The day I found out my brother died.
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
8 years ago I woke up on a Saturday morning feeling like shit. Rick got me to go for a walk to get some fresh air, in hopes I’d feel a little better. Our son, Austin, stayed home cuddled up and about half way into our normal route I realized I had not turned the sound on my phone, in case Austin needed us. When I took it from my pocket I saw a missed call from my parents and a missed call from Austin.
I called Austin and he told me that Nana had called the house and Rick’s phone, she sounded worried and asked for me to call her about something important. I called my Mom, afraid something was wrong with my Dad. I don’t remember everything but I remember hearing her say the words “William is gone” and I responded confused “what do you mean he’s gone?”. She said something to the effect of he had been in an accident and died. I literally don’t remember anything that was said after that, I completely lost it. The only thing I randomly recall from my surroundings at that point is two women standing outside of their house turned to stare at us, and I know Rick helped me put one foot in front of the other to get home because I don't remember that walk back. What I remember clearly is the searing pain, feeling as if I was going to vomit and my heart feeling as if it had been ripped apart. A feeling that has yet to go away.
When we got home Austin was gone, so was his bike. I was scared because if he was looking for us on our normal walk/bike route, he was going to race his bike down a big hill that we would normally all go flying down, but this time he was alone, scared about Nana’s call and the roads were wet from a misty morning. Rick got in the car and went looking, I stayed behind pacing the front yard and just as I walk into the court to go look up and down the next street over, I saw him riding down the middle of our street. When he got to me, he immediately ask if Papa was ok and I reassured him he was, he said “then why did Nana call worried and why are you crying”. Only two months after my sister, his Aunt, died unexpectedly, I had to tell my son that his Uncle Billy was killed in a car accident. Seeing his sweet, 10 year old face, burst into tears and hearing him yell “NO” before hugging me, broke my heart all over again. Yet I knew that what we were feeling paled in comparison to the hell my sister-in-law and their 7, 11 and 13 year old kids were living in.
Rick took me to my parents and my sister-in-law Sarah was on the phone....we could barely speak both of us just sobbing but I can still hear Sarah saying “I’m sorry” over and over and me saying I was sorry for her and the kids, because what else is there to say? In the next days that followed I know I went through the motions of talking to people, going to work, doing things to get prepared for our trip to Oregon for his funeral but I have no idea how, what, etc. I do remember sitting at the table on Thanksgiving (his favorite holiday) a shell of myself, my parents who’d just lost two kids in two months just numb, my sister’s husband devastated and her innocent baby not quite able to knowing just what life had dealt him, and there were my husband and son terribly sad but so supportive for me. We barely spoke the entire time, except to tearfully acknowledge who wasn’t there and finalizing plans for our drive to Oregon the next day.
What I would come to find out is that my brother had never made it home from work Friday night, that they had been looking for him all night. They found him that Saturday morning in his truck, hundreds of yards down a hill off of the highway. No sign of why or what caused him to go off the road and it seemed to be quite a wild ride down the hill, because things from his truck were strewn about along the hill side.
I can barely remember the drive to Oregon or our time there, I really only recall a few painful memories while at his home and seeing my nieces, nephew and Sarah for the first time since his accident, a few moments of his funeral standout and beyond that, it is a blur. Honestly, there was a lot in the weeks, months, and year following his death that I barely recall. I was in a fog of grief and depression. I eventually sought help because I wanted and needed to be more than just a zombie for my family.
I know we cannot make sense of these things, I learned that at a young age because William and I lost our Mom when we he was 7 and I was 4. We were already attached at the hip before that and losing her just tightened our bond. We were fortunate that our grandparents took us in, eventually becoming who we call Mom and Dad and that is how we gained a sister. Even though we had them and other family around growing up, I always felt like my brother was my other half. Once we both had families of our own, life was rolling by and we weren’t seeing and talking to each other every day like when we were kids, his place in my heart did not change. His impact on who I am and my life was, and is profound. He took part of my heart with him when he died.
I still to this day get lost in the heartbreak of losing him, some days or weeks or months are a little easier than others, but the pain never goes away. The bullshit statement that ‘time heals all wounds’ does not apply to a loss like this, I don’t believe it applies to any loss of a loved one. It may get different, there may be days where I can think back on memories with joy instead of being a blubbering mess, but the heartache and the knot of pain deep inside never ever go away or get any better.