Why is it that we give monument to increments of five? Why do five and ten hold more weight than three or seven? The fifth anniversary of my brother’s death just passed and five years feels impossible. I have this disbelief that he is gone, and at the same time, feel the unbearable weight of his absence. How can he be dead? How can five years have gone by? How is it that life just continues, as if time forgot the sound of his laughter and his suffering?
Some gaps can’t ever be filled, but you learn to traverse them, for survival and sanity. There are years when I am acutely aware of the anniversary, and others where I feel so incredibly sad for weeks and can’t figure out why until the day arrives and it dawns on me. This year, I almost missed it altogether. I have been so depressed, so exhausted and blank. Maybe I couldn’t emotionally handle the significance of five years, or how my life hasn’t stopped despite the fact that he is dead. He was 48 when he died and I am now older than he ever had the chance to be. I can’t help but feel that it should have been me. He had more light in him than I could ever even hope to have. He was so brave and so kind.
In the years of his final illness, I spent 10 hour stretches with him at the hospital. Sometimes we talked. Sometimes he slept and I crocheted, so quiet, so careful not to disturb his rest. I got to know him so well in those heavy hours. I took on the burdens of his pain and his fear. He showed me his heart. I didn’t want him to be alone. He had felt alone far too much in his life.
I remember the day he told me he was dying. I knew, had known for months, but he hadn’t been ready to say it. He told me so calmly at first, and then cried and told me he wasn’t ready, that he was scared. I held his hand, like I had so often during the last 2 years of his life, and told him I loved him, that I was so proud that he was my big brother.
I miss him. Not a shallow kind of missing, but a deep hole in the center of myself kind of missing. I realized how my constant thoughts of loneliness these past months have been about him. I keep thinking of so much that I could have done differently, how I could have been a better sister, how I could have helped him feel less lonely.
It seems so cruel that time moves forward despite how broken our hearts may be. I feel guilty for not remembering, for almost letting the day pass me by. I feel disloyal. I feel as if I left him all alone again. I wish I could hold his hand, hear him laugh, tell him I love him and that he isn’t alone. But, there is just silence and emptiness. It is what death does to the ones who are left behind.