I took him to Canada, my brother. I had promised him I would. To Kananaskis back country, that special place where eagles fly, snow caps the mountains, and the air is thin between here and beyond. It is where I go to release those who have gone before me. He would have chuckled at the ‘thin air’ thing and told me it was my spidey sense acting up again.
He was my forever brother. The one I got to choose, had always wanted. I was the sister he never had. He officiated John’s and my wedding. We adopted each other as siblings soon after. He was one of the few who would understand what inviting him to be my brother would mean. My family. By choice. By design. With heart. How I miss him.
I stood on a knoll, near the lake at the end of the road, breathing the clear crisp air. I needed to let go of the staggering weight of losing Dennis here. I needed to be able to find him free again. I held my hands cupped, as if I held his ashes, then lifted them to the sky. Into forever.
I shared the depth and breadth of loss with one of my tribe of women recently. Later, in a quiet moment before we rejoined our spouses, she told me of her sleepless nights, her sense of guilt over having chosen to spend Christmas with her children and grandchildren rather than stay home to care for her ailing brother. With permission, I share what I wrote her early one morning …
Several things I know…
Feelings trump logic. Simple as that.
Feelings don’t have IQ. Logic does.
Feelings come from the heart.
The brain handles IQ, logic, circuitry, neurological connections. etc.
When the heart (feelings) and the mind are in sync, we are at peace. When our heart has unfinished business, it doesn’t matter what our mind tells us, especially initially, our heart will wake us in the night, haunt us during the day, and surprise us when we least expect it.
Your heart is telling you that you failed Charlie in going to your family at Christmas. That somehow had you stayed you … what? Could have averted his death? Could have muscled through another appointment for him? Spent more time with him, for sure, especially given that he was going to leave sooner than you thought.
I’m going to use logic now to guide your heart.
You were his care giver, his advocate, his sister and his friend. He ‘got’ you and you understood him. You shared a special bond, could shoot the shit with each other in ways you couldn’t with other family, you did music together. You could not have predicted his moment of death whether or not you were in the area, let alone present.
You decided to spend time with your children and husband. They are your first priority. You chose to honor those bonds too. Charlie would have, maybe even did, encourage that for you. Go be with your kids and grandkids, he would have said, it’s Christmas. Celebrate. (Am I right?!?)
Though we may want to influence dying, or prolonging life, dying defies logic. In most cases we do not get to inform its timing. You couldn’t have willed it away. And getting him to the next doctor, the next appointment, the next, the next, the next … maybe, might, perhaps, probably not, altered his moment of leave taking.
His body was ready for him to go. But, sudden death, or unexpected death is such a shock. I understand that shock. The shoulda, woulda, coulda loop the mind can run fed by the heart’s ultimate loss. It’s an endless loop, though, Kate. And endless loops keep one stuck… in its loop. Charlie would not have wanted that for you. He would not. Charlie would understand your need to grieve his loss. He loved you. He understood your need to be with your family at Christmas. He loved you.
When your dad decided to stop treatment, you had a few days to process before he left you. I was there, remember? Your mom’s dying also gave you time to process – or experience anticipatory grief (we in the biz call it). Charlie marched to the tune of his own drummer, in life, and in leave-taking. He would want your heart to be at peace. He would understand your loss. He stepped into something new. You are here, adjusting to life without him.
Be at peace. He would want that for you. Remember the good times. Remember the bond. Remember the love. Sing the songs you sang together. Remember your shared laughter, the ways he lightened your heart. Remember the good in Charlie. Your heart knows it all. Hold that in peaceful memory. That’s what he would want.”
My love, when I read this to him in front of the fire one stormy night, was silent. I waited. “This,” he said, “could you share this? I was in the same house, but not the same room when Anne (his wife) died. That has troubled me off and on for well over twenty years. Others will share this sense of frustration, or helplessness of not having been present.”
And so I am. Sharing this. For you who missed the moment of transition. For you who lost suddenly. For you who were present in the sacred space of leave taking. Grief holds a universal piece of our heart. It is the price we pay for love. It finds us all. Grief is. The only way across its shattered landscape is through. One cannot bypass this investment in love and stay healthy. I mourn the loss of my chosen brother, Dennis, yet I am at peace.
Be at peace. Shalom.