Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Long Good-Bye

I've been trying to think of how best to say good bye. It's been four months now, surely that would be sufficient time to understand how. But I still haven't. I still often think I should call him, I should email him. Maybe this Christmas...

But I cant. Because he's gone. 

I feel very lucky my daughter got to know my brother. This summer, through a series of circumstances in our lives, my daughter spent a magical month at Grandma's farm. My brother had recently moved home after some heart wrenching struggles with depression and life changes. She was a magical little blessing that restored his hope and taught him to see the good in the world again.

The best way to  describe Jared is that he was my younger brother. He was four years younger than me. He irritated me in the ways only a sibling can. But he made me smile as often as he didn't.  He loved his family very much, if he didn't always know how to express it. He was generous to a fault, which is no fault at all. He even let my daughter ride on his shoulders like her daddy does. He helped her ride horses even though he was horribly allergic.

He was 28 years old when he died. 

He was riding home from work on his motorcycle. There was nothing particularly significant about the day. It's a beautiful stretch of highway between Spokane and the family farm in Rosalia. The road was open, the stretch flat and the sun glistened on the freshly harvested fields. As far as we can tell, there is nothing to indicate anything other than accident. There is simply no evidence to ever answer the question why. Who, what, where and when can easily be pinpointed. But sadly, not why.

For his memorial, the family came together. The only other time that has happened was my wedding. My step-sisters helped me reserve the Lady Washington for the services. My step-brother came in with his boyfriend and helped me put together the reception at the beach.
Even my father was there with his new wife, which hasn't happened in a very long time.

That said, I think I'd like to honor him in some small way, help people remember him the way I do. I wrote his eulogy, which I share below so you can see what I do. He may have been 28, but it can be said of him what can not be said of many: he really lived. 

It goes without saying that this makes no sense. It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense that today we gather to say good bye to my brother, and yours. Your son,  your friend.  I’d like to try and paint a picture of who my brother was.

Jared came into this world surrounded by long legged women in painted faces and fake lashes.  My memory of this is imprinted though the stories I have heard and the pictures I’ve gathered. I have a photo of him in a plastic box, cords this way and that because his lungs collapsed when he was born. But that’s not what I gather from the photos.  I see my mom’s face, and my dads. I see the love on their faces. Then there is a photo that I’m in I’m wearing a little house on the prairie smock, and holding me little brother. 

And it’s love.

Of course, like all siblings, that blissful moment of welcome is quickly replaced with “stop copying me”, “That’s MY toy!” or “he hit me!”.  I have very vivid memories of being so angry with him for copying my food choices at a restaurant that I insisted he order first so he wouldn’t copy me… only to be thwarted because, as it turns out, grilled cheese is not exactly a unique palette choice.

I also have equal memories of him telling stories of my life, exactly as I lived them. But to him, they were his stories. It didn't dawn on me until my wedding day why.  You see, we’d had some pretty epic speeches from the Best Man and the Maid of honor. Then comes my little brother. He always seems a little quite, a little nervous, but there he was. Well spoken, well written and ready to paint his own picture of the day.

He observed the world around him, looked up to people that he loved. It didn’t matter if they were family or not. And that’s one of the most beautiful things I find with this family. That we don’t see blood we see love.

Jared saw the love, though sometimes I know he didn’t feel it.  His picture of himself was a little fractured. But as Great Uncle Ernie Hemmingway says, we’re all a little broken. That’s how the light gets in.

I am sad today. I’m angry. I am more than a little broken.  But Jared was a light, even if he didn’t know it. He was a light that touched everyone here. He made us frustrated, he made us cry, he made us smile. He loved so fully and unconditionally.  I’m really grateful that Ondine got to know her uncle, my brother, our brother, as I knew him. Someone to go on adventure with, to see the world with eyes that didn’t know boundaries but saw family and love everywhere.

I love my brother, and I know that while the last few weeks have been pretty hazy, he’s been there. Whatever adventure he is on now, it’s just as beautiful as the open sea or the open road where joy swells in your heart.

 While my brother was not a walking Christian, he was saved at an industrial goth-rock concert. That's a thing, in case you were wondering. He was old enough to understand what he was doing though he very rarely set foot in a church afterwards. He was a spiritual person though, who loved people and didn't like to see anyone hurting. I found a poem and I will read it for you now, knowing that it speaks closely to his heart and who he was.

When I am gone, release me. Let me go.
For I have so many things to see and do.
You must not tie yourself to me with tears.
Be happy that we had so many years.
I gave you love, you can only guess,
How much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love each have shown,
But now it is time I travel alone.
So grieve awhile for me, if grieve you must.
Then let your grief be comforted by trust.
Listen with your heart and you will hear,
All of my love around you, soft and clear.
Then when you must come this way alone,
I will greet you with a smile and say…
Welcome home.

We'll miss you Jared. Have a safe and beautiful new adventure.