When my brother died in the spring of 2007, I barely had time to mourn him. Our elder daughter — mother of our twin grandchildren — had died four months earlier. My father-in-law died the same weekend and we were swamped with tasks. We were also doing all we could to nurture our grandchildren — children who were now without a mother.
Grief was still raw when my brother had a heart attack and died. Apparently, he had survived cancer treatment, but his heart had not. We attended the memorial service on Long Island, flew home, and tried to put our lives back together. Our former son-in-law had moved in with the twins and things were going pretty well until he was killed in another car crash.
Our grandchildren moved in with us and we became their legal guardians. Though I sometimes thought about my brother, most of my thoughts were about raising teenagers. So I was surprised last summer when I started to grieve for him. I grieved for his death and our severed relationship. My brother had severed the relationship, and I did not hear from him for 10 years.
My brother was an expert sailor and I thought about sailing on Long Island Sound in the summer time. One afternoon, we were overcome by a cloud of tiny bugs swirling over the water. Since we couldn’t change tack (other boats were close by), we sailed through them, and tried to keep the bugs out of our eyes.
At six feet four inches tall, my brother was a perfect candidate for the high school track team. He concentrated on hurdles and practiced jumping in our driveway. I would see his head “bouncing” by the dining room window, with a determined expression on his face. With a smile, I remembered the time he loaned me his flashy yellow car to drive to Boston and show off to my college friends.
Our personalities were very different, yet we were brother and sister. I did not know why he severed our relationship, but had an inkling. Now he was gone and our broken relationship could not be mended. Even on the sunny, warm days of summer I felt a bit melancholy. Ten years of life had been wasted and I could not bring them back.
Grief is more than mourning the death of a loved one. It can also include mourning a broken relationship. You may have memories of a similar relationship and, like me, are stuck with these memories. What can we do? Despite broken relationships and words we wished had not said, we can still honor our loved ones.
We can remember happy times and let the rest go.
This spring, when the air is warm again, I will donate books to the public library in memory of my brother. He was an avid reader and so am I. Small as my donation will be, it is a way to honor him, and foster something he loved so much. Think about the ways you could honor your loved one. Pick one that touches your heart and act upon it.
Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson