Yesterday, 6:34 a.m.
Early memory of Brother Dave:
The scene is my maternal grandfather's funeral; I am ˜4 years old. It's my first experience of death.
I said, “My eyes are leaking.” And Dave shushed me.
In the past, I've assumed Dave was embarrassed by my statement. He would have been ˜10, and possibly easily embarrassed by his kid brother. Now, I wonder if he just felt like some things needed to remain private.
Sometime on the road
I went for a drive back and forth on N.E. 30th, searching for the family burial plot. At some point, a driver in front of me did something that seemed foolish or inconsiderate. I can't even remember what it was now. But, in the moment, I felt a rush of rage - disproportionate to the precipitating event. "Wow," I thought, "so that's happening. I best be on guard."
As it turned out, I wasn't even looking for the right cemetery. I did find it, much later in the day.
Yesterday afternoon - Unsolicited Advice
There are two books I recommend for people in mourning: A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. The former is best read within a month of the loss. The latter is best read about a year after.
I don't remember either of them talking about unsolicited advice. It started Wednesday evening, shortly before service, when a woman from the choir suggested I seek out the Compassionate Friends website. I'll confess this is not someone I would normally ask for advice. But, she lost her son several years ago, and I knew she was well-intentioned. So I thanked her.
You may ask how she found out. I'm not sure. I told a priest from our church via phone about an hour before service - she was the first from our church I told. I know she told the Cathedral's Dean, who came to offer comfort. That interchange was over-heard by two others. Somehow, it spread from there to the choir. It likely spread even further.
I've helped spread it, by posting about my brother's death, and my grief, on Facebook. Many of my Facebook friends attend the same church I do. So, when I go to service today, I imagine there will be an outpouring of sympathy.
I screwed up my energy and courage to call my lady friend with the news Thursday evening. She expressed sympathy, and offered comforting words. I told her I planned to attend someone else's funeral this Tuesday, as a substitute for the service my brother did not want. She said, "Well, maybe things happen for a reason," meaning the opportunity for a funeral happened so I could mourn my brother. I guess.
Now, as I think about the scene at church, I imagine there will be additional offers of unsolicitated advice. I can't find much fault - I suffer from the "fix it" gene as well. But, honestly, there's not much you can say in the face of grief - especially in the face of a death as unexpected as my brother's. I suppose "I'm sorry for your loss" seems too small in the face of this, so you offer suggestions.
So far, the most meaningful thing to me have been hugs. That warm physical contact reminds me that I am not a ghost. I have not, in fact, followed my brother into that dark valley from which no one may return.