Friday, August 5, 2011

Missing William

Not long after we moved to Wilmore the tree in front of our house was struck by lighting.  It was hit right in the middle of the trunk where the branches start.  I remember being so bummed because the tree turns a beautiful red in the fall after providing shade all summer.  Danny and I wondered if it would make it or slowly die.  We considered cutting it down but decided to wait and see how it looked in the spring - that's how bad it looked. 

I'm so glad we waited because now that tree looks great.  The leaves are green and last fall they turned deep red, just as I had hoped.  However if you look at it from the back you can see the "scar" from the lightning.  Isn't it amazing that after such a serious injury that tree still looks the same as it ever did.  Sometimes, I feel that way about my life. 

My older brother died 11 years ago today.  Words can't express the sadness that I've experienced since my father told me over the phone (we were out of town).  I remember hearing my father's voice falter and then he said it and I screamed ... for a long time.  Danny ran into the room, hung up the phone and the rest is a blur.  It's been a long time since I went back to that place in time.

My next distinct memory is sitting at the funeral home in the pale green suit I had worn at my college graduation crying wondering how I could be graduating from college one year and losing my brother the next. We had become very close over the last few years.  He was in college and I had just finished.  We loved to eat out (we tried sushi together for the first time), we would go to the movie or spend time reading books at Joseph Beth.  He had become a close friend in only the way a sibling can.  I think it's something about having a shared history.   We did have heated disagreements, to be sure, but they always ended amicably.  We were very similar ... we both thought we were right about pretty much everything which makes for lots of animated "discussions". 

All these years later, I still miss him terribly.  I don't think there's a day that goes by I don't think of him and his passing.  It's not unusual for us to say, "Oh, William would have loved that!".  Avery knows him as best she can through stories and a few pictures (he wasn't a fan of having his picture taken).   This is also a tender spot.  The fact that they will never meet or experience any sort of connection.  As she gets older, (starting fourth grade next week) I'm reminded that time is moving on and he's not here.

Ultimately, his death has ended up being a gift.  It gave me a wake up call and forced me not only to acknowledge my own mortality but to confront some dysfunctional ways of living.  I firmly believe when you have survived a major loss or trauma you have a choice to make.  Become bitter and cynical or surrender to the pain and learn how to live in a new and different way. With A LOT of help, professional and otherwise, I choose to surrender and be different.  Would I have preferred to have learned this though a different path?  Absolutely, but his death propelled in a new direction and for that, I'm very grateful.

In many ways I feel like the tree in front of my house (is that hokey?).  From the front things look pretty good but if you start to look closely you see the marks from a difficult time.  In some seasons you can see the "scar" very easily (holidays and my birthday) while in others you would never notice.

As we move into another season, the end of summer and school starting, I'm taking a few moments to grieve my brother and thank him for being a precious gift to me in life and death.