I visited my brother Michael this month for the first time in over 2 years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve missed him in that time; it’s just that I hate to go where he is.
The cemetery is not my favorite place.
He died in January 2006. It was unexpected and crushing. He was ill for a few months, but no one in my family expected it to end the way it did: a day of surgery followed by his body just not being able to take any more.
Three months later we were also mourning the loss of our first son, Carter Austin. He was a stillbirth at 28 weeks. Obviously, another unexpected and crushing event.
Needless to say, 2006 can suck it.
So, I have a dear brother and a son I have to visit in the cemetery. I am shamed to admit that I visit neither very often. In fact, I did not see my son the entire 3 weeks we were just in Texas, and I only saw my brother because my dad asked me to go with him.
It does not comfort me to see them there. It makes me sad. It crushes me. It hurts to stand next to my dad or mom or husband and stare at those markers while one or all of us cries. My brother’s ashes are in a mausoleum, and to stand there in front of that giant wall of stone and know he is gone is too much to bear. My poor Carter is in the child’s section of the cemetery surrounded by hundreds of other kids and babies who are all gone too soon. He lies across from the twins David and Isaac. Their parents have placed a stone bench and tree by their graves. My husband has had many a lunch sitting there with our son. I love that he can do that and that he does it for me.
But I just can’t find peace there. I just replay their deaths in my mind. I can remember every detail, and once one pops into my head, they all come rushing after until I’ve lived all of those awful last days in their bitter entirety. I think of my brother’s death. How I was sitting in my front room on the phone with a friend telling her that the surgery to replace my brother’s heart valve yet again the day before was rough, but I was just about to go see my him as he began his long recovery. And then I looked up and saw my parents coming to the door accompanied by their priest. My heart sank, and I just knew. With my Carter, I just can’t stop replaying telling all the people that needed to know. How I called my best friend to have her call her husband; I needed him to drive my husband to the doctor’s office where I sat trying to make sense of what just happened-how I just saw my son on a sonogram, but there was no heartbeat. Then I called my husband and told him. He called back and asked what was wrong. His brain literally did not process that I had just told him our son died.
God, see, it just starts pouring out of me.
The question is then, how do I find peace and remember them? How can I go on with my life and still honor my brother and son?
Well, I prefer to talk to them. I’m a known babbler; I talk as often as I blink. So, it’s just so much more natural for me to have conversations with them wherever I am. I don’t need to be at their graves to communicate. I like to talk about what’s going on and how they would have acted or added to the events. I laugh with Carter about his crazy brothers Jack and Alex. I ask Michael how I can be a better sister to our brother Robert. I tell him about our wacky parents and their latest adventures.
Mostly, I see them in things every day. We were going to paint Carter’s room a color called Cloudless. So, now whenever there is a clear blue cloudless day, I call it a Carter day. It makes me smile and breathe in the sun. I watch Survivor and remember my brother and I having a watching party for the first one at our parents’ house. I can feel him agreeing with all my snarky thoughts about it. I imagine he’d love my Twitter account and for sure have one of his own. I hear Carter’s song and sometimes cry but sometimes just smile and sing at the top of my lungs. Christmas snow globes will forever be my brother’s, as if he thought of them. I decorate for the season with snowflakes, silver, and blue and know he would approve.
I miss Michael and Carter. I wish like crazy they were here with me. I wish I could see them and hold them one more time, but I don’t get any help with these things by going to the cemetery. It may work for others, but I just can’t count on it to keep them in my hearts without the added sadness. I just try to keep them with me and ever present in my heart and mind. I hope that makes up for my staying away.