“Are you afraid to fly?” the man next to me asked. I watched as the ground, the land, the red-dirt, pulled away from us, never turning my gaze away from the window, head bowed, shaking it. No. No. My tears. My pain. My heavy…was traveling to, and then back home from Oklahoma for the second time in a year, because someone was dead. I’d been sat next to a stranger instead of being able to sit with my brother because, well, last-minute tickets. Said stranger tried to give me the, “there, there, it’ll all be alright, little girl” kind of reassurance despite having no context. Only silent tears. And, what I wanted to say in my haze was, “we’re all gonna die.” But that may have come off as dramatic. Or worse.
I think that’s one of the hardest parts for me. It’s not only sustaining the weight of the death at hand, but also that of every death that came before and every death that is to come. Sheer. Overwhelm. I’m gutted at the thought of my beloveds dying before me. Every time someone I love dies my grief cry is, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. It hurts.”
That flight was in November. Now it’s June. Father’s Day is upon us. In honor, I sent a photo to my cousin, of her little grandson helping carry her daddy’s flag-covered casket. When he’d taken a hold of the casket and started helping move it towards the hearse, he’d proclaimed “Hey, this is easy!” Having had to bear no substantial weight, it was “easy.” Far from what it felt like to any of us. Because, death is hard. And because, traveling out of state to bury your uncle, five months after your brother — who was named for your uncle — died, is hard. Robert Alexander and Robert Alexander. June fourteenth will be one year since brother Robert died. One year since I hopped on the first plane. One year since I said goodbye to the first of my siblings, of which there are nine. The more you have, the more you have to lose.
How this translates, is that, yes. We’re all gonna die. We are going to carry, and bury our people. And it sucks. And it compounds. Earl Grollman said “Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” So, love hard and grieve hard, my friends. In the words of Nayyirah Waheed “Grieve so that you can feel something else.”
And the tears are flowing freely. It is the 13th…tomorrow is one year for my son, the first Robert…to go. Flag day. After June 14, 2018, I’ll never see Flag Day the same way again. This past year, I keep going over and over…I should have tried to talk him out of this dangerous surgery. Yet, reality was…he was in the ER almost every week and even twice a week during his past couple of months. The thought that I keep telling myself is…would he have died on his living room floor and been found a day or two later if he didn’t have the surgery? Probably…or in the hospital after one of his many AFib episodes. Then I rerun the the hope…if this surgery is successful…he can have another decade or two…he just needed the artificial 37 year old aortic valve replaced…it had given him good service from the time he was 13 years old, but now was not functioning properly. Then the fear…they had trouble doing that surgery so long ago because of his extensive scaring…he keloids and forms adhesions, but it was a success back then. Then the worry…decades of adhesions and scaring, but maybe modern day techniques can accomplish the task.
I had packed my travel and hospital stay bag…prepared for a week of camping out in his hospital room as he recovered. I purposely did not pack anything black…he was not going to die…no black! But, as many of us, including Robert, had dreaded…happened. They never even got to his heart…his aortas was calcified to his sternum…they couldn’t free it…it was massive bleeding. OMG, NO!!!!!!
The first call I made was to my daughter Tawnya. She had recently entered her new career…represented by this web site that I am posting the blog to. Within hours, she was at our side…caught a plane from Denver and flew to Oklahoma City, rented a proper vehicle for the transport of Robert’s body should it be necessary to do so. I was so numb that I could barely think straight. Much of it is a blur…my son Jason was with me the entire time…he had taken us to the hospital that morning for the surgery. The hospital was very kind…they provided us a quite room in a clinic space and later moved us to a larger hospital room…with Robert…as more family gathered. Robert was a tissue donor and we were able to spend several hours with him before he went for donation. Tawnya coordinated everything…every step of the way…her first home funeral was her brother. Our Colorado family came down and we had several days with Robert at his uncle Robert “Bob”‘s farm in Bridgeport, Oklahoma. Five months later, Uncle Bob passed, too. I had very recently had surgery and could not attend Bob’s funeral in Oklahoma in November, but Tawnya brought me back some soil from his grave site. Bob had been my pen pal and “best buddy” in our aged years…he was my former brother-in-law.
I am so tremendously grateful for the help and care that Tawnya provided…for our family…which was also her family. I cannot begin to imagine the pain in her heart, yet her ability to guide us through the entire process of everything that needed to be done for Robert’s home funeral at his uncle’s farm, the arrangements for transportation to and from the farm, his cremation and all the paperwork that went along with his passing.