My brother died two years ago, tomorrow.
Two years ago yesterday, I spoke to him for the very last time.
Had I known that it would be the last time, I might have lingered longer. I might have told him again that I love him. I might have told him again. And again. And again. And again.
So that he might carry my love into whatever comes after we're done here and so that the words that reverberate in my mind are not these ones, casually tossed at the end of a hurried phone call:
"Ok, Bam. I love you. Be good. I'll call you tomorrow."
Only tomorrow came and I didn't call and then he was gone forever.
Two years on, I'll admit that I am surprised by my tears - that today they flow easily and often and I keep having to rush off to lock myself in the bathroom to weep, so that the Reds aren't frightened or confused. While I am all for sharing my feelings, they don't need to see their mother bent over with grief, unable to fathom - all this time later - that he is entirely, utterly, simply gone.
Though I miss my brother every day, most of the time, I am not sad. Mostly, I recall happy times and often share stories of my own childhood with my sons. They love to hear about all of Uncle Andrew's silly antics. Matthew, in particular, seems to enjoy knowing that my younger brother drove me just as crazy as his younger brother drives him.
I've probably romanticized Andrew - his brawn, his wit, his charm. Well, maybe not his charm. I've wondered if this is normal and have decided that it is - that we paint those we miss in brighter colours, more vibrant hues because it makes the mantle of grief easier to carry.
These days, I wear my grief quietly. Well, quietly for me, anyway. No longer do I find reasons to say his name out loud or examine the "WHY?" behind each and every choice he made during his all-too-brief life. I no longer feel as though my heart might crack in half as the words, "My brother died," come out of my mouth.
It no longer hurts to breath or takes everything I've got to get through the day without shattering into a hundred pieces. And funnily enough, I no longer see the man with the dog whose path began to cross mine immediately after Andrew died. Oh, I'm sure he's still around - it's just that my eyes no longer see him.
And yet I fall asleep every night still fervently wishing that he'll visit me in my dreams.
And yet, I have very detailed daydreams about being able to somehow manipulate time and space to create a world in which my brother still lives. Only this brother isn't haunted by demons and his heart - so big, so broken - beats strong and healthy.
And yet, in the days that lead up to this sad anniversary, I am almost undone by missing him. By missing the uncle he was to one of my sons and the uncle he might have been to the other, had he lived. I made it through Christmas and the dawning of another new year with barely a tear. But last week, sitting up too late with my father and drinking too much of his Baileys - the tears fell unchecked.
My dad suggested -gently, gently - that perhaps it was time to let Andrew go. I surprised both of us with the immediate and vehement shaking of my head. No. NO! I am NOT ready to let him go.
Today I wonder if I will ever be ready to let him go. If ever there will come a time when the thought of writing him a goodbye letter or some other symbolic gesture fills me peace and a sense of rightness instead of wild panic and a kind of choking, swiftly-moving anger.
Today, I wonder if every year will be this way - if the week leading up to February 10th will always find me on edge and furious with my sons for bickering and fighting and blaming and tattling, the way that siblings do.
Today, I will wish once more that my baby brother will visit me in my dreams - so that I can apologize for every time I hollered at, told on, smacked, wished away, was angry with, stopped speaking to...him.
And so I that I can tell him this:
"Ok, Bam. I love you."
And have those words be the only ones he carries in his heart for the rest of time. Not a broken promise from a big sister who will carry only his memory in hers.