Memory and the State of Things

bittersweet symphonyI heard Bitter Sweet Symphony on the radio today and it got me all reflective and sentimental. Not only because it’s a pretty damn great song from my youth, but also because it was played during a video slideshow summarizing the life of my brother at his funeral.

I generally avoid going “there” with my brother anymore because I’ve said my bit and have grieved and don’t feel the need to dwell or add more baggage than is currently strapped to me already. I loved my brother and he knew that. I’ve celebrated his life, but I’ve allowed myself to continue living. Continue reading

The New Normal

phil 2

Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. The death of my brother and best friend has had a larger impact on me than any other single event in my life. Even though the list of people more significant to me than Phil is limited to my immediate family of my wife and children, I don’t think any death will so vastly shape and change me again. I may be more devastated, but not so wholly changed.

Mother’s Day marks the last time I saw Phil alive. We went to the park where he was to be married and taught my son how to roll down a hill. We went back to my house and watched the sort of okay horror movie, Insidious. I remember not feeling well and when he, his fiance and my mom and dad got up to go home I didn’t hug him goodbye, something I always did. Instead I went to the medicine cabinet to get Tylenol. We discussed the Rammstein show we’d just seen and how awesome it was. We said goodbye and that we loved each other. I can still see how he stood and looked at me in front of my door just before he turned to leave. It’s all burned into my mind.

A new normal is something I’ve been looking for. The world doesn’t stop turning for the death of anyone. You have to press on. Take your licks and keep moving. Focus on what you can manage and deal with the emotions as they come. Cry. Drink. Talk. Weep. Breathe deeply. Shake your head clear and get back to living.

Mentally I feel like I’ve never been better in my life. The sad days are few and far between anymore even though there’s barely an hour that passes that I don’t think about Phil. It’s a numbness that I’ve welcomed and cherish. Not that I don’t have strong feelings about it, but it’s good to compartmentalize it to some degree. There’s a healthy balance of letting it out and keeping it in. Life goes on. People live. People die. Sometimes it’s the ones we love.

Am I mad? No. Not in the least. In fact, there’s much I’m thankful for. Like the fact that Phil and I were so very close. We purposefully shared a room up until the day I got married. We always hugged and said, “I love you.” We hung out and always laughed a lot. I’m thankful that if Phil had to die it was over as quickly as it was. I’m thankful I got to see him the day of the accident and hold his hand while he still looked like Phil. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love from people I both do and don’t know.

The new normal feels like it’s slowly happening on its own and I welcome it, but also feel guilt for it. To not mourn for someone as much as you feel they deserve does bring about some feelings of guilt. You feel this way even though you know they’d not want one single tear shed. It’s just human nature. We want to honor the ones we love.

The new normal also feels like a mess because, well, it’s new. Phil’s personality was very mellow and he was a great glue for my family dynamic and without him, much has changed drastically and I mourn for that as well.

Sometimes I feel alone in this and sometimes I feel the lift from my brother, Jason, who walks this trail with me. Two where there are supposed to be three.

Most days are great, but days like Mother’s Day and tomorrow are not fun days. They’re a reminder of what was lost and the hole in my heart that I’m trying to not notice all the time.

In an animated movie I saw last year there was a point where the narrator talked about hearts breaking and the truth in the statement can’t be overstated. He said, “When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked. It grows back twisted and gnarled and hard.” 

Sometimes I feel like the character he was speaking of. Still very much me, but increasingly numbed to many things I used to feel greatly about. It takes an astonishing amount of anything to get an emotional reaction from me anymore. It’s given me extreme tunnel vision. I worry about my kids and my wife. That’s it. That’s my world. So long as nothing happens to them I’m impervious to pain of any kind. I’ve actually grown to love this as it gives my life and tasking a laser focus. No distractions. There was recently another death in the family of someone I really cherished and I barely felt anything. Is my family okay? Good. I’m good.

All this thinking and reflecting about the living that I’ll never have with Phil, I’m always reminded of the great ending to the poem, Maud Muller, that states:

For all the sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Another day. Another year. Another normal. I’m getting there.

 

 

Lunch With My Brother’s Killer

It’s a very odd feeling, staring into the eyes of the man responsible for killing your brother. It’s odd hearing him talk when my brother no longer can, but there I was, sitting across from an 86 year old man at Arbys, listening to him tell me about the accident.

I’d invited Donald out to lunch after much of the legal mess had settled in the wake of Phil’s death. I had a yearning to meet him. I didn’t want to berate him or yell at him. I just wanted some peace by meeting him. Some morsel of closure.

You see, Donald never reached out to me or my family after Phil died. He didn’t send a card or show up in person to apologize. He never gave the police any regards to send or called on the phone. Nothing. It was my longing to see if he’d gone through any pain that urged me to call him. I wanted to know if he felt remorse. Had he cried? Did he lose sleep?

He was already at a table when I showed up. He stood up to greet me and I gave him a big hug. I told him I loved him and appreciated his meeting me for lunch.

He told me how very sorry he was. How it was his fault. He asked me if Phil had any kids. He cried.

I told him about how funny Phil was. That he was my very best friend and was deeply loyal. I told him about Phil’s high intelligence and how much he truly loved serving people. I told him how happy I was that his death was instant. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry.

At the end of our lunch I thanked him again for meeting with me. He thanked me profusely for calling and inviting him out. We hugged and said goodbye and then I left.

I sat in my car in silence for about 30 minutes trying to digest what had just transpired. I felt no different. I didn’t feel any release or closure. All I felt was emptiness at what had just took place. I’m still glad I took the initiative to meet him, but I’m not really sure why.

I guess that Donald was probably the last person Phil ever saw and I felt I owed it to my brother to see him with my own eyes. To be someone to tell Donald how this earth is less of a place without Phil in it.

I guess I just miss my brother.