I don’t have much time to write. It is summer which means I’ve got my boys with me all day long. I do my best to spend the days interacting and caring for them, rather than typing on a computer. This will be short. But it is something I wanted to write.
I have been fortunate to have so many people reach out to me through my writing, and most significantly, in regards to Chris’s death. If you have read my blog the past eight months, you have been witness to my ongoing struggle to cope with the loss of my brother. It still goes on, and I imagine it will for some time, maybe always. I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to death, and it makes sense that each experience, while baring some unifying characteristics, offers its own unique set of emotions.
But a few weeks ago, I took my first vacation to Colorado since my brother’s passing. I try to go back a couple of times a year to see my family.
I was so nervous to go back. I wondered if everywhere I looked a reminder of his existence would leave me in shambles. But the opposite happened. I was able to engage with his memory without feeling only pain.
It is a shame that our global society has torn so many of us away from the physical presence of our families and communities. On the drive to Colorado, I remarked to my husband that I wanted to get a tattoo of the Arizona flag to correspond with the Colorado flag tattoo I already have. I told him I considered myself to be just at home in the desert as I did in the mountains. But as soon as I got in my glorious Colorado peaks, that notion dissolved. Colorado is my home. There is no compare.
The day after we arrived, my brothers took my family and I on a fishing trip. My sons had never had their own poles, and were so excited to be real fishermen. Casey and Rob took turns showing them how to bait the hooks and cast the lines. Liam was so thrilled when he caught the first fish of the day. A couple of hours later, my mother showed up with a picnic. It was exactly like so many memories I had as a child, and now my boys will have that memory too.
I sat on the porch with Casey that afternoon after we got home. I told him I felt like I was getting to know my siblings in a new way. Whenever I came to town in the past, Chris and I spent the majority of the time together. One unexpected gift from his passing is that I was now spending time with my other siblings, learning who they are. I hate that Chris’s passing is the thing that helped me to get to know them, but I am thankful to get to know them none the less. Over lunch the next day, Casey made Liam and Kellen laugh and laugh by talking to them in this funny New Jersey grandmother voice. Just today, Kellen was asking me “Can you talk in the Uncle Casey voice?” He also reminded me how his middle name is also Casey, and how they are the only two who get to have that name. It makes me so happy to see this connection he feels to his Uncle.
On our last night there, my mother organized a wienie roast for me and my siblings and all our families. My sister and I had taken the cousins swimming that day. We came home starving. We cooked our hot dogs over the fire, ate baked beans and talked on the back patio. My mother is known as “Grandma Ice Cream” but she might as well be known as Grandma Dessert. When dinner was done, she put out a spread of s’more fixings, root beer floats, and individual desserts from her favorite bakery. We ate and talked and laughed. It felt so good just to be with them.
I did more healing in that short time than I have done in months. I was thinking about it today, and realized I haven’t been sad since I came home from vacation. I have thought of Chris often. I have missed him. But I haven’t been sad. I still have a great family. There are more memories to be made.
I guess I should say, I haven’t been sad until now. But this sadness is different. It is not from the loss of Chris. This sadness comes from being so far from the people and place I call home.