End of the Innocence, Part Three

We are led back to the visitation room, where the urn sits in the middle of a long, thin table. It is surrounded by flowers and plants, and flanked on three sides by photographs. Photos of a beautiful 25 year old man. Full of life and energy. Heat and light searing in his light blue eyes and a charming, toothy grin. Pictures of Christmases, and vacations, childhood memories and brand new baby nieces. Pictures of him holding my baby sister in his arms, their love palpable on film. My sister’s life. Her love.

My sister sits in the front pew, between his father and his brother. His brother looks strikingly like him, and speaking with him is eerily similar and yet wholly different. In the exact same manner that my sister and I are so alike and yet so different. He is more reserved, more gentle, but every bit as smart, charming and vibrant. His eyes are bottomless oceans of gray and green. His smile is smaller, more sly than his brother’s. They have that same habit of improving your life in some small way within five minutes of seeing you, though he will edit your registry, and Mark would rewire my car stereo. He and my sister have always gotten along well, and I’m pleased and relieved to see them taking care of each other.

I sit behind my sister, between my Mom and one of my sister’s best friends. The people in this second pew are the closest of my sister’s supporters. My Mom’s best friend is on the other side of her, another of my sister’s best friends sitting next to the girl who is sitting with me. A whole pew of women connected by the blood, sweat and tears of our lifetimes, and a fierce love for my sister. My sister’s best friend holds my hand and rubs my knee as I struggle to keep my sobs in my throat. I’m reeling in my own sense of loss, absolutely. My heart is being torn wide open, though, watching my sister listen to the eulogy of the man she loved most in the world.

After the service, we changed and drank, and ate and laughed. People streamed in and out of the house in large packs, bring food and love and flowers. My sister finally settled in to a long, deep sleep, in the middle of the living room, surrounded by friends, family and neighbors. I made arrangements to keep in touch with some of my sister’s friends who promised to take care of her in the weeks and months to come. They made me promise to take care of myself, but that is the best and worst part of the whole fucking thing.

I don’t have to take care of myself.

The drive home from Atlanta was hard. I was bone-tired and should probably not have been driving, but I also knew that I wouldn’t have any peace or decent sleep until I was back where I belong. I pulled up to the house a little after midnight. MH and Adicus came out in the driveway and covered me in hugs and kisses, and I covered them in tears. We talked for a few minutes and settled into bed. Our legs wrapped up together, his arm around my waist. I thought about the last time my sister fell asleep this way, and the path that lies between now and the next time she knows that deep contentment.  I let the guilt and the gratitude wash over me.

Then, finally, I slept.

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3 Responses

  1. I… don’t even know what to say to this.
    I’m glad you know what you have, but please, please, don’t feel guilty for it.
    Big hugs, doll. You are a perfect sister.

  2. Such a sad story. 😦

  3. Heart braking.

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