Saturday, April 9, 2011
it gets better
Today I tackled the box containing my little brother's personal photos. He was 38 when he died, and to quote a tired phrase that's more than true, a day doesn't go by when I don't think about him. He liked to take pictures, and I had a blast flipping through the now faded images he shot during our high school days. Had no idea he chronicled our high school concert choir tour and classroom moments, the staff at the Anaheim Hills Carl's Jr. (where we both worked), graduations, family gatherings, trips to the beach. And lots and lots of our current families — how he treasured his nieces and nephews! Then there are the many images of folks I don't recognize from chapters in his life I wasn't a part of. I don't know these people, the landscape, or events pictured, nor does anyone in our family that I know of. But each image is kind of like a little piece of him — the San Francisco skyline from his apartment window, a beloved castle in Germany — no way will those pieces will end up at the bottom of a landfill heap if I have anything to do about it. No, they'll be scanned along with the rest of the family photos, just in case an old acquaintance of his contacts me someday. Perhaps their memory of him would be sparked by one of these old images, and I'll learn even more about this wonderful human being I was lucky enough to have as my little brother for a time.
Just this week, two good friends informed me of their own recent family losses — both scenarios tragically heartbreaking. I would've loved to be able to offer effective comforting words to each, but all I could come up with was that, for some reason, crying really helps. I've so been there. My brother was afflicted with a horrible disease that ravaged his mind and body — his death was our family's own personal 9-11. A year after that, my dad, a beautiful man and our family compass, died of a heart attack. He was 65. Neither loss was easy or made sense.
It's been almost a decade, and although our family's losses will never make sense to me, they have gotten easier to bear. I see my brother's crooked grin and twinkling eyes and I have to smile. "How cool was he?" I think. My salt-of-the-earth coworker says something both hilarious and encouraging, and I think, "Dad would've liked her." These beautiful men are more than with me — they're a part of me. I'm thankful for that.
So for those whose hearts are being ripped out at this very moment, I offer this: It gets better. I've found that in time, the tears don't come nearly as often. Oh they're still there, and I kind of like that they are. I'm closest to the core of who I am in these broken moments, and through my own pain I find I'm more fully able to deeply feel someone else's. From that small seed emerges the tiniest sprout of understanding.
These are the pictures that made me cry today: