My chronicle of the night I lost a brother.
In descriptive essay form…
A Dreadful Thing
I was at work, starving for water- the saliva in my mouth was like mush. It could have been that I hadn’t eaten anything all day. The only thing that satisfied was a fervent surrender to the needs of my thirst. I pursed my lips to the straw and sucked and gulped and nearly drown myself.
Work was work in spite of my thirst, and this night I cared little about the amount of time I spent spraying the remnants of dinner off every plate, or the fighting of stubborn crumbs from bowls and saucers. This was just another night.
It ended and I looked at my phone. It is a rare night for me to check calls or texts during work (unless I feel particularly daring), and there I saw two missed calls and a new voicemail.
It was my roommate Andrew’s number and I snickered to myself, with a twinge of annoyance, ‘Oh Andrew, what does he want now?’
So I dialed my voicemail, in the slothful pattern of the night, utilizing a systematic listening-to and deleting-of previous voicemails that had yet to be attended. After several minutes of reviewing the fascinating, and even entertaining recordings, I came upon the newest one, presumably from Andrew. The moment was confusing when the voice I heard belonged to Melanie, Andrew’s fiancé, which quickly shifted to disturbing when her voice was trembling in fear.
“Matt,” she quivered, “I need you to come quickly, Andrew fainted and we are headed to the hospital.” That was more than 2 hours earlier.
After speaking with Mel by phone I wandered to the emergency room that sat right behind my and Andrew’s apartment. The night still dragged on, more in agony now than the earlier lethargy of work.
There were several people in front of me who were speaking with the attendant at the desk. One lady sat plump in her wheel chair with a bag of ice over her eye. She stated that she was there for a migraine. Within me welled a spurt of laughter, ‘A migraine!’ Of course that thought stayed in my head. Another man, in my cynical view, was taking advantage of the services of the emergency room. He purported to have ‘fallen’ in the parking lot and hurt his leg- his street-worn clothes grew the bias in my mind.
At long last the lady at the desk asked me, and the gentleman next to me, why we had made the trek to the emergency room? I informed the small and soft-spoken woman that I was there to see my friend, Andrew Millette.
A different lady, younger yet similar in height and similar in tone of voice, showed me to a room just around the corner. Her words expounded on the mounting confusion, “Right over here is for the friends and family.” The door was opened enough for me to peer in the quaint room before entering. Inside I found a slouched and distraught Melanie. She was sitting on a couch to the right, and a large, strange man was holding her hand. Why is there a room for friends and family? Where was Andrew? Who is this guy? These were the thoughts that clouded my mind in the few precious seconds before Melanie informed me, through the whimpering and crying, that Andrew had passed on.
Immediately, as an instinct to the moment, I placed myself beside Mel and threw my arms around her. She kept sobbing that she was sorry. If I had had any semblance of sympathy I would have made known that I was sorry, that she hadn’t need to apologize. As it was, though, I was speechless. My words were stolen from my tongue. My throat knew nothing of speech, only silence, and that was the tune I played the entire night.
The man across from Melanie was the hospital chaplain. I am unaware how long he had been comforting Melanie. Barbara, Andrew’s aunt appeared in the room after a while, she had already begun the general’s task of arranging and organizing the details of the night as Mel and Andrew’s parents’ were flying in from out of state. After some time had passed Leah, Andrew’s cousin and Barbara’s daughter, arrived. She, like me, was unaware of what had happened until she arrived. There was no holding the reins on her sorrow.
Several hospital employees had filtered in and out through the night- one had blue scrubs on, another wore a nice picot and slacks. The man with the picot serenely introduced us to a tray of assorted drinks, mostly water. It is a funny thing that I was no longer in need of water. My mouth wasn’t mush anymore. Once they informed us that we had a short stint of time in which to view Andrew’s body, if we so desired. None of us went to see him. I wanted to.
I did cry some, mostly when Mel had been wailing. My heart was grieving in unison with Melanie. Her pain was bare and naked. It was honest and raw, and I couldn’t be witness to it without being affected as well. The next couple days were less riveting. I did not stop and cry with the force of a hurricane, or get lost in memories. I simply lived life as normal, even sitting in the lonely apartment felt normal, mostly.
I did not know the pain of loss before that night, and I am still attempting to understand it now, only days after my dear brother’s death. Death is a dreadful thing postponed. It is final, but it keeps me waiting for the moment when I realize my heart has been rend from my chest and filled with the hollows of lost time. It has already flooded my mind and pounded my heart, but is waiting for my eyes to collapse like levies that are ill prepared for the torrents of the storm.
Maybe if I had gone to see his cold body I wouldn’t have this postponed pain. I wonder if it would have stopped my imagination from creating illusions of him. Then again, maybe it is better this way.
I’m reminded of the time when my van was stolen. Andrew didn’t speak he simply moved toward me and hugged me. At the time the hug wasn’t warm and welcome, it was cold and awkward and I did not understand, but now I know. He was looking beyond life and death, into eternity, and saw that I needed a hug.