My Family’s Story on Death and Loss…
May 6th was his birthday. This was a date my mom always acknowledged every year as I was growing up. This is the only whole family photo we have. It was an unplanned family photo and quickly taken one day.
That sunny August midwestern day, I remember the air was heavy. The humidity was sweltering as my dad placed in my little seven-year-old hands a big pair of scissors. He told me to go outside to the flower beds and cut fresh flowers. I don’t remember the other flowers that surrounded the grand, gigantic green fountain; I just remember the snapdragons. Yes, the snapdragons. The name itself “snapdragons” seemed so magical to me. I remember loving the bursting color gradients, I cut heaping handfuls in every color combination.
Hours later that same day, I stood shoulder to shoulder with my three brothers and little sister in front of our baby brother’s casket.
I remember fighting my tears and how badly I wanted to cry.
This was my first funeral. I didn’t know if I was supposed to cry.
Just the day before, life was an ordinary day as my youngest brother, a year and half old, woke up bright and happy for life in our shared bedroom. No one knew by the end of the night, life in our family would forever be changed when he accidentally drowned in our family pool.
I remember he looked like a statue of an angel lying in his casket as each of us placed our fresh cut flowers around his tiny body.
The whole experience was too much to make sense of.
My tears welled up.
I was unsure of what to do because I couldn’t hold them back. I looked up at my oldest brother, two years older than I. He was crying. I can recall clearly my thought, “Oh, I can cry,” because I saw him crying. I let my tears flow.
The grand fountain and garden only lasted a few years in our family life while I was growing up. It wasn’t because of my brother’s death, but rather the upkeep just wasn’t my parents’ interest anymore. However, what I noticed for myself now looking back as an adult, the symbol of a garden and fountain has always followed me through my homes. It feels like I have been drawn to flowers, fountains and angel statues for my garden, not out of a conscious selection, but rather an unconscious pull.
It took many more years before I welcomed snapdragons in my garden. Once, I consciously realized that snapdragons didn’t have to be etched into my memories as symbols of sadness but rather a sweet memory of love. The kind of love that LIFE delivers in its many splendid ways, no matter how long or short it lasts.
Even today, I keep rediscovering aspects of my life that seem to make more and more sense as I weave deeper meanings into the composite of my today. Piecing together PEACE out of life’s many pieces. Knowing that every day is truly a gift.
Knowing that the very fabric of each of our lives is uniquely ours to make into an exquisite tapestry. Make yours.
Exquiste and beautiful…
P.S. That’s me next to my baby brother on the right!
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