January 4th has come around again and, like every year, I am reminded that today is my baby brother’s birthday and today he should have turned 35 years old. Since we lost him in a tragic accident in 2002 at the young age of only 22 years old, it is hard for me to imagine my younger brother (quite younger, by 13 years) pushing 40.
It pains me that I don’t get to see that as he was an absolute joy to be around at all ages. As a baby who I got to help care for, which was great fun for a young teenaged girl.
Shane was a smiling and cheerful toddler who stole hearts with his cute bowl bangs hair cut and big bright eyes. I was gone during his teen years since I was so much older, but thankfully with my Southwest Airlines Marketing job, I was able to fly him to see me quite a bit during those years. On those visits, he would ask for my sisterly advice on girls, getting rid of the occassional teenage pimple and college planning tips.
As a young adult, he reciprocated my kindness more than once by dropping everything to fly 2,000 miles to care for me first when I broke my ankle and had my own toddler to chase after…and then again in 2001 when mastitis struck me during my daughter’s newborn days. I was so sick (since this type of infection mimics the flu) and since my hubs was out of town on a business trip, my little bro came to the rescue to help care for me, my toddler son and my baby girl. That trip was a gift as it would be our last visit. I cherish that visit, even though I was so sick, but I was well enough to lie on the couch and watch my sweet Shane care for and dote on his little nephew and baby niece.
For those of you that have suffered a recent loss (and there seems to be many of you that I have observed on Facebook in recent weeks), I highly recommend a soothing little book that gave our family great comfort during that very heartbreaking first year of loss. I can tell you that 13 years later you don’t get over it, but you do get on with it and you move forward with your loved one firmly entrenched in your heart.
The other peculiar thing is that most days all is fine and then sometimes, out of the blue (even 13 years later) something will remind you. A song may move you to tears with a memory of your loved one or a smell or a taste may take you right back with unplanned tears streaming down your face. When that happens, embrace it, let the tears cleanse you and visit with your person. I look at those times as a visit with my sweet Shane when perhaps we are connecting in a magical way until we see each other again.
At times I feel him over my shoulder cheering for my boy during an exciting hockey game or applauding my girl on stage when she nails a much rehearsed part in a play that means a lot to her. I embrace that feeling of him being sort of a guardian angel to the niece and nephew that he adored. My hubs said it best last year when I expressed out loud my heartfelt wish that Shane could see our boy play hockey since my brother loved sports. Hubs answered me with the touching reply, “Shane has the best seat in the house” and that gave me great comfort.
The book that I recommend is called Healing After Loss: Daily Mediations For Working Through Grief by Martha W. Hickman. This little paperback is filled with daily words of comfort. The author of the book lost her own daughter, so she truly understands the grieving process. Each page is dated and contains messages that help with the healing. One message that resonated with me discusses how the pain is so great, but hurts this much because I loved this much. And for that I am grateful. I did love and still love him THAT much. I continue to purchase copies at Barnes & Noble for my friends and family who experience a loss. It sells for around $8 a copy.
So on this today I say Happy Birthday to my sunshiny Shane (he was always bright, positive and smiling).