“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
My brother died last week.
On, of all days, September 11.
The picture above was our last photo together taken six months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Inside, my heart was breaking and when I look at his face I know his was too.
After more than a two-year battle, his death wasn’t unexpected. But when it happened last week, I couldn’t have been more stunned.
He vigorously texted family members on September 10. How could he just vanish from the earth a day later?
Four days later, I’m still tangled in that part of grief that is shock, sadness and denial.
Reading obituary pages, I’ve always imagined that every person listed leaves behind at least a dozen bereaved people. That would mean millions of grieving people every day trying to carry on with their lives. How do they do it?
Now I am one of them. Again.
I’ve been in this aching, haunting, surreal spot before. I was 10 when my beloved grandmother died, 32 when my mother-in-law died, and 49 when my father left this world.
Each of these devastating losses profoundly reshaped me. I tuned into the spirit world when my grandmother died; my faith deepened and I started to live life on my own terms after Libby died; and I sharpened my focus on love and my life’s work after my Dad died.
With Steve’s death, I feel too sad, too raw, too guilty, too distraught to know what will come from losing this loved one.
So for now I just need to be sad. Sad that our precious original family of seven, reduced to six when my Dad died, is now pared to five. Sad that my mother should lose her child. Sad that my brother leaves a gravely ill wife and two daughters in their 20s. Sad that he is gone.
Our last family portrait of the six of us. My sisters Susan and Lori and my brothers Steve and Scott with my mother at Christmas.
Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and from my experience, I know if I have the courage to lean into the grief, I will move through it. I do believe, as awful as it feels, the nature of suffering is to develop compassion. I believe, too, that great and unexpected things will happen because of this loss.
At the moment though, I can do nothing but let my tears flow, ruminate over what I said or didn’t say, wonder if I did enough to ease his suffering. I grab onto every new detail of his final days imagining I could have intervened and changed the outcome.
This is all part of the “magical thinking” of grief that comes with the loss of someone you love so dearly.
“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” ~ Joan Didion, Year of Magical Thinking
Rest in peace, my sweet brother. I love you forever.
Thank you so much for the tremendous outpouring of love and support I’ve received these past few days. You are all so amazing and helps so much to move through this difficult time.
I know there are many of you grieving your own losses as well. Let this powerfully loving and supportive community be there for you. I know I’m sure leaning into it.
Take good care and I’ll see you back here next week.