It was Christmas time, so fitting, the weather was moody and hung there like a wreath whose welcome cedar scent was fading; it had hung there too long to be festive anymore. I had holed up with a book, A prayer for Owen Meany, I recall the phone ringing and the worry stirring in my blood. I knew it was bad news. Bad news has a particular ring that is different. Stacy was in a accident they said. Stacy was my brother. The word “accident” came out sounding like a lie. I was twenty, soon to be twenty one, so many, many words my ears intercepted were tuned to skepticism but this was blatantly wrong sounding. I could feel it growing instantly in the pit of my gut. Even a vision of my brother in a wheelchair faded fast, he was not in an accident- this I knew.
What hit me underlying the grief was how poorly people are equipped to comfort one another. They would say I know how you feel “my grandpa just died, or my cousin died,” or “oh at least he was your Stepbrother.” I knew death, I saw it eroding away at my grandmother for six years, cancer. This was different, he was very much alive, had kicked smoking, gotten married, chosen a career as a police officer he was getting his shit together and today was to be his thirtieth birthday.
I wished so many things after that day. I wished others had seen God the way I saw him that day. I drove away from the church shaking my head with new found responsibility to live for him. The world slowed down every car I passed made me stare hard at them and think how lucky they were and how my brother wasn’t. The church had been dark and cold, and the priest words unaffecting until he said and we will see Stacy again some day…..and from nowhere the sun shined beamed a blinding display of light through the window and stretched it’s warmth across the entire front pew of just family. It was unmistakable and eerily out of place as the weather had been pouring grey plumes of despair from the sky. I Sideways rain uncharacteristic of Seattle rain woolen grey cloud cover hovered over Mt. Olivet cemetery. As is customary with military burials gunshots were fired every click of the metal of the gun cocking magnified and the silence parted by intermittent thunder booms almost as loud as the sobs that followed. I still call up the image as they lowered his flag-draped casket into the earth, it was unearthly, surreal so permanent. God’s fury was everywhere that day, still this day I didn’t feel he would cradle me any longer after that day. No one should die on their 30th birthday, and no one should attend a funeral two days before they turn 21, or they may very well find alcohol to be truly the best medicine to soothe away the hurt. I did……for years to come.
Stacy, if you were here I would tell you I will advocate for gun control in your name, because even though you were beaten to death, you would never have fought back if they hadn’t pointed a gun at your face.