An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, June 2015

Dear Connor,

I had another dream about you last night, this time that I pushed you against the upstairs banister, causing you to fall through the bars, face first down to ground level. You were dead, it was all my fault, and you looked a lot like you did when I found your unconscious, damp body in real life. I woke up shaking and wide-eyed. Needless to say, it was a rough morning.

Mom just vividly described Gran’s gaudy, pink-nightmare of a casket to Aaron and, in doing so, reminded me that she and Dad couldn’t bear to put your ashes in the ground. Your cremated remains are held in a polished, wooden, latched box in your room. I’m curious to take a peek inside, and yet, I shudder at that thought of seeing what was once your lifeless body as a collection of ashes. Sometimes, I can still feel your cooled skin and smell the moistness of your lips, and as I’ve said before, the glassiness of your eyes will forever haunt me. Steph was explaining CPR compressions to me this past weekend, and I was struggling to choke back tears. The memories of trying to force a heartbeat into your slender, unresponsive chest flooded back all too clearly.

Gramps died yesterday. Well, technically, he died today at 1:00 a.m., but we got the news yesterday, so I assumed he was already dead. Dad has been at the hospital with Grandma and Gramps since Saturday. Uncle Keith started driving at 8:00 p.m. and probably arrived by morning.

Dad’s not okay. He hasn’t been whole since you died, and he refuses to accept that he needs help. Mom and I are afraid that the stress of another death in the family will kill him. He says that there is no practicality in thinking about things we cannot change, but I feel that rule bends with an event like grieving. By not taking the time to think back and reflect on your life and death, he won’t be able to move on with his own life. He can deal with it now, or he can deal with it later, but he will be forced to deal with the trauma eventually, and I grow increasingly concerned that one day, the stress of running from the feelings he can’t escape will manifest itself into a heart attack.

You have to admit that it’s pretty fucked up that you died more than five years before any of our then-living grandparents. I’m ashamed to admit that after you died, I was more traumatized by the sight and sounds of Mom and Dad crying every single morning than I was at your actual death. Their pain tortures me.

At Gran’s funeral, I sobbed. Was I sad? No. Gran was old, and her body had been deteriorating rapidly over the past few years, but the reason I couldn’t stop crying was because of the stress of seeing Mom struggle with the emotional pain of losing her mother. And yes, even as a sexual sadist, I usually don’t like seeing people experience emotional pain. (…outside of the bedroom, that is.)

I feel similarly about Gramps. He lived a long, productive life, and this was his time to go; that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is intimately knowing the barely surmountable pain with which Dad, his siblings, and Grandma will now suffer, and that there’s not a thing I can do to help Dad until he decides to help himself.

I’m not fond of death these days, and I don’t know if I my anger toward you for abandoning me without saying goodbye will ever subside.

I love you. Please come home.

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