I cried myself to sleep last night. Not one of those weeping, uncontrollable cries-just a steady flow of quiet tears that will soak your pillow and that come from a sad place deep within your heart.
I have had nights like these for years-ever since I can remember actually. I do not know if my husband can hear me, but I am not looking to be consoled so he may simply understand that I need to cry and let me be.
When I was younger-a child, these cries used to be fueled by anger. The question "Why?" was always there. Now that I have lived with this sadness for years, the cries are more out of wonder, more out of sympathy for my parents.
Today is my brother Sean's birthday. He would have been 39.
Last night I was wondering what his life would have been like if he had not died when we were kids. I thought about what he may look like, who his wife would have been-maybe he would have been a priest. I thought about his children... and then my mind went back to memories of him. Childhood days that I somehow remember so perfectly even though I was so young. I was only 4 when he passed away.
One memory is of the day I was wearing my brand new blue Buster Brown shoes that had blue and white striped shoelaces and I loved them. I thought they were beautiful-they were the best pair of shoes I had ever owned! I was walking in the "woods" with my older brother and sister(behind our house was an area we called the woods-it was basically the wooded backyards of distant neighbors, but it was our play area). It must have recently rained because there were small pools of water everywhere that we were maneuvering around. Suddenly, in the middle of one of the small pools we see a baby bird that had fallen out of it's nest struggling to stay alive in the water. Sean and Colleen convinced me, with my new shoes on, to go fetch the bird so that we could save it. I did so, and in the process ruined my favorite shoes. We took the bird home to my mom, but it had died before we reached our destination. We had a funeral for it and it became the first of many animals/pets that were buried in our backyard.
I thought of that day last night and it struck me that I do not remember getting in trouble for my soggy shoes, but I remember my mom's sadness for the baby bird and her way of finding a box and helping us dig a hole for it. My brother was sick with Wilms disease by this time, and my mom must have wanted to show us the importance of compassion to this little bird.
Birthdays are supposed to be a time of celebrations-but I can't help but think of my parents today. Being a mother, I know the joy I feel when it is my own children's birthdays, and it pains me to know that my parents may recall my brother's birth with such joy and purity, and then instinctively recall his death as well.
I discovered something long after I was dating my husband that I find such comfort in. My husband was actually in my brother's kindergarten class. That may not sound like much, but it is to me. My husband may have played ball at recess with Sean, he may have stood next to him in line to the bathroom, he may have even had his coat hook right next to Sean's. Basically, my husband was able to meet my brother... even if he does not remember, he was able to know him. That is very important to me. That makes me smile today-the thought of my husband eating the cupcakes that my mom surely brought to my brother's kindergarten class to celebrate his birthday.
Happy Birthday Sean-pray for me, watch over your nieces and nephews, console Mom, Dad, Colleen and Claire today and remember that I love you~