That day is etched in my mind and it will be forever, this I have no doubt.
I was in the shower. I remember feeling like something was off but I didn’t know what it could be. I’d felt like that since I had woken up. Was this a premonition? My son, who was 2 years old at the time, was safely napping in his room. My husband was safely at work, I had recently spoken to him, but something just felt not quite right. I brushed it off and tried to enjoy the hot water as it melted into my skin. A few minutes later the phone rang and I quickly grabbed a towel, dried off as best I could in a few seconds and dashed out of the running water to answer. My dad’s voice filled the silence and my world came crashing down around me. “Jay’s gone” he said. Confused I asked “Gone where?”. “He’s dead Jennifer” my dad cried. I was speechless for a moment then “What do you mean he’s dead. He can’t be. He just had his 39th birthday 9 days ago. It’s not possible.” Tears streamed down my face as I continued to argue with my dad about why he must be mistaken, my brother, Jay, was much too young. In our broken state we never spoke about how he had actually died. I, in my disbelief, my dad in his deep misery. “Call your mom will you?” he asked me. “Please call her and make sure she’s ok, then you need to go get her so that she’s not alone”. Our call ended and my next one, to my mom, began as It suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how he had died. She was distraught and in the same disbelief that I was in. “He was at work and just fell over and died but I’m sure once we get to the hospital this will all be a huge mistake. I bet he will be okay” she said. I agreed with her because who just suddenly dies at 39? Especially someone who isn’t sick. Someone I just spoke to the day before. This had to be wrong. I proceeded to call my husband at work as I ran into the living room and fell down on my knees, crying out. My son woke and ran to me. I didn’t mean to startle him, but like a glass overflowing with too much liquid, my own body could not contain the grief.
One moment ran into the next and my mom, husband and I were finally entering the doors at the hospital, only two of us certain that my brother was still alive. Our hearts racing, we quickly found out that the hope we were holding on to, we would be forced to let go of it. Holding hands, we were all shown into a room, the darkest, coldest room I’ve ever been in. I still hate thinking about that room. My brother was there, lying on a cold, silver table with a white sheet draped casually across him. I wanted to run. I wanted to get out but instead I bravely walked closer and peered down at his face. Only it wasn’t him. Death seemed to have stolen away his very essence. It was his body, his face, his hair but not him. His soul, what made him who he was, was gone. It was the strangest feeling to be standing there, in that small, cold room, the white walls seeming to close in on me, and noticing death up close. I had no idea what it would be like, seeing lifelessness up close. I felt light-headed, dizzy, scared, sad, so many emotions colliding together all at once. I took his hand, kissed his forehead and did my best to hold it together for my mom. He was my brother and my grief was an endless deep, but she had lost a son, I couldn’t even imagine the depths of her loss. We soon found out that his cause of death was from an electrical imbalance that had caused his heart to stop beating. “It happened so fast” the Dr. told us, “He died instantly and didn’t even know what was happening” he finished, trying to comfort us. Comfort was the last thing we felt in that despairing moment.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my brother and wonder what he would’ve accomplished. Would he have gotten married and had kids of his own? I think about all the years he’s missed out on being an uncle, something he was so excited about. I now have three boys and know he would’ve loved being a part of their lives. We’re all missing him and the impact he would’ve had on us. We will never really know what would’ve been. His story ended sooner than it should have. I feel like there were still so many chapters left to write.
Death is hard. It rips out a piece of you that you never get back. It destroys you. Time has been my savior though. Lots of time. Years. Time takes all the little broken pieces and slowly starts to rebuild them. Yes, they are cracked and not perfect but one day they seem to kind of resemble what used to be. Some days the pain gets into the cracks and you just learn how to deal with it. Other days the cracks let air in and you can breathe and live without suffering. One thing death cannot take away from me is the 39 years I got with him and all the memories we made.
Today I sit, looking out the window, with a heavy heart. The world is big and beautiful and amazing but it will never be whole again. It will never be the same.