My brother Daniel passed on December 13, 2010. He had been my best friend, a mentor, a counselor, a staunch supporter of me. I thought I would never recover.
He was a long haul truck driver who read everything he could get his hands on. He was a philosopher for the masses, an opinionated and outspoken standard bearer for the underdog and under privileged. He recognized his own privilege and tried to avoid using it.
Nearly eight years later, the loss of him still grips me. But it is different.
Today I listened to Joe Biden eulogize Senator John McCain. In part of his speech he directly addressed the family and said:
“I promise you, the time will come that what’s going to happen is six months will go by and everybody is going to think, well, it’s passed. But you are going to ride by that field or smell that fragrance or see that flashing image. You are going to feel like you did the day you got the news. But you know you are going to make it. The image of your dad, your husband, your friend. It crosses your mind and a smile comes to your lips before a tear to your eye. That’s who you know. I promise you, I give you my word, I promise you, this I know. The day will come. That day will come.”
I know his words to be true. I have lived them.
The first months were a blur. I could not listen to music that I knew Dan had liked. I could not pass a big rig on the road without seeing him in the cab. I could not pick up my phone without thinking he was the one calling.
And all of that brought tears and anger and that dreadful hole in my chest would consume me.
But one day, maybe a year or so after his death, I was passing a big rig on the freeway and I smiled. For a brief second I visualized Dan in that cab making a sandwich as he drove. (He claimed it was one of his great skills!)
And I smiled. And the tears were less. And the hole didn’t pull on my soul quite as hard.
My memories are clearer now. The love remains and is accepted. I no longer have to avoid the things and places that hold the pieces of Daniel. I cherish them.
He is gone and my heart will ache forever. But now, the smile comes before the tears.