It’s been six months since you left us. It was about this time of day that I saw your fb post. I can see it clearly, the decision I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. I was scrolling through fb real quick before getting off the computer so I could fix lunch or get back to school. I saw your post, saying you need a friend. It made me think I should call you, check in, make sure you’re ok. The phone was sitting right next to me. I picked it up. Talked myself out of it, saying I don’t really have time to talk right now, and besides he won’t talk to me; won’t tell me what’s really going on. I put the phone back down. Shut the computer and walked away. Hundreds and hundreds of times I’ve wished I could go back in time to this moment. I wouldn’t have been so absorbed in my life and my busy to-do list. I would have taken the time to call you and tell you I love you. That things aren’t as bad as they seem. That everything gets better with time. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. But maybe it would have. And round and round I go.
I don’t remember what happened the rest of the day, things that were so important they kept me from reaching out to you end up being so inconsequential I can’t remember what they were now, until sitting down to eat supper. Breakfast for dinner, fried eggs and toast, and then the phone rang. It was Norma, and I almost didn’t answer because I was just about to eat, but I did, and she said the words that shattered lives into a million pieces. Josh killed himself. Every single second of that night is burned into my memory. Kim calling me absolutely hysterical, screaming and crying and so inconsolable I had to just hang up because I couldn’t get through to her. Trying to form coherent sentences to get ahold of Sam to come home and calling Christine to sit with the kids so we could go to mom’s while my mind was reeling out of control, THIS ISN’T REAL. WHAT IS HAPPENING. HOW CAN THIS BE REAL. OH MY GOD WHAT HAS HE DONE. JOSH CANNOT BE DEAD. OH GOD WHAT DID HE DO. I THINK IM GOING TO THROW UP.
I remember the ride to mom’s; the longest ride of my life. Don driving so maddeningly slow I thought about jumping out of the car to run there instead. Desperately wanting to get there and be with my family, yet just as desperately wanting to stay away and hide. Pulling up out front to utter chaos; policemen everywhere. Mom sitting on the front steps, dazed. Hearing the gory details, feeling sorrow and pain to depths I’d never before fathomed possible. I remember Kim coming, pregnant and beside herself, collapsing to the ground sobbing. I remember tears, holding each other, whispered conversations, and passing around babies. I remember more police, questions, the coroner, and people everywhere. People slowing down driving and walking by; gawking, trying to get a glimpse of the tragedy as human nature compels us to do. Except this time it’s our loss, our pain, our suffering. So real and vivid and raw and at the same time surreal; how can it be true?
I remember that first night. Passing the night one minute at a time, watching them tick by on the clock. Thoughts and images swirling in my mind, so horrible and crazy and consuming, I don’t even try to sleep. Calling at first light and finding out nobody else slept, either. I remember feeling this sense of urgency to be with my family; the only ones who can understand what I’m feeling without me having to put these emotions into words when there are none. There are no words. Pain and sorrow and confusion and loss all swirl together into this overwhelming thing that takes on a life of its own and threatens to consume us. Over the next week we congregate together, old hurts forgotten. Arguments and disagreements no longer matter, in one act you wiped that all away and all we know is we need each other to get through this now.
I remember helping mom pick out flowers and meeting with the funeral director and choosing a casket and wording your obituary. I remember thinking I had no idea there was so much involved; so many details and decisions to be made. I remember your wake, walking in and seeing you laying there for the first time, the panic and pain that welled up so quickly it took my breath away. And then I remember numbness. Blissful detachment as we lined up and greeted people that came to pay their respects. Numbness that lasted all through your funeral the next day, until it was time to say goodbye one last time before they took you away to the cemetery. As I stood there with our sisters staring at the body you had lived in but that no longer looked like you, I didn’t want to leave you. Ever. There was so much I had to say to you. I love you. I’m sorry. Life sucks and a lot of the time we’re miserable and fighting to be happy. But we fight because life is also a beautiful gift and there are times that the good outweighs the bad and look at that beautiful baby girl you created. What about her? Why didn’t you fight?! Walking away was awful, and took everything I had.
As I sit here, six months later, poking at the pain that has managed to heal a little, I marvel at the human heart. I still miss you. I still think of you every single day. I still look at your baby girl who has changed so much since she’s been here and feel her loss having to grow up without her daddy. Every day I still wish you had made a different decision, and every single day I wish I had done something, said something that could’ve made a difference that day. Anything. But time has a way of taking the edge off the pain, of giving us back our joy, one small moment at a time. This feeling? This is what I wish you could have waited for. Because time truly does heal all things.
I love you, little brother.