Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday - On Memories

A year ago on Good Friday, he said goodbye.

I had just been out to visit him.  My Big Brother  had moved in with Dad some months ago.  The doctors told him he was in remission last fall, he said, for how long, we did not know. But he had no job to return to with Defense cuts and couldn't afford to keep his home.  It was a good move though, for Dad, relieving us of the expense of a full time home health provider, as Dad couldn't live on his own, even as he still refuses to live with family that would welcome him.  He's outlived two children and two wives and said he would only leave his home when he ceases to breathe.

I visited as often as I could, using both vacation and sick time, there to provide for their care. There was always lots to do, meals to prepare and freeze, cleaning, flowerbeds and gutters and the stocking of supplies. We made no trips but for short drives, his planning such overnight outings with the whole family for when I was away, but it was OK, those dinners with just he and my brother and I. Big Bro and I could do things he needed done, and he seemed to like just having the time with just the two of us, sharing the memories of that home when Mom was still there. Between us we got Dad's bills paid, the budget drawn up, taxes completed, even if we ended up doing it over the phone.

But had I been able to talk to him one last time, I wouldn't have asked where the insurance info is or what Dad did with the phone and cable bills or where the spare keys are.  I would have simply told him I loved him, and how much he meant to me, one more time.  But we never knew our last words would be just that. Our last words are often not said, our lives always coming up short for those measured statements which through all of our brief utterances were our lone and enduring hope. There is never enough time for those last words, of love, of faith, of  fear or regret.
The words not said hung in the air the days after he left. They were days that seemed like a lifetime, and yet seemed like only moments, perhaps because I don't know if I every really slept in that time, or if, for a moment, time itself shifted, holding me down in the moment, as G-forces did long ago in a steep banked turn.  Time held still for me, but for my brother, it had overtaken him and moved ahead. All of his things, placed into Dad's house, now to be moved again, to charity, to our homes, to our hearts, medals and coins, and books and I probably don't want to know why he had a loaded flare gun hidden alongside his concealed carry piece. There was laughter and tears, there in so many pictures, of early days, and the freckled face of fatigue, memories of a strong, reliable man, the simple kind of man that is the cornerstone of great reputation, even if the world at large would not observe his passing with tears or trumpets.

There was such much to do, to organize, to communicate. So many people stopping at the house or church, to pay their respects.  There were church friends, Bro's best friend, who came to the service even though he lost his own mother the day prior, high school friends and Don and several of the guys from Electric Boat. Then, before I knew it, a service, a eulogy I remember writing, but could not utter, the minister reading it instead with his own message, there as the Easter Lilies on the alter drooped towards him, as if listening.  There were words, of Easter, of remembrance, works that will give us a sense of what meaning can be gained from pain and suffering, death and eternal life. Things some of us ignored for years, then, in moments self awareness, truly hit home.
It hit home for me, when I looked out the window of the little memorial structure where he would receive his military honors before interment and saw the uniforms outside, just prior to raising their guns to the skies.  I heard the guns before they were ever fired, not as sound, but as a tremor that passed over my body the way you will see a flag unfurl, before even the wind that moves it is felt.

We often go through life with our eyes half shut, brain functioning well at idle, senses dormant, getting through our days on autopilot.  For many, this sort of life is comforting, welcoming.  Then for some, not the incalculable majority, but many of us, there is a moment, a flash, when in a moment we truly know all that we've had, held there in the moment of its loss.

All that week long it had rained, never really ceasing, only diminishing to a gentle mist now and again.  Yet as we arrived at that place, where guns would be raised, and taps would be played, the clouds moved aside, as if paying their own respects.  The rain stopped as we pulled into the gates, and when we gathered, the sun came out.  As the officers stood at salute, all was silent, no rain, no wind, only stillness, the sunlight on the pooled water, now sleeping,

The guns fired their salute, taps were played, and the Lord's Prayer was uttered.  Then one by one, hands were placed on a stone  urn, one final goodbye that we could not bear to end, a moment of immobility that accentuated the utter isolation of this hilltop in which valor is laid to rest.
The moment I drew away, warm hand from cold stone, walking outside, the skies opened up again with heavy rain.  t was as if  the heavens themselves wept, the rain enfolding us all the way home, mingling with our own tears. My hands clutched the three empty rounds that had been placed there, holding them so tight my nails dug into my flesh, not wanting to ever let them go.

Since that day, I have returned many time to that hill, to the comfort of his ground, whre the final stone is placed, to remember, the memorial being but the echo to his sound.

All around, I see the dead; in the small memorial at the spot where two trains once collided,  in a sign erected in the memory of a local killed in a long ago war. There's the little cross by the side of the road where another young soul left us. How important these undistinguished little memorials. Every death is a memory that ends here, yet continues on, life flowing on, sustained by love and faith.Such is the lesson

How thankful we are for these memorials, for the spirits smoke that stays with us after the candle has been blown out.  As I heard the taps, I realized that they signified distance, heard there in that first echo. The dead were not sleeping, they were gone. When the final taps were played, I no longer heard the echo, but I will always remember it, for the memory helps us hold on. After a while, an echo is enough.

His was a death that arrived on Good Friday, and it was a life celebrated there and remembered here now, in the week of Easter. For that is what Easter was, and is,  to our family.  It's  remembrance. It's the remembrance of a death that brings us life. Of sacrifice, of knowing that we will not be forgotten. Of the hope that after darkness there is light, inky comfort in the unknown.
 - Brigid


  1. My heart goes out to you. May the joy of your memories outweigh your grief.

  2. We share your heartache at the parting of the ways, but it is not a "Farewell" we utter - it is a "See you later."

    As the Bible says, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

  3. Heartrendingly beautiful! Thank you (he said in tears)...............

  4. I can't believe this was an entire year ago. How fitting that the Heavens opened and called such a fine man on such a day. Love to you on this anniversary of his departure for Home.

  5. The words I didn't say have lingered on for years. I made a vow to myself to NEVER let that happen again.


  6. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    You will see him, again.

  7. As always, my thoughts are with you, my friend. My beloved brother occupies a special place somewhere in the back of my mind. He was 14 when I died (as I think you know); I was 16. I will be 65 this year, and I don't think there has been a single day when I didn't think of him. So many questions that went unanswered, conversations that almost happened…the wheel weaves as the wheel will.


    Michael B

  8. I'm not sure what happened here. I just left a comment to each of you individually and blogger just ate it. In any event, as it's late, a time zone change to get back home and then another drive tomorrow back to work, I'll just say thank you.

    It's hard to believe it's been a year, but I feel him near me many a day. I've expanded on his and my story in the next book that's coming out next month, and hope I captured his spirit well.

    I miss him so.

    Thank you for your friendship and support. You all mean a lot to me.


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..