Wednesday, November 20, 2013
seventeen: an anniversary
I think it is only fair to warn you, this is potentially a need-some-tissues kind of a post. I'll thank you in advance for reading this part of my family story that I felt like telling.
I was washing the dishes last Friday afternoon, staring at the suds when the date popped into my head - the 15th, the 15th of November. "Dale's anniversary" I thought.
Some years I remember, some years I don't. My next thought leapt to his best friend who lives a suburb away from me, whose children go to the same school as my River and who ironically named his first born River too; I wondered if he was remembering Dale on this day.
Dale was my only sibling, my brother who died too young and suddenly seventeen years ago. I write this not with sadness but with pure love and fondness as I feel the bond we shared and in a different form continue to share. For that is how much I have grown in my grief, how far I have come emotionally, spiritually, philosophically since that initial heart wrenching moment when the words landed in my ears that he had died.
It is a fairly unbelievable tale, but they do say life is stranger than fiction. As long time readers here know, my mum died of a sudden heart attack also seventeen years ago when my brother was 19 and I was 21. We were shocked and thrown off course by our mother's death and sadly grief consumed my brother.
It is actually impossible to explain the feelings that accompany grief. Shock, sadness, missing, longing, anger, fear, relief, confusion, nausea...they are just words. No two people grieve in the same way, even when they share a common loss as Dale and I did with our mother, the way each person grieves is as unique as their fingerprint.
Dale plummeted into 'drinking with mates' 'cause that's what blokes do, right? Where I think we're going wrong with perpetuating the Aussie drinking culture that damages and kills so many Australians each year is a whole other post and whole lot heavier than I wanted to get today but sadly for my brother and our family it was his binge drinking that killed him.
On a Friday night he was drowning his considerable sorrows at a local pub, his best friend was there and did the right thing "You've had enough, I'm driving you home", they left the pub together at 7pm. My brother asked to be dropped off not far from his house so he could buy some take away food, Dale got out at the shop and said he'd walk the rest of the way home. His friend drove off thinking he'd done the right thing.
Instead of walking home, Dale walked back to the pub and continued drinking with some other friends. they left the pub around 11pm and parted ways. Before I explain what happened, let's remember that his best friend felt Dale had drunk enough at 7pm add four more hours of drinking and you get an idea of how intoxicated my brother was by the time he attempted to walk home.
Outside the pub was a six lane highway that my brother attempted to cross in his extremely drunken state. At 11.10pm on November 15th 1996 Dale was hit by a car and died at the scene of the accident, five months to the day since our mother had died.
I thought I would never recover. I thought sometimes if I didn't force myself to stop crying that the emotion would just swallow me up and I would never be able to claw my way back...back to what?
When someone close to you dies and you are in the depths of grief you keep waiting for life to 'go back to normal', in fact it is a bit similar to when you have a baby and you land on planet newborn the depths of emotion you didn't know you had in you, crack you open and you wait and wonder 'When will life go back to normal?' Well, as anyone who has grieved or had a newborn knows this is the new normal there's no going back.
My mother's and brother's lives and deaths have shaped who I am today. I have many blessings from having known and loved them, and from losing them too. I did recover. I did more than recover, I grew. And I haven't stopped.
Blessings to each of you who are grieving or remembering their loved ones xxx