I do not remember much about 1991 and what I do remember is beautiful and heart-breaking. We had Alex’s eleventh birthday party at Pizza Hut in Webster Square. Family and friends came from all over to help us celebrate and those same family and friends carried me and my parents through the darkest of days.
We knew the end was inevitable and we spent days and nights anxiously praying. Sunday morning, September 1, we went to church and the hospital had explicit instructions to call the church immediately and we had someone posted near the church phone, just in case. After services, a couple from the church, Dennis and Laura, invited me to attend a cookout with them. I went and had about as much fun as a seven-year-old could. Mom and Dad sat by Alex’s bedside, just waiting. Later that evening, they met us at church. After the service was over, Dennis and Laura invited me to sleep over. My parents agreed and off I ran, probably with Jen (their daughter), giggling about the fun we would have. Eventually, bedtime came and off to dreamland I drifted.
I think it was around 2 A.M. or so on September 2, when I woke with a start and saw a blazing, brilliant star light up the night sky. At the time, I thought it was part of a weird dream, and back to sleep I went. Later, that same morning, sometime after breakfast, Dennis took me back to my place for clothes and a toothbrush. I walked into our living room, hugged my Mom, and was asked to sit down with her on the couch. I sat, and with Dennis on my other side, she told me my best friend was gone.
I knew he had been sick for a long time, and this was coming, but being so young, I could not fully grasp the full concept of grief. The day we buried him, it was raining and cold. I remember because I kept hiding my face in the knitted pink poncho (with fringe) that Mommy had made for me. When I was much younger, I would imagine finding him because, to me, he had just run away and was lost. Eventually, I came to realize he was gone for good.
That is when I got angry. Why him and not me? Please, take me and bring him back. This is not fair. And, for many years, I held onto to that anger like a five-year-old holds their favorite teddy bear. After that, I finally and truly accepted he was gone. What makes it easier, is knowing without a doubt I will see him again someday.
Alex was the first in our family to become a Christian and get baptized, followed by Mommy, me, and finally Dad. I had the blessing and the privilege to witness our beloved childhood pastor, David Smith, baptize two of my sons many years later. That, for me, was one the greatest blessings in my life.
I can still see Alex marching up and down the hospital hallways, preaching to anyone who would listen and handing out teeny red Bibles to anyone we passed. My brother was such a bright soul, and I cannot imagine how many he led to God in his short life.
This week marks thirty years since he went home. Some days, it still feels like yesterday. I know there are many words to describe the ones left behind after a death (widow, widower, the bereaved, and so on). Yet, there are no words to describe a sibling who has lost a sibling,
So then, what am I? I am a warrior. I am a warrior because I have to keep running this race called life without Alex until the day he greets me at the pearly gates with that beautiful smile, a big hug, and a “how did you ever make it up here Sis” in his typical big-brother fashion.