A lot of things have changed in a short period of time. Until this trip, I have never slept even one night away from my husband since we were married. Before I flew out of LAX on the 10th, the longest time that I have been away from my son is four hours. Prior to last week, my brother was living.
I tried so hard to be strong this week and I know that I failed miserably. At times my heartbreak felt so strong that I thought there might be something physically wrong with me. The hardest was watching the flag presentation at his service. And seeing his body. Seeing my mother's tears, comforting her much as I would my little son. I couldn't help but sob when I heard Taps softly playing while a sailor respectfully stood before my brother's body. I know that he was already gone, but it just drove home the finality of his death.
I'm sure that everyone is sick of hearing about my grief, but this is truly the most painful loss I have ever suffered and I just don't know when I'll be over it. I don't know that I'll ever be "over it." I thought my best friend's death was hard and I thought my grandmother's death three weeks later was even harder, but they didn't come close to delivering the same level of agony that I'm feeling with my brother's death.
We expect our parents and grandparents to die. We expect the old and the sick to pass on before us. We don't expect healthy 41-year old men to die; I sure didn't expect that it would happen to my brother. But it did.
For most people, the longest relationship they'll ever share is their relationship with a sibling. Parents die, spouses come in adulthood, but siblings were there from a very early age and they remain throughout your life. In an ideal world, they'll be there much longer than any other person in your life.
I wish that I was given more than 35-years with my big brother. My brother and my sister had their situation, but I tried hard to let them resolve their differences between themselves. I couldn't pick one over the other because I love them both so much. And now I only have my sister. My sister and I are without a brother. . .
Your siblings shape the person who you grow up to become. Due to the longevity of the relationship and the depth of love, losing a sibling is like losing a part of yourself. It's a part that can never be replaced. There will always be something, someone, missing.
No, I can't say that I'll ever get over this. I may work through the stages of grief. I may stop crying one day. I may smile and laugh. I may appear to have moved on. But he's gone and I'll continue to miss him.
* * *
On the way home, I had a three hour layover in Orlando. It had to be Orlando. I couldn't help but think that my brother had flown to Orlando in 1986 when he first enlisted in the US Navy. And there I was, kicking around Orlando on my way home from my brother's funeral service in 2010.
It would have made me laugh if it didn't make me cry.