Tomorrow will be one year since my brother in law died. It’s one of those things where you say “I can’t believe it’s been a year already,” and in the same breath say “Wow, what a long year.”
I have a fixation with anniversary dates. My whole family does; maybe it’s a Catholic thing, maybe it’s an Italian thing. I don’t know. But we mark anniversaries, good or bad, on our calendars like the dates are supposed to have some magical meaning. Maybe in the case of wedding anniversaries, that’s fine. But in the case of death, we’re only marking the passage of time and, why?
Maybe I know. I think my sister has been waiting for this day just to put that first year behind her. All those first days without him – the birthdays, the holidays – were the most difficult and now that all of those have been marked off the calendar, will it get easier? I think it does. I think it already has for her, in many ways. She seems to breathe easier now, to not get caught up in tears at the mere mention of his name.
I think I need this anniversary as well. It’s been a year since I was traumatized (literally) by the events of that morning. It’s time to put that behind me and stop seeing it play out in my head at 3am, to stop asking myself what I could have done differently in the days and weeks and years before it had happened. Nothing. I know that know. I couldn’t have changed anything, no matter how much I would give to be able to do that, to make everything turn out differently.
I also think that part of the reason I keep the details of that morning in my head is this weird sense of guilt that my sister’s life fell apart just when mine was finally coming together. In many ways, this past year has been the best of my life. There have been so many positive changes, so much growth and freeing myself from things that held me down, and finding things that have lifted me up. It’s been, for me, a year of joy and happiness and this self-made guilt tugs at me, that I should live so joyously at the same time my sister was consumed with sadness. The fact that we share (different parts of) the same house makes it the harder. At first I didn’t want to let her see my happiness, as if I was gloating, which I was not.
But I realize a few things now. My sister needed to see that happiness. She needed a sense of joy around her. And she needs to see how someone can come from a dark, depressing place that felt like it was endless and see, and feel, the light at the end, and then walk into that light and live.
Today, we will all to to a mass for my brother in law, and then we’re going to brunch with my family and his family. It sounds like a celebration, and maybe it is. Maybe it’s a way of saying – a year ago we were gathered in sadness, and now let’s gather in peace and hope. We can laugh now, we can smile without feeling guilty, we can remember without breaking down, we can look for the light and fly into it, knowing that there’s so much ahead.
Lisa and Rob met when they were 17, and were together since then. That’s 20 years of a life with someone. You don’t just put that behind you and move on; he will always be a part of her, especially when they have an adorable son who has his father’s mischievous smile. But I do hope she can put mourning behind her, leave some of that sadness behind and enjoy the life before her. That’s all I want for my sister, is for her to feel some freedom, feel the wind at her back and look at the wide open space in front of her, and soar.
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