Monday, April 24, 2006
Remember to Celebrate

Today, April 23, is the 2nd anniversary of the death of my oldest brother, Jerry. Two years ago, late into the night the phone rang. My father spoke - "Jerry committed suicide." Not, "Jerry died." Suicide is a different thing. Very different I suspect. It's been a full two years, ups and downs, prescriptions, journaling, long emails back and forth with my mother and sister. I wouldn't want to go through parts of these past two years again, but I am thankful for the journey and where it's taken me. Thankful for what I've learned.

Mostly Ive been struck by how quickly the time has gone by. Struck by the fact that life goes on. No matter how difficult the events that parade through our lives, life goes on.

My brother told us he feared homelessness was the next step for him, and he just could not face that. Living became too difficult. His choice to leave this life made our lives difficult, healing difficult. Each of my family members has chosen to deal with losing him in their own way, at their own pace.

We've had two babies born since then, a brother has gotten his electrical license, a niece has graduated from college, a son married, two more babies are about to be born, another college graduation is around the corner, a family member has been brave enough to go into rehab for alcohol and is fighting her battle.

I want losing my brother to make a permanent difference in my life. So I've deliberately made some changes: I drive mostly in the slow lane. There is rarely a hurry, and I'm more patient with the impatient drivers. I treasure my friendships so much more. I phone my father more, email my sister and mother almost daily. I talk to my kids whenever they call. I make sure I talk to our four year old grandson at least once a week, about whatever he wants to talk about. I notice sunrises, take the dog out on the deck to look at the stars almost every single night before I go to bed. I truly stop and smell the flowers on the trail I walk, stop in at the local coffeehouse more often. I send checks to several local charities, besides our church, which maybe won't have eternal significance but will keep a puppy fed and warm, and research a few horrible diseases. I give every single time I hear the Salvation Army bell ringer. I send a check to our local homeless shelter. I throw my change in the McDonalds House bin. I get more sleep, eat more ice cream. I sing aloud in the car and sometimes raise my hands listening to praise music in the car. (People sometimes wave back!)

I spend a bit more money just for fun, buy a few more trendy outfits, plant more flowers in our yard, kiss my husband every single night when he comes home, and I take more time to listen to his day. I eat bacon. I say no to more things that I dont really want to do, and spend less time with people who are "drainers" rather than "chargers". I read more fiction. I enjoy shopping more and give more gifts. I've started meeting with a woman who lost her mother to suicide about a year ago. (A listening ear is often the best gift we can give someone.) I've become more spontaneous (my friends are surprised by this and comment on it!)

When I see my brother Jerry's photo come up on my computer slide show I'm always struck by the waste of his life. That he gave up after getting too tired to fight the battle anymore. He will never see the soft pink and yellow sunrise in the eastern sky that I see almost every morning when I go out to get the paper. He won't see that the azaleas are just about to open. He won't enjoy walking a dog, letting him take the time to smell the 99 other dogs who walked there before him. He won't enjoy hearing his friends gut-laugh.

I can't go back and do the things I wish I'd done; have the conversations I wish we'd had. But I can honor his life by enjoying the one I have been given. That's how I've decided to honor April 23. I will remember to celebrate.


  posted at 1:00 AM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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