Memorial Day will never be the same for me.
On May 26, 2018, I got a frantic call from one of my cousins telling me that my older brother was involved in a motorcycle crash. When he said that he heard that my brother was dead, I yelled and screamed. I cursed him out and called him sick for playing such a cruel joke.
It wasn’t a joke.
Within minutes, I was on the phone with a police officer who told me everything I needed to know and nothing that I wanted to hear. It fell upon me, the youngest of 4 children to tell my family, our friends, and worst, my parents, that my brother was dead.
Things became a whirlwind then. I had to get him home (he was on vacation when this all happened). I had to contact everyone to make sure everything was in place. My sister was awesome. She was able to think of things that I never would have. We split things neatly down the middle. She handled the behind the scenes work, I became the face of the family.
I had an interview with a reporter, wrote his obituary, as well as a speech for the funeral. That’s all of the writing I’ve been able to do since that phone call. And everything was still moving forward, and I felt lost.
My brother and I were close. Two sides of the same coin if you will. And thinking about him in the past tense hurts SO MUCH. But I have to keep his words close to my heart.
“There is no mother fucker out here worth destroying yourself over. Not even me.”
We have a foul-mouthed family, what can I say.
But in a way, he’s right. I can’t let myself fall to pieces. I have to stay together for my daughter and my mother. I need to be there for my father whenever he needs me. I need to stand up because now he can’t. I know he wouldn’t want me to feel that way, but if the roles were reversed, he would be doing the same.
I met some of his closest friends the weeks leading up to the funeral. Men and women that knew my brother as well as I did. That hurt as much as I am. Some looked at me as if I were some sort of strange being because I was smiling, laughing and making others feel at ease.
I’m going to tell you a little secret about me. When it comes to all of the laughter, all the jokes and smiles, I have to tell you…
It was all a mask.
My brother wouldn’t want everyone he cared about to be upset. So, I acted like everything was fine. He looked good, so it was easy. I pretended that he was really asleep. At any given moment he could open his eyes and we could carry on like we always did.
My mask slipped when they closed his casket.
People wax poetic about the pain in their hearts when their loved ones pass. I was never one to want to do so. But watching those strangers seal my brother in that box killed me. I had to fight every urge to scream and cause a scene. I needed to be stronger than that.
I was able to put my mask back on once we left the church. By then, it was just a box. I didn’t think about him, or the fact that we were burying him. I needed to be the strong one again. And I was. I even hummed Pop goes the weasel as they were lowering the casket.
Now we’re nearly 4 weeks from the day I received that phone call. I remember everyone telling me that I was doing so much. It didn’t feel that way. But I think back on it now and have to take a breath. My brother wasn’t a celebrity by any means, but he touched so many people… Never mind the fact that we have a huge family to begin with, but between a memorial held for him by his friends and the actual funeral, I think I hugged nearly 400 people.
To have my mask in place for that long is exhausting.
I’m trying to level out. At least to a place where my mask doesn’t slip when I talk about him for too long. While writing this, I stopped and cried at least three times already. But I’ll be fine. He’s off on another adventure and when he and I meet again, I’ll beat the shit out of him (again, that’s how we roll).
Two for Joy is still coming along. I have to finish my first read-through before I can send it out to be edited. I’m aiming for a September release date. I’ll keep you all posted and see you soon. I think I’m going to work on one of those blog topics I kicked around a while back.