One year ago on October 22nd was the last time I got to speak with my brother. At the time, I didn't realize it was going to be our last conversation or else I would have said a whole bunch more. I got my "I love you"s and my "I miss you" and my "I hate that you have to go through this" out. And I think I did make him laugh once or twice, but if I had known that it was going to be the very last time that we would talk with each other, I would have said more. I don't know exactly what, but after having a year to sit around and think about it, I know that there are a couple more things that I wish I let him know.
How do you celebrate sad anniversaries? There aren't any Hallmark cards that I can just pick up and mail. There's not a "One year ago today everything started to turn to shit" aisle. No sweet poems about ventilators and code blues and loss hidden behind watercolors of lillies sprinkled in a mournful glitter can be bought and mailed to the other members of my family.
The sucky thing about grief is that it lasts longer for the people that are on the front lines. I know that my friends and aquaintances aren't thinking, "Oh, come on. It's been almost a year, get over it." But they don't have the days and times etched in their brains. They don't know that in the back of my mind I'm completely reliving one of the darkest times from my past. The day of his death was a fucking hard day, but Jesus Christ, the two months before he passed away were even worse. Not being able to speak to him. Hearing the edge in my parents' voice. Leaving messages with nurses when his Mom wasn't in the room and hearing them have to practically yell over the loud equipment so that Alex would know that I had called.
Heartbreaking. Heartbreaking then and heartbreaking now.
Luckily, the pain isn't as sharp and intense as when it was all actually happening. Instead it's more of a dull ache. An ache that will wake you up at night and make you stare up at the ceiling. It makes you talk to yourself when you're alone and lets you cry in the shower. It's an ache that you don't really want to share with anyone else because it's an almost private sort of feeling, but it's still painful enough that others can read it on your face, in your actions.
It will make you not pick up your phone to call your family because the thought of actually talking about it out loud with someone else who was on the front lines might convert that ache to the pain that you're trying to avoid, to overcome, to bury deep deep down.
I wish I could just mail a card.
I wish that I could remember all the things that we said to each other. I wish I had a recording of his voice, of his laugh, something that smelled like him near by when I want to be close to him. It sucks that I'm still crying and that he's not here. I hate that life isn't fair. I hate that I get jealous of other families who's kid didn't die from this disease or fall into a mindframe that other people just can't understand what it's like. That's not cool of me to think, but I do sometimes. It's just part of this whole fucking package.
Bottom line: I miss him still. I'm sad still. I'm not as angry as I was. I'm getting through this the only way I know how. I wish I could hug him.