Today is the day that I’m really allowed to be sad, to myself, reflective and even cry about it. But in reminiscing, I am also going to do something fun which makes me happy. Because that’s the way Josh would have wanted it.
It’s difficult not to replay the events of that day over in my mind which occurred ten years ago. Then I have the days following. The numbness. The lack of sleep. Holding everyone together. Searching through pictures for display at the wake. The funeral. The final goodbye. I don’t remember really breaking down until the coffin was lowered into the ground and the sand fell from our hands onto the top, the sound of emptiness echoing in our minds. This was it. The final moment. The worldly separation.
I took solace in Heaven and seeing my brother again someday. What else could I do?
Today I found the song that was on the radio while Bill and I were speeding on the back roads, dust rising from the dirt behind us as we flew through an area where speed limits were not a concern. The radio was blaring, Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand by Primitive Radio Gods. Bill told me which roads to take. I drove so fast, I can’t even remember the route. When this song came on I turned the radio even louder. I don’t think I have listened to it since that afternoon ten years ago. I sit in our new flat, listening to it now. A heat wave has taken over London. I look out the window at the swirls of heat rising off the cars in the car park. Listening to this song, remembering that moment when there was nothing to say. Nothing to do. But just listen to the music and get to the hospital as fast as we could.
Josh’s favourite song when growing up was We Built this City by Starship. He used to sing it in the car, in the house, wherever. I remember calling home my first year of college. I spoke to Josh and told him about my roommate’s huge 80’s music collection and everytime that song came on we turned it up and sang it. It always reminded me of him. He laughed and chided me a bit. Come on Sis, that music is so not cool anymore. Of course, he was into rap and hip hop. His current favourites were the Insane Clown Posse and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. What was I thinking?
Just before Josh died, his favourite song was Tha Crossroads by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The night before he died, he spoke to our mom about God and religion. The day my brother Bill and I left to see an apartment he might move in to, Josh met us on the stairs as we were leaving to apologise to Bill about something, in an effort to make peace with him. Although Josh and I didn’t have anything to make peace about, we still didn’t hug each other or say ‘I love you.’ Why would we, we’d catch each other later, right? But we didn’t. And for me, that was the hardest thing to get over, not having that final chance to tell him how much he meant to me.
Later that summer, I went on a road trip with my friends to Vermont. During our time in the car, we listened to The Cranberries CD, To the Faithfully Departed. Electic Blue Eyes reminded me of my brother, in a very peaceful, serene way. My friends knew this and we turned up the radio each time it was on and sang out the lyrics. This trip was the beginning of my journey in getting through my brother’s death. That journey was to last all year.
That was the year I was supposed to study in London but couldn’t due to lack of finances. Instead, I found myself taking the semester off and living with my mom. It turned out to be the time we needed to get through our loss. Although I had been devestated at not being able to study in London, looking back on that time with my mom, I realise how much more important it was. And here I am, ten years later, living in London with Ali.
Everything happens for a reason. This was also something I clung to as we made our way though our loss.
I have two photos of Josh that I put up. One is of him with his shirt off in the summer time, taken at a friends house, just before he died. He is wearing his black adidas hat backwards, given to him during church camp a few years before when he had played soccer. He’s smiling at the camera and I can imagine he is smiling at me. It was the most recent photo we had of him. The other photo was taken while I was in highschool, all dressed up to go to Homecoming. He is tickling me and I am laughing. I had wanted him to pose with me in a nice picture and I am so glad he didn’t. That’s the only photo of him that I have of us smiling at each other a couple years before his death. I love how happy we are.
How did my brother die? If you don’t know me, or if you do and you have never asked, then I can give you the short version. But I don’t mind talking about it. It’s not awkward for me. Usually it is for the folks that have never experienced death as I have or for folks who don’t think it’s proper to talk about such subjects. Or just feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. For those of you that have experienced death, you know that there is nothing someone can say and you don’t want them to try to say anything anyways. For me, talking about Josh is important because Josh was my brother and will always be my brother. He’s just not in my life anymore.
On July 2nd, Josh was out riding his bike with some friends. He flipped it and unknowingly hurt his leg. He was a daredevil. He liked experiencing life and seemed afraid of nothing. Later that day he and his friends went to the local watering hole to do some swimming. Since before my mother was growing up in the same town, the youngsters went down to the bridge over the river leading from Kensington Lake to jump off the bridge and go swimming. That’s where Josh and his friends went after bike riding, to cool off. When it was Josh’s turn to jump off the bridge, his leg broke upon impact with the water. This made his body heavy and he was unable to swim. His friends tried to swim out and help him but failed to. A volunteer fireman was first at the scene and brought Josh up from under the water. Eleven minutes had past. He was air lifted to U of M hospital, where after a long night of waiting in the Intensive Care Unit waiting room, he was announced dead. My fifteen year old brother had drowned.
Here was the reminiscing part. The time to be reflective and sad. Now I am going to call my brothers and then after Ali wakes up, we will go to St. Paul’s Cathedral to light candles for both Josh and Adam. Then we will explore a bit or just enjoy spending the evening together in London. Because we can. Finally.