Friday, April 22, 2005

Immediate Aftermath 

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the beginning

The fight begins

fighting the good fight


We were quietly usherd to a nearby "greiving" room. It was a small room with comfy, plush furniture. A small part of my brain thought "this has been here the whole time! we were sleeping on hard couches!"

My brain was...pudding. I just couldn't think. But we were all crying. Tissues! we need tissues! I found a box and passed it around. That became my job for the next week. I was tissue girl. It was something I could do, something to help, because otherwise, I felt so helpless.

After a few minutes, one of the nurses came in and asked if we would like to see A with all the IV's, trach, and tubing removed. Everyone went but me. I couldn't. That wasn't my brother laying there anymore. It was his shell. In a few minutes, I was glad I didn't go. My parents and E came back and my mother could hardly stand on her own. She was hysterical. "Grey! He's so grey!!" She wasn't calming down. Panicked, I ran to the nurses station. "Can someone get a doctor? My mother...my mother...she's..." I didn't even know what to say, but they knew. Their faces were red and swollen with crying, too. I think A had been there longer than any patient they had ever had. They'd all become so attached. A few minutes later, one of A's doctors appeared with the adavan (attavan? I wish I knew how to spell this), the same drug that kept my brother calm. He sat with my mother as she swallowed the pill, holding her hands and speaking calming words.

I don't remember how long we stayed there. Eventually, the decision was made to go home. Dad and mom in one car, E and I in the other. I would take E to his dorm room so he could collect some things, and then get back home. Some friends of my parents had showed up, the H's They would stay with my parents, and collected names of people to call and notify, so my mother didn't have to do it.

E took forever in his dorm, while I waited in the car outside. Almost an hour. I was so irritated. What was taking so long? I want to get home. But we had just lost our brother, he lost his twin. He could take all the time he needed. I sat and waited and watched the rain on the windsheild.

When we got home, the H's had picked up a bucket of KFC. It was the middle of the afternoon, and none of us had eaten since the previous day. In spite of everything that had happened, I was famished. Fried chicken: comfort food in a time of much discomfort.

Over the next few days, friends and relatives poured in, bringing food and tears. Seriously, we had so much food. Lasanges and lunch meats and casseroles. I guess people figure it's the best they can do. Our pastor came over for lunch, and we shared with him stories of A, so he could prepare the memorial service. Some of them were funny and usable: remember the time A and dad went hunting and A shot a pheasant, but it didn't die, and they whacked it against a tree and it STILL didn't die and dad had to wring its neck, and they told us the whole story BEFORE we ate it for dinner, and nobody ate it? Some were funny, but not so usable: Remember the time A took one of my old skirts from the attic and put it on at school as some kind of protest against the dress code? and the principal called my mother, who had no clue because A left the house in shorts, and when he told her, she asked "well...is it against the RULES for my son to wear a skirt?" and the principal just sort of stammered and said well, not really, but he is creating a disturbance and he's wearing shorts underneath so we just made him take the skirt off, and my mom said what is it you want me to do? and he said that she should just be aware. All his friends said they'd wear a skirt the next day, but of course they never did.

A's memorial service was full of laughter, as the stories poured forth. He was such a funny, quirky guy.

While we were still in the hospital, right after A died, our social worker warned us that some people will say the stupidest things to us. They will mean well, but it will be stupid. And we were under no obligation to be polite to these people. We were in deepest grieving, and we could tell off the stupid people without fear of retribution. Those words stuck with me. After the memorial service, as we sipped on punch and nibbled on sandwiches in the reception hall, this dumbass guy who'd been hitting on me all spring at church came up to me and asked "So, are you glad?"


"are you glad? that it's over for him. that he's at rest."

and I looked at him, and those words came back to me, and I thought NOT ONLY has this guy been inappropriately hitting on me while I've been going through all this for months, he has the NERVE to ask me if I'm happy about my brother's death?

So in my most irrate and disdainful voice, I said:
"NO! I'm not GLAD!!! I want my brother BACK!"

And I walked away.

I laughed and cried, but mostly cried. My brother, who's life was looking so good, who had turned things around for himself, who had SO MUCH to look forward to, died one week before his 19th birthday.

18 year olds are not supposed to die in bed, covered with tubes and needles. They are supposed to be reckless and stupid. They are supposed to be running around with their friends, drinking and making poor decisions. They are not supposed to die slowly and painfully, while their family watches in anguish, helpless.

Tomorrow will be the 6th year anniversary of my brother's death. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. I think about how he'd react to some situation, or what he would be doing now. How nice it would have been if he'd been at SCAD and I could just drive a few hours and visit him on the weekends, or he could have visited me. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of someone walking, and he looks just like A, the short hair, big nose, ambling gait. Adam Sandler, actually, kind of looks like A.

For the next few weeks, I think we all felt hollow. For so long, all of our lives had revolved around the hospital, around A. And now, we didn't have that anymore. I would think "I dont' have to go back to that place anymore! I don't have to smell that smell!" and then I would remember why and I would start to cry all over again.

Slowly but surely, we picked up our lives. Not like before, things would NEVER be like they were before. But we had to find a new way to move on. Fresh, but with a heavy weight on our hearts.

Next: long term aftermath