In the moments before I drift off to sleep, thoughts of my brother and what could have been come to me. During the day, my mind is always occupied. I’m working, reading or listening to a book, even in the car. When I exercise I have earphones when I listen to books. My mind is busy.
But the one time I can’t turn on something else to distract me, G.., my younger brother who died just six weeks ago comes into my thoughts.
I worked for hours on a video to be played at his memorial. I had to go through old photo books filled with paper pictures, some that have faded or changed color. But those pictures are like an external hard drive to my brain. Without them I would forget those days when we had fun, laughs and got along together.
When your own sibling dies, and your parents are long gone, a part of you dies as well. Now all those memories that we shared are left as a repository in my mind only. I can’t call him to refresh the events or get his take on what we did and when. It’s a big responsibility because my adult children ask me questions and want to know more, but I can’t recall details like he could. My brother had a prodigious memory. He was a genius. And that was part of the problem.
My brother was brilliant. He was skipped two grades in elementary school. He still excelled academically, but emotionally he was a little boy with older kids. They teased him because his teeth had turned greenish brown from medication he had to take for his asthma.
But that teasing may have been what led to his amazing sense of humor that he used to defend himself. The mean kids ended up laughing and stopped bothering him.
He had friends, but may have always felt apart from others. I think, in part that’s what lead him to alcohol and drugs to fill the gaps. He became addicted to both, but alcohol was his drug of choice.
Then there were two G..‘s: Dr. Jeckylle and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll was loved and admired by his friends and fellow lawyers where he was a top gun. G.. helped indigent clients and saved many of them; poor, underserved by society to better their lives. He was great at what he did.
He helped his fellow lawyers with strategy and gave of himself generously to aid in their struggle to find time to accomplish what needed to be done. Judges loved him along with the people who worked in the courts. They were heartbroken when they heard of his early death from a combination of factors that exacerbated his asthma. He was exposed to the toxic air from 9/11 because he worked downtown in NYC in the courts.
But for much of his life he was also Mr. Hyde. He could be mean, angry, demanding and like a spoiled brat to two people: his wife and to me. It has made my grief mixed between deep sorrow and anger.
How could he have wasted his life with drink? Why didn’t he use his intelligence to deal with the issues that assailed him? What was the incident that made him change from my funny, dear brother to a mean person for much of the time?
I’ll never know because although I tried many times to ask him, he would never give me an answer. He refused any kind of treatment for his emotional issues, thinking himself smarter than any potential psychiatrist or mental health professionals.
My mixed grief includes anger with the sorrow. I’m told it’s the hardest type of grief to release.
Last night my brother came to me in such a lifelike dream. I was so amazed to see him “alive” that I kept asking him, “How are you here??” He was happy and talked easily to me. It was the brother that I wish I still had. It made me wake up sad and feeling that I need to write about him. Hence, this short record of the complicated emotions that many of us deal with in the passing of someone we cared for. Alcohol is probably the cause of what led him down that path. And I know that I’m not alone and so many families are pulled apart by addiction.
Despite troubled circumstances he created, I miss him and I’m so sorry he’s gone forever.
I have no idea what happens after death, but I hope his existence is like that soul I met in my dream last night. But seeing him like that has shifted my confused feelings away from anger to deep mourning. And for me being sad is harder to live with. I guess I have work to do on myself.