Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Surviving the Death of a Sibling

The Rogers Gang
Mary, Ann, Hartley, John and Jim up front

Mom and Dad often remarked that their greatest accomplishment was raising five kids who are best friends with each other. Growing up in this gang was exciting, edgy, sometimes volatile, and always full of hilarity. Fights didn’t last past the bark, the push/shove, or the thrown rock. Because, well, when the rock hit the head and the head bled, we tried to cover it. “He tripped and fell.” Unfortunately, the doctor who stitched it up said “No way. This isn’t from a fall, it’s from a thrown rock.” Dad said that the five of us played “constantly shifting alliances.” See, everyone was best friends with each other, but not *all* the time. The alliances could shift multiple times in one day. It was an idyllic childhood in many ways.

When I got a call at work on the afternoon of November 5, 2010, the words on the other end of the line, “Jim’s dead” changed my family forever. For my Mom to lose her youngest child and for my siblings and me to lose our loyal, adorable brother brought unspeakable pain. Part of me wishes to forget some of those early moments--rushing to the hospital, seeing my Mom, saying goodbye to Jim’s precious body surrounded by a golden white aurora, calling siblings, the uncontrollable sobbing, the utter disbelief. But if I did forget, I’d lose a part of me.

Surviving Jim’s death has been a process, one that will never be complete. Jim is never far from our minds. We talk and laugh about him. We acknowledge (sometimes with tears, sometimes with a big grin) when we miss him, perhaps on vacation or for a big event. But mostly, the missing, the aching missing, is just from every day living. “Jim would have loved this.” “Jim should be here, he’d be doing xxx.” In all reality, Jim isn’t gone. He’s with us all the time. That’s how I’ve survived four rocky years of a grief that still has not settled into a “new normal.” It will, it moves in that direction. But I will never get over it, I’ll just survive.

The late Elizabeth Edwards wrote this about losing a child. Anytime a friend tells anyone of us a “Jim Story,” it is a precious thing. It keeps him alive.

“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died--you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” 
~ Elizabeth Edwards~

This is most likely the last picture of the five of us together.
Ann, Jim, Hartley, John, Mary