I had a writing project two weeks ago that had nothing to do with the Big Damn Book I’ve been working on. This was neither a project I desired or particularly enjoyed.
It was my big brother’s eulogy. It centered around him as my hero, my friend, and my brother.
54 years old, and he passed away due to cardiac failure while having a routine medical procedure on his shoulder which had him under anesthesia. One moment, fine, fun, cheerful, laughing. The next moment gently slipping into sleep, his body relaxed for all of maybe 20 minutes, and then the flurry of activity in the OR through the attempted resuscitation. Emergency IV meds, CPR, Paddles, a faint heartbeat, a flatline, then gone. They tried for about an hour to bring him back. It was his time.
So many things are totally and permanently different when a human you are close to your entire life just – disappears. Your trajectory changes so drastically. There’s emptiness, certainly, and there’s grief. Right now my suffering lies in tiny events during the day – totally unimportant little things that my brain does out of habit.
I go through something and I think to myself, “I should ask Joe” because that’s what instinct always had me doing, then in an instant, the realization hits that I can’t. I’d see a bottle of wine at the store and think, “Oh, I need to tell my brother about that,” only to be reminded a nanosecond later that my thought is alone. He is not anywhere on this or any other planet. There is nowhere I can go to see him, and no phone number I can call to talk to him. All I’ll ever have is memories that will fade over time and a pile of pictures that will never grow with new moments.
There was no final goodbye, there was no last “I love you.”
When I last spoke to him through text, I was here:
And this, our final conversation:
“We will talk when you get back” is a text that is haunting me right now. I wish we could.
I thought I was fine, I really did. The five stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I’m at Stage 5, and a big part of me is lingering in Stage 4.
Denial hit me like a flash when I first received the phone call from my sister. It was a moment of “This can’t be happening” that was quickly gone. I spent no more than 10 seconds in that stage.
Receiving a phone call that someone you are close to has passed while you are in a bar about to smash some nachos in the middle of an incredible honeymoon is devastating. It’s a giant soup of emotions – guilt for being there, helplessness, shock.
One of the most joyous moments of my life became hermetically sealed to one of the most devastating. I don’t know how I will ever be able to get past that.
There was no bargaining. I skipped that stage.
There was no immediate depression. I skipped that one, temporarily.
I went straight to Acceptance. A few hours after the news hit my wife and I went down to the Center Bar at the Mirage on the Vegas Strip, and I had a Whiskey Sour in honor of my brother. He always talked about how he liked Elijah Craig Bourbon, and it was all I could hold on to at the time. Stuck in the bustle of a Vegas Casino for nearly two days, with laughter and joy all around, trying to come to grips with what just happened.
And today, it’s just over two weeks out from the day he passed. Depression is a daily fight, tears are coming at the strangest moments. I can still joke and laugh and carry on normally, but at any moment a fleeting memory appears – the way we laughed, a moment we shared, remembering what it felt like to have our arms around each other’s shoulders posing for a picture when he’d come to visit us in NH, and I can’t help but break down.
This shit is hard.
I’m not sleeping well, I’m having moments and dreams about him, and when I hear my heart beat I launch into a panic attack that at any moment it’s just going to stop. Is it supposed to sound that way? Was that a skipped beat? Is it irregular? Is it blocked? Am I an instant away from leaving this planet and creating the same cycle with the people I love?
My heart hurts and I don’t mean in some abstract way, I mean physically. As if someone has reached into my chest and is squeezing it. I know that’s not happening, and the physical pain I’m feeling is simply a broken heart. I’m doing my best right now to trust my instincts, but it’s a fact that I’m now a different person, and my priorities in terms of health and family
People everywhere are telling me “I’m Sorry” which is both helping and really not helping. I don’t need the reminder, but I always appreciate the compassion of others. My typical response thus far has been, “Thank you. There’s nothing anyone can do. The sun will rise tomorrow.”
My stock answer to “Are you okay,” is “No.” Because I’m not. But there’s still stuff to do, bills to pay, and dishes to clean. I’m not shut down, I can function and think clearly, I’m just not okay.
And just like that phrase “The sun will rise tomorrow,” which upon reading seems like a lazy answer, there is no neat and tidy way to wrap up the stream of thoughts I’m having and scrawling down on this blog. What else is there to say?
There’s nothing I can do.
The sun will rise tomorrow.