My mother, sisters and I finished cleaning my brother’s house yesterday. It was something I was dreading and something I was welcoming all at the same time.
In the beginning, it felt comforting to be at his home, even the smell of smoke didn’t bother me as much as it used to.
The first day we found him and his body had been removed, there were a lot of people at my mom’s house. I had to get away from the noise and the ruckus and spend some time processing what had happened during the day. I spent a little time parked outside my brother’s front door writing to him.
” . . . I cannot believe you were in your house while I was knocking. I’m having a hard time accepting that you are gone. I don’t want to leave your house. I want to stay here, where you loved to be. But you’re not here in this tiny little box anymore. You are not confined to four walls . . .”
The more of his belongings we removed, the less it seemed like my brother’s home. His belongings are scattered, reserved carefully for those who loved him. Pieces and parts of “stuff” we wanted because it reminded us of him. I have to keep reminding myself there is nothing I can own that will bring him back. For some irrational grief-stricken reason, I’ve had a subconscious idea that if I have enough of what he touched, what he held, what he wore, what he listened to, what he loved that I will have him back. While these “things” provide a certain comfort, they do nothing to eliminate my grief.
I am realizing more and more as time goes on, that the only way to have my brother back is to keep his memory alive. I have never understood so much as I do now the poem which was used at my friend Lisa’s celebration of life by e.e. cummings.
(an excerpt follows:)
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
As we stood in my brother’s house, which no longer held his physical presence, his belongings, or his smell, I was conflicted. It has been a long process, but I almost felt guilty moving on.
I wanted to be the one to close the door for the last time.
I turned around and looked at his empty house.
I said to myself, “Goodbye, Craig,” with sadness in my heart.
Suddenly, I could see him, smiling at me saying, “I’m not here, sis.”
When I got home, the sun was shining on my brother’s face . . .
They are not dead,
Who leave us this great heritage of remembering joy.
They still live in our hearts,
In the happiness we knew, in the dreams we shared.
They still breathe,
In the lingering fragrance, windblown, from their favorite flowers.
They still smile in the moonlight’s silver,
And laugh in the sunlight’s sparking gold.
They still speak,
in the echoes of the words we’ve heard them say again and again.
They still move,
In the rhythm of waving grasses, in the dance of the tossing branches.
They are not dead;
Their memory is warm in our hearts, comfort in our sorrow.
They are not apart from us, but part of us,
For love is eternal,
And those we love shall be with us throughout all eternity.