When I was young, my mom, brother and I spent seventeen years living at Jane and Wilson. We knew all the people, the schools were close, I had lots of friends, Stephen had the same bus driver seven years in a row and we were completely content. We loved it there. Slowly people we were friends with moved out and new friends moved in. Everyone knew us, partly because of my brother and my moms wonderful nature, she was friendly with everyone. When tragedy struck and he died, everyone knew too.
Some people who moved out before my brother died, would see us randomly around town and would ask with enthusiasm, “how is your brother” (sometimes before they asked about my mom or I). We would then, lean in, give them a look and quietly say, “he past away x amount of years ago.” People would almost always tilt their heads to the side and give us their condolences, for us and him. Sometimes people said the most awful things, that I don’t think they know were awful, but I let them know. Some of my favorites are “well, now he is not suffering” or “it is better for your mom” or “now he is healed.” I can’t help it, but all of these statements make me want to punch someone in the face, I can’t explain the feeling. Or people wouldn’t ask how he died and assume it was his disability, which it wasn’t. That was even worse because the conversation would go south very quickly. With time, it got easier to tell people his story or tell them he had passed away.
At some point, we stopped running into people who we knew, or, if we ram into people, they wouldn’t bring it up. Last week while in Wal-Mart, we saw someone from about twenty years ago. And she asked, “how is Stephen?” When we said he past away eleven years ago, she wowed and left it at that. It has gotten easier easier to say, but it struck me this time…eleven years. For some reason in my head, I had a subconscious thought of, “everyone we know or have met knows, someone would have told them.” I am not sure what I was thinking, even as I write this. It does give me goose bumps everytime though.
My brothers story will always be told. New people will come into my life and it will come up. I am thankful for that too, sometimes it makes someone feel better sharing the story and silver lining… I wouldn’t do what I do, or be who I was if it weren’t for him.