It was the last visitor's pass I was ever given to see my brother. He died later that day.
After I found the crumbled up visitor's pass, I wanted to go throw it out--I mean it is just trash and truly, a horrible souvenir of a horrible time. But I couldn't do it. I don't think I can ever throw it out. This pass represents the last time I saw my brother--it is a reminder that he lived.
The timing of this discovery is strange. Earlier, I found out that my church friend's husband died this morning. I mentioned him a few blogs ago. He battled COVID-19. And now he leaves a wife and his children to live without him.
There is really no sufficient words for this loss for his family. I called a mutual friend to talk through all of this and both of us wondered what we could do. I had the same conversation over text message with another friend--what can we possibly do?
There is nothing that seems big enough--and even though I've walked in horror and grief filled pathways, I still never know what to do. I settled on a quick message, a comment on Facebook and some prayers. But, then what?
How do we help the people we love when they are broken and shattered in grief?
After my brother's death there were people who disappeared--some disappeared entirely and others who slowly slipped away. I was so sad and angry and broken. Some days, I still am. I get it. Grief sometimes feels contagious. And sometimes it feels too hard to sit with the grieving,
Those who disappeared--those are the ones I find it hard to forgive. I forgave the well-meaning people who said the wrong things (he's in a better place, no more suffering, blah, blah, blah) but stuck around. I forgave the friend who did not stay for the funeral; but stays in my life and listens to stories about my brother.
I think the best way we can help the grieving people in our lives is to simply stick around. Sometimes this might mean leaning right into their grief--walking it with them as they recount their sorrow and staying to walk through the joy of their memories. We help by committing ourselves to friendship.
We all know that the moment we take our first breath, we agree to someday take our last. And while birthdays and death days are important markers, it the life between that matters the most.
The price of this life is always death. But the price of grief does not need to be forgetting they lived.
I sometimes find myself stuck in the memories of my brother's death. But, when I can pull myself out and remember his life, that joy of knowing that he simply existed is enough to extinguish the pain of his absence, even if just for a moment.
So, before I go, I want to share a memory of my brother, the brother who lived. David loved music--his favorites were Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Welk; but he could be convinced to enjoy some Pearl Jam, under protest. No matter where we were, no matter what was happening, once my brother heard music--he moved. He conducted imaginary orchestras, he did a shoulder shimmy, he kept time tapping his toes. Every song compelled my brother to join into its rhythm--right there in the moment whether in church or the car or the grocery store. When I think of him, I think of how in synch with the present moment he always was. I also think about how embarrassed he made me and laugh.
Because isn't that what brother's are for?
Tonight and tomorrow and everyday, pray for my friend and moreover, pray for yours. Call your friends who continue to walk through grief and share a memory of life--ask to see pictures, ask them to tell a story, share your own. Don't walk away or forget because it is scary to lean into it all. Grief is sneaky; but remembering life can drive out the darkness of it.