I woke up this morning with a jolt. “In two days, Andy is going to die”. There was immediate absurdity in that statement for knowing I cannot foreshadow Andy’s death. He’s already dead. But that is where I am, reliving the week of Andy’s death. It’s interesting to me that as you come up on a 1 year anniversary, you start re-feeling and re-seeing the events of those days. I can’t remember what I felt last week on a Wednesday morning. But I can tell you in minute details exactly what I thought and felt Wednesday a year ago. It’s as if an anniversary possesses gravity and orbit which pulls our body right back in to the moments leading up to, and the moments following, a significant life event. My mind is telling me that in two days I will once again be standing in my bathroom looking in the mirror trying to figure out how exactly I am going to get down the hallway, out the door, and into my car and drive. At that moment in time, I didn’t know if Andy had been murdered, or what had happened. I simply remembering thinking while looking at my reflection in that mirror having just hung up the phone, Andy was lying dead next to his car.
I remember driving to Andy’s house that morning, knowing I would be the first family member to arrive as my parents and sister lived out of town and my husband was away on business. As I turned the corner to his house I saw the street packed with cars as people had begun arriving to console the family. I remember how strange that felt, seeing all the cars and knowing the house would be flooded with people. As an introvert, I didn’t know how to walk in that door and see all the people, most of whom I didn’t know, on the other side. Having not yet been able to process the shock of the news delivered just an hour before, I knew this flood of people would bring out the emotions that had not yet surfaced. I don’t remember how I felt last Wednesday, but I can recall with great detail the feelings of that morning as I stared over the steering wheel at the front door of his house.
I remember later that day walking outside and seeing my mom leaning forward on the side of a car. Hands over her face, shoulders pulled in to compact her body as tight as she could and sobs rolling out of her crushed spirit. I recall folding her back against my chest in silence knowing I was experiencing a moment that could carry no words. I can’t tell you how my mother stood during last interaction, but I can tell you every detail of this moment as she grieved her son.
I remember standing in the cul-de-sac with my father trying to make sense of all. The lines etched on his face deeper and more meaningful than I had noticed before. It was as if he and I had aged 20 years in appearance and wisdom in the 5 hours that had passed. I don’t remember the expression dad had on his face when I saw him a few weeks ago. But I recall in detailed memory the look on his face as we verbally grasped for any sense of how and what following the death of his son.
I remember standing around the kitchen island after putting food on my plate. I can feel the weight of its balance in one hand and texture of the cup in the other. I can see myself carrying it to the table and then sitting while I pushed the contents around on the plate. Although, I can't recall the taste of the food because not a single morsel made it to my lips. I feel even now the pit in my stomach while wondering if I would ever eat again.
I remember later that evening when my husband walked in the door. Having driven several hours to get back home after hearing the news, he bee-lined it straight from the door for me. I can vividly describe the details of that scene, the details of his clothing, and the look in his eyes. I don’t remember what he was wearing when he came in from work last night, but I can tell you as he came with arms wide open exactly what he wore.
I remember two days later seeing Andy’s body for the first time. He was laying in the casket. Hands folded exactly so. His hair the exact shade of red I knew it to be. My first thought was “Where are his glasses? How is he going to see anything without his glasses?” I knew it was finally true that he had died, because he would have never sat there without his glasses. I don’t remember the feeling I had when I walked into a work meeting a few days ago, but I vividly pull to mind the details of surrounding that casket with family over in the far end of that room.
I remember walking down the aisle in the church and seeing the room flooded with so many familiar faces, almost a thousand people gathering in the love of Andy. I don’t know where anyone sat at Christmas dinner less than a month ago, but I recall the exact position of our entire family and that of many friends in the chairs of that room.
I remember walking up to Hank (as I call him here), the man who found Andy, in the lobby. I wanted to know who had experienced this moment with Andy and I wanted to pray for the impact this heroic moment would later have in Hank’s life. I had such concern for what trauma he may be experiencing in the days leading after. There are moments when I can only recall the large aspects of my grandfather’s face, but I recall that of Hank's which I have only seen once.
I remember standing cold in the grass as people gathered around. I can now recall how amazed I was that people continued to show up. I don’t know who all was at my wedding, but I still know the faces of that crowd.
I remember the night before Andy’s death I was out to dinner with 3 of my friends, as my husband was out of town. I see us sitting with me telling them how run of the mill life had been that week and showing them pictures of my dining room, having finished painting it only 2 days before during the snow storm. My life had been so trivial, I recall, as one of the girls was discussing a significant life event in her workplace. I remember thinking how blessed I was in my job and having the feeling of “low key” in my life. I can’t remember sentences said in a conversation I had last week, but I remember this discussion almost 12 hours before Andy died.
Some people block out the memories around a traumatic event. I somehow have locked in my mind several, if not most, of the moments in time from that week. They are rich in texture and ripe with emotion that finds a way of flooding you in times of great loss. They have woven themselves into my daily activities, on occasion, but stand in the forefront now in the days leading up to “a year after”. Total recall. To be determined if it will be a blessing or a curse. But for now they give me comfort in reminding me of the love of relationship which surrounded us and which would ultimately softened the death of Andy. I’ve tidied up the “firsts” that come in the year following and I’ve somehow navigated the seconds, minutes, hours and days that come in the after, but the “I remember” of the details following his death forever (thus far) locks a piece of me in those moments. And it’s where I want a piece of me to always be. The sweetest of moments when Andy suddenly was more than just simply my brother.
I’ve faced the frailty of my own life having faced my own prospect of death with Lymphoma. But it wasn’t until experiencing the moments of losing Andy that I absorbed the “split second” landscape of life. In two days, Andy will be gone. How would I do these next two days differently if I knew that going in? What would you choose differently for your next two days, so that in looking back later you will almost nostalgically find yourself saying “I remember…”. It is probably very different than what you currently have on your to-do list, and just maybe, now is the perfect time to rearrange.
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