The Sound Of Silence
Late last Summer I wrote this, and I couldn’t say anything further for a very long time:
I am holding my brother’s death in a very fragile bubble in my mind, or perhaps in my heart. If I come out of my hermitage and speak to anyone about it, then that bubble will pop and he’ll really be be dead. If I pop that bubble, then I really did see his body lying in a casket in the middle of an Illinois summertime, draped in an American flag and attended by not only the Patriot Guard but also so damned many other people come to pay their respects that we lost count after the first hour. He’s not just deployed somewhere without a decent phone or email connection. He’s not just having some life drama he doesn’t want to hear my opinion about. He’s no longer of this world. No longer with the living. An ex-parrot. He’s dead.
I don’t know how much more real it can get than witnessing the grief of hundreds of people as they slowly shuffled through the viewing line. Than witnessing my sister-in-law’s sadness and determination to be strong no matter what the cost. Than counting the tokens of love placed in his coffin over and over again and thinking there had to be more we could send with him to his grave to show how much we honored his life. And yet, I can’t accept that I don’t get any more time to know him better as we both grow older and discover more of who we are. I can’t accept that we won’t be able to buy each other a Corona at a catfish fry down on the Mississippi, or sing each other hoarse at karaoke. I can’t accept that we won’t be able to laugh and cry together as our lives go on. I can’t accept that our lives aren’t going on. That only my life is going on.
At some point in January, something in me shifted. Not toward acceptance, but perhaps toward a thinner denial of reality. “Can’t” has always been the only four-letter word I take exception to, and it was time. I was finally able to speak with a few friends about my first sight of Scott in some 38-odd years. About my last sight of him in the flesh, in his coffin, in this world. I’d been frozen in the horror of that moment for too long, silently screaming, unable to draw the next breath and move on.
It’s now April and I’m still here. For that I owe an immense debt of gratitude to those friends who listened, who witnessed my rage and my grief and gently let me know I had been heard. I owe even more to my husband, who kept my body and soul together during a time when I couldn’t breathe through the broken glass in my chest, much less brush my teeth or get dressed or give a damn that the world kept turning. We’re well into 2012 and Spring has sprung and my give-a-damn’s not as broken as it was. I’m writing again. I’m still blessed with friends and family and laughter and love. My brother is still dead. I’m still here.