I write a lot of poetry on this blog. Words of wisdom, perspective and change packaged into simple stanzas with touches of nature and spirituality thrown in. Each word I write is always a reflection on the way I see life and how I aspire to entreat with my relationship with the world. I want to live my own words, be an ambassador of my own truths of heart.
This week I have been challenged to live my words of becoming and change. I came to Kauai for respite and healing after a busy, dark season in life and instead have spent my time grieving the loss of my brother. He died last week, passed away unexpectedly from a medical condition we all believed was under control and nothing to worry about. I guess we were wrong. He was only 39.
It will never cease to amaze me how life can look so different than you expect. How you can have a certain vision and sense of the way things are; and in a second it gets flipped on its head leaving you scrambling to find your footing in a bizarre upside down world. You try and orient yourself to something for which you have no sense of orientation, whose rotation keeps changing moment to moment.
My brother and I had our ups and down. All siblings do I suspect. Families can be terribly complicated with all the dynamics and history and roles we’ve played out from childhood on. We had good moments and bad moments in the history of our relationship. It is bittersweet that things ended with the good. I will always wish we had more time for more of that good.
We don’t always realize the space somebody fills in our lives. Physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically. We get used to arranging our gravitational orbit to accommodate their presence and learn to revolve in accord with them. We develop a unique emotional set point towards them, feelings and an affective space we only hold for that relationship. We form an introject in our mind that represents our thoughts and perspective of them. We create memories and stories and narratives about who they are and what they mean to us. We get used to them occupying those spaces.
Then one day they are gone.
And there is nothing left but a void of empty space they once filled and a lingering sense of feeling lost at sea.
I am finding the tasks of grief are considerable. You cry a lot. You fervidly wish for just one more time together. You hold your parents in your arms and let them cry. You try and process that your family was always four and now it is three.
You worry about your frail, sickly mother and wonder if she’ll make it through this. You cry some more and buy waterproof mascara, because you realize you are tired of looking like an ugly, bloated raccoon. You start organizing all the practical and awful tasks that have to be done. Telling people of the news. Researching how to write an obituary. Planning a memorial service. Asking the Universe for dry eyes and a clear voice when you offer the eulogy: since in the end, you were still the person who knew him best, and you are the strongest one in your family- the only one who has it in them to speak of something that feels unspeakable.
You realize that when it comes down to it, the main task of grief is trying to accept and conceive something that feels unacceptable and inconceivable.
I had a future vision of my family living in Hawaii. My parents already live over here part time and will move to fully someday. My brother was still very attached and connected to them, I always assumed he’d end up here sooner or later. Kauai is where he always seemed happiest. My husband and I have plans to move here in a few years. I saw us over here together and believed there was something in this land that would bring warmth, peace and healing to my family, who sometimes struggled to find harmony and unity in our younger years.
And now, I cannot conceive he will never set foot here on this magical island again. Never see the marine ocean or eat disgustingly rare prime rib or drink a scratch margarita or take a walk under the clear, bright stars. Never send me random texts on Star Wars lore and recommend Sci-fi books and call me Sister Leia. Never cheer for his beloved Patriots. Never fight with me and drive me crazy. Never do something kind and make me proud to call him brother. Never have the chance to live out the second part of his adulthood.
We were supposed to lay our parents to rest first. Not the other way around.
A few years ago I stopped asking why. There are a lot of whys in this world- such is Life. We live in a beautiful world, but there are rips and cracks and tears in its fabric that any of us can get caught in. Life happens. Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s tragic and sad. And the better question becomes the question of how we choose to navigate it.
Do we do something destructive or choose to construct something new? Do we stay open to life or close ourselves off to the world? Do we remain in the broken pieces of what was or try and move into the new space of what may be? We don’t have a say in the things that break us, we can only choose to say what we’ll do with our pieces.
I sat on his favorite beach the other day- always sunny, turquoise waters, endless blue spanses of sky- and tried to feel my brother. We all have our views on what may come after this life, I believe there is something more and that he goes on. Death is not the end, just a new part of the journey. At first I couldn’t find him, but as I watched the waves go in and out I realized I was thinking too small, that he as I knew him- with all the struggles and anger and sadness he accumulated in this world- was no more. I chose to trust his spirit is happy and free.
I felt it then. A sense of a presence laughing joyfully on that beach. Young, carefree, riding the surf and giggling with glee. It was the most euphoric feeling I’ve ever known. Like Elysium.
I couldn’t see him.
But I believed.