Let them know love

A long time ago my brother turned thirteen today, thrilled to be a teenager. Two weeks later he died in our family’s car when another vehicle slammed into the side where he was sitting. My mother doesn’t remember the accident but she does recall being released from the hospital for his burial and then re-admitted so they could monitor my health in-utero. My father only remembers walking around the car when help arrived. My sister suffered cuts and trauma as she sat beside our lost brother.

There are many things I could write today about how my life has been shaped by a brother I never met, but love anyway. The way I felt when I read one of his books, The Alligator’s Toothache, to my daughter a few weeks ago. The sentiment I gather when I put my glasses on his nightstand beside my bed each night. The compassion I feel for my mother when I call her each year on this day. The kick in the stomach I feel when I come across the yellowed clipping in my pile of old photos and family lore. The deep loss that almost feels like it shouldn’t belong to me yet aches to my core. The competitive struggle with the untarnished life that was cut short before it could fail. The confusion I battled for decades until it was identified as survivor’s guilt. The sadness that brought me to tears last night before I heard the neighbor’s windchimes-a sound I’ve never heard in the five years those metal rods have been hanging outside my window.

So much I could share and yet I wasn’t going to write anything today. But in this moment I am struck by one thing:

In the moments before the crash, my mother told her son that she loved him. It’s the last thing she said, for no particular reason. Surely it was said each night before bed or when they parted. This time, though, she didn’t know he would be going away, that it was also a goodbye. She said it anyway and surely he heard it. It was just the way she was: sharing her feelings because she could.

He died instantly and in the newspaper she was quoted as saying, thank God it was quick. I believe that is her salvation- that her son knew not pain but love in his last moments. In an instant her life changed but she had that for which to be thankful. How she moved on, I honestly will never understand. How she loves, I deeply understand. I’ve lived it.

My brother was sweet and gentle. I see him in each be-speckled, sandy-haired boy I pass by, even though I never looked into his eyes. It gives my heart a jolt each time as does the recurring image in my mind of us passing on our ways in and out of this world. I miss him and I am so grateful that he was loved well in his very short thirteen years. If only I had the chance to tell him I loved him, too.

But I can’t. So instead, I tell my own kids. All the time, for no particular reason. Even in the car on our way to anywhere. I love you, guys.

I hope you tell your kids. I hope you show them. For no particular reason; just because. Don’t wait until you are saying goodbye. Because life changes before you know it.

I love you, Bubby. Happy Birthday wherever you are.

  • ErikaDP

    Thank you for this post Flo. It is just beautiful.

  • Becky

    I have no words. Just beautiful Flo.
    xo, Becky

  • Jean Dorsey

    So much love. What a gift your writing is.

  • Christine Yablonski

    Beautifully written, Flo. What a gift you have made of your brother’s memory.

  • Krissy

    Heartbreaking to read about the loss of your brother. You are so strong Flo. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

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