken stuck in my 'fro! Talk about heated! Of course, I never could catch him.

I would give anything to have him hit me with a piece of fried chicken today, or tease me about how ugly I look in the morning. Those are precious memories to me now.

And you're right, time doesn't always heal the hurt. I've accepted his death and moved on with the business of living, but a part of me still chokes up and wishes that for just one more time, we could watch another Godzilla movie together and laugh until we're both hoarse, just like in the old days.
MartiniCocoa said…
I'm sorry. Thank you for sharing.
Liz Dwyer said…
Angela,
I'm so glad you came over to visit me again and shared those wonderful memories that you have of your brother. That story about the chicken is really funny! You are truly fortunate to have those beautiful moments that you all shared, even if they probably were super embarrassing sometimes. :)

IANSJ,
Thanks girl. I really appreciate it. All the warm wishes have really made a huge difference in how I'm feeling.
Tafari said…
Touching! Sudden loss is so hard to deal with and there never seems to be the right answers. My thought s extend to the well being of your family.


Bygbaby
Liz Dwyer said…
Bygbaby,
Thanks so much for your warm wishes. It's truly a blessing to have this community of such thoughtful folks. Wonder what folks did before blogging existed...

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