Four years ago today, my oldest younger brother was killed in a car accident. Since that time, my life and my family have not been the same. In some ways, it hasn’t been the same in good ways and obviously, some ways bad. For me, my grief comes to me at the “worst” times. Mostly while I am driving. Yesterday, when I thought to my self that today was “that day” I was overcome with grief. My mind automatically went to the creek that my brothers car was found in by his wife and my father. And the memories started to flood my mind.
My brother was missing for two days before anyone found him. He was driving home late at night and the accident caused him to land in the creek so his car could not be seen. When he didn’t come home from his late night shift as a police officer, my sister in law became worried. All day on Sunday she played phone tag with my parents and tried convincing the police station to help her look for him. They insisted that he was fine. Once she and my parents finally touched base, they went to find him. By this time, it was late Monday afternoon. My mom called me after work to tell me that he was missing and my first instinct was to get in my car and drive to NC to help find him. But I was too late. Within an hour my father was on the phone telling me that “he didn’t make it”. I collapsed on the floor and let out earth scattering screams that no one could hear because I was all alone in VA. I tried my best to vomit because that was what my body was telling me to do but it wouldn’t come out. Only deep long sobs.
I called my friend Beth and she immediatley rushed to my house to keep me company. My parents didn’t want me to make the trip to NC alone so they sent my other sister in law with some friends to pick me up. I sat there in shock and waited for the 3 hours to pass until I could hold someone in my family. Finally, when she arrived, I collasped into her arms and the crying started again. By the time we made it to NC, it was well after midnight and the first thing I wanted to do was talk to my mother. She was laying on her stomach in shock. All she could say was ‘”this can’t be real”. I didn’t want it to be real either.
The next few days are a blur for me. I only have a few memories that I can recall. The thing that stands out the most is my yelling at a reporter in our driveway because she wanted to know “how we felt”. I yelled at her that we had just lost a precious member of our family, how the hell did she think we felt. You see, there was mass media attention around my brother’s death because he was a police officer. I can clearly see in my memory turning on the television only to see a big truck pulling my brother’s muddy car out of the water. I can clearly see the hundreds and hundreds of people that came to pay there respects.
I don’t think that I cried very much during that time, I took ativan instead. For some reason, being the eldest, I guess I felt like I had to be the strong one or something. I guess we all grieve in different ways. For me, I can’t listen to the song “I can only imagine” without bursting into tears. One of the ladies in my parents church is a christian recording artist and she sang that song at his funeral. I can’t see a deer cross the road without remembering that these things really do happen to people like me. My grief is also wrapped up in my anxiety. I panic when the dear husband is only two or three minutes late and “know” that he is dead. When crazy drivers on the road do something to put me in danger, I see my life flash before my eyes and hope that my family won’t have to go through this again. When my phone rings, I panic that someone else is dead. I live my life in fear that those that I love will leave me before I am “ready”.
Today is the first time I have ever taken time off of work in order to grieve again. Yesterday, I was wrapped up in my crying and miserable thoughts when four deer suddenly crossed the road. I think that was my brother sending me a message that he will always be in my heart and that it is OK to let it out.
I remember a story that my grandmother often tells about me and my brother. She was there with my parents when he was a tiny baby and she made me a bologna sandwich (on white bread, of course) and I tried to feed it to him. I went to my grandmother crying telling her that “baba” would not eat his lunch. I was only three years old, I didn’t know that the sandwich could have hurt him.
I look back on the short time that we had together and I am full of regret. We didn’t have a very good relationship. When I was in high school, my mom went to work after being a stay at home mom all of those years. My brother and I would beat the crap out of each other on the couch and my youngest brother would take a different side each day. I guess we didn’t know that hitting wasn’t supposed to happen.
I often wonder what it would be like today. Would he be proud that I have cleaned my life up and am trying desperately to make it better? Would he still be the goofy one making goofy faces at family functions? Would we have come to be friends after all the rotten times as kids? I miss him so much.
I’m not sure where people go when they die but I hope that his young soul is dancing and singing. I hope that he knows how much I love and miss him. I hope that he knows that now, because of all of this, my family says I love you. I hope that my grandmother is there and is making him mayonnaise sandwiches and macaroni and cheese and that they console each other over the red white and blue pillow that he always dragged around. I hope that one day, my painful memories will fade and that I can remember the fun times.
Rest in Peace, Baby Brother.