Today is the one year anniversary of the day that my brother Ed died.
I find that for most things, I sort of forget the details after a while. But I remember so much about that day and the days afterwards. It was a Thursday. There was what seemed like an endless amount of time (actually, I think it was about an hour and a half) between when we knew that something was very wrong and when the police actually told us that he was dead. I couldn't sleep at all that night. I remember ending up taking a bath at like, 4 am, hoping that would help me calm down. It didn't. The next morning, I thought maybe it hadn't really happened until my parents called me to tell me their flight information (because they were already in Florida for the winter). I had to call my boss to tell him I wasn't going to be in for a while, find someone to come over and keep an eye on the cats while we were gone. Completely hysterical, of course. Brian had to go into work to sort some things out before we could drive up to NH, and Chris and Denise came over to stay with me while he was gone. I felt like I was being a real bother to everyone, but I don't think I could have sat there alone either.
I remember the whole two day drive up to NH. In some ways it was horrible, just sitting there crying. Keeping in touch with my brother and parents who were up there dealing with things. I was upset that we hadn't been able to fly so that I could get there sooner, but we really had to drive because we had to take the dog. I felt like an idiot at every rest stop we stopped at because my face was all swollen and I would cry in the bathrooms.
When I was seeing the bereavement counselor, he said that a lot of times people replay in their head what they think happened when their loved one died. I didn't really do that, but I did endlessly replay this whole car ride and the surreal conversations I was having with my parents. They were at the funeral home picking out a casket and deciding on what color flowers they were going to have in all the flower arrangements (they picked yellow, black and white because Ed's motorcycle leathers were those colors). I couldn't believe I was even having that conversation.
When we got home, people were already at the house with my family. My parents friends and Jim's friends were there all the time, which was nice for them. I didn't really have anyone there except Brian. It helped a lot when all of our relatives turned up. I've really never felt so alone in my life. It was really nice that some of my friends had sent flowers to the funeral home for the wake, because I knew that they would have been there if they could have. It helped to keep walking past all of the flowers, looking at the cards.
I didn't have anything to wear to the funeral. I work in a lab, so I don't really need many nice outfits and I certainly didn't have any that fit me at the time. Jim's friend Sarah took me to the mall to help me shop, rather than going out for drinks with Jim and all his other friends. That was nice.
Brian and I had to take Ed's suit and pocket watch up to the funeral home. I thought I was going to throw up. They gave me a little packet with his personal effects, like his watch and a ring he was wearing. The night before the wake, we were at home putting together these photo boards that the funeral home had given us. We were going through old family photos with my aunts and cousin. My one aunt is a big scrapbooker, so she took charge. That was sort of fun. I remember we were going through piles of pictures sorting out which ones were pictures of Ed. That is inherently challenging, because Ed and Jim are identical twins and looked very much alike, especially when they were younger. I can tell the difference though, as can my mom. My dad, not always. I remember going through the pile my dad had decided were pictures of Ed, and one of the pictures was of me. Ha. Yes, I had a boy hair cut in 4th grade, but I don't think I had ever been mistaken for one of my brothers.
At the wake, we got to go in before it started to see Ed. I really didn't want to even go up there. I was thinking I'd just stand in the back. I was absolutely terrified. Of course, I did go up. They had made prayer cards (or whatever you call those) that had a picture of Ed on his motorcycle on the front, and a poem on the back. I have those cards all over the place, one in my wallet, one at work, two at home, but I still can't read the poem on the back without crying. Once people got to the wake, I switched into this bizarre Susie Sorority Girl mode. I didn't know what else to do with myself, so I felt like I had to act like the host of a party. I'm sure everyone thought I was insane. I didn't know many people at the wake, other than my family, Matt, Melissa and her family, and one of my friends from grad school who had driven up from Boston. I think most people there didn't even know I was Ed's sister. Ed's ex-girlfriend had come and I tried to help her get up to see him. She finally did, but it took her a long time to slowly edge closer to the casket. I knew how she felt though. I remember that I had wanted some gum (because I am an addict) and Brian and Matt came back with about five different packs of gum so that they were sure they had gotten one I liked. At the end of the night we put some things in the casket with Ed. I put in a picture of Jim, Ed, Brian and I from Thanksgiving a few years ago. Jim put in a bottle of Sam Adams Octoberfest (and some other stuff). He tried to stick the bottle down in the lower, closed half of the casket so that it wouldn't be super obvious, but of course there's no padded bottom on that half. The bottle clunked right down to the bottom and made a really loud noise. Everyone laughed at that. The funeral home guy got it out for us. Ha. We took home some of the plants that had been sent to the funeral home. I still have a big peace lily that my coworkers had sent, and even though I'm usually death to plants, I still have it and its still doing well.
The next morning a limo picked us up at the house and drove us up to the funeral home, where the family had a last visitation. My relatives were all there and some close family friends. The immediate family were the last to go up there. That was the worst part, because you knew it was the last time you'd ever see him. We stayed there for a while and then my mom, grandmother and I got into the limo - dad, Jim and Brian were pallbearers, so they had to wait and put the casket into the hearse. That was also awful, sitting there waiting to see the closed casket come out of the funeral home. We drove back down to Windham for the service. Melissa played the flute at the service, but I missed most of it because we were the last ones to arrive. I remember she tried to stick 'Danny Boy' in at the end for me, because thats one of my favorites. We had several readings that we had picked out. I think my Uncle Bart did one, and I did one. Brian came up with me just in case I couldn't finish, but I did. It was an Irish blessing that we had edited down a bit. Jim and my dad both spoke about him, and then we drove off to the cemetary.
The cemetary is a really old one right near my house. They had set up one of those tents and had brought all the flowers from the funeral home. It was chilly, gray and drizzling. The priest said a few things and then we all went back to our house, where we had a party of sorts that my parents friends had organized. It was nice to see everyone and to get a chance to chat. And, of course, eat and drink a lot.
People continued to bring over food, which was really nice. We had an old fridge down in the basement that we were keeping a lot of this food in. The day after the funeral, the fridge stopped working. We had to go out and find a new one ASAP. That was an interesting trip, because fridge shopping was not high on our 'list of things I want to do the day after Ed's funeral'.
Eventually we had to drive back and go back to work. It was really hard for the first few months. I couldn't concentrate. I rear-ended someone. I cried a lot in the bathroom at work. I didn't feel like going out and doing anything social. We didn't put up any Christmas decorations or send out cards or anything.
When I think back to how I felt at that time, I didn't think life was ever going to get back to normal. I couldn't imagine that anything would ever be funny again or that I would ever enjoy anything again. Some of my friends dropped off the face of the earth at the time I most needed them, and I figured it was because people would only like me when I was fun. So I also thought that people just wouldn't like me anymore.
Here it is a year later, and I do laugh again, and I do enjoy things. A lot of days I don't even think about it, even though at first it was all I thought about. I no longer feel like my whole identity revolves around this one event. We had started trying to get pregnant the week before Ed died, and now our first baby is due in five weeks (OMG!). I'm amazed at what I was able to get through, and now I know that no matter how bad things seem, I can come out the other side.
Luckily today is a government holiday, so not many people will be at work and I don't feel bad taking the day off. My friend suggested I do something that Ed enjoyed today. He enjoyed:
motorcycles (no thanks)
drinking beer (well, me too, but not something I can do right now!)
smoking cigars (ech)
playing video games (this one we have in common)
I wish I could be up in NH to go visit the grave and be with my family, but I can't. So today, I'm playing video games in my brother's memory. Heh. That sounds really lame when you say it out loud, doesn't it.
Miss you Ed.