I’m often baffled at the sights and sounds that can jar me into a moment of paralyzing grief as I’m reminded of your death.
While sitting at a stoplight after work yesterday, I was reminded of a time 4 years ago, just months after you died, when I was sitting at that very same stoplight on my lunch break from work. It was grey and cloudy and cool. As I sat there waiting for the light to change I noticed an injured bird struggling in the road about 10 feet from my car; it was hopping about and squawking in distress and appeared to not be able to fly. The animal-lover in me felt compelled to do something because I hated to see it in pain and seemingly calling for help. But I was absolutely frozen. I watched it flop about for a few moments and suddenly I could barely breathe. I was in the midst of a panic attack. For whatever reason, I thought of you. Actually, I DO know the reason. It was only months after your death… EVERYTHING reminded me of you. There wasn’t a moment I was awake that you weren’t on my mind. But this little bird, in obvious distress, was hopping about in the road as all of us sitting in the adjacent cars moved about as nothing was wrong. I didn’t do anything to help… I just drove away.
I hated myself for quite a while for leaving and not even attempting to help that fragile, little bird. And, most irrationally, there was a part of my mind that thought, “What if this is a test? Maybe this is my brother; he’s back and I’m being tested yet again to see if maybe I can save him this time.” You don’t need to say it… I know what you’re thinking… that’s positively fucked up. I know it is. But there is very little about any of my thought processes for the first few years after your death that was rational. As I was driving away, I just cried so hard. I felt as though I was abandoning another creature that needed my help in the same way I wasn’t able to help you, either.
It sounds silly, but I think about that bird so often and wonder what ever became of it. And since that day I’ve also imagined that the bird wasn’t just like you… it was also very much like me. As it appeared to struggle to get the attention of someone, or something, that could help, the world just kept right on moving by as if nothing was wrong. That’s exactly what I was feeling like for so long and often still struggle with today. Inside my heart and head there is so much turmoil and sadness over losing you and yet the world just keeps moving. I was wounded and injured but no one stopped. People wanted to look away from me in the same way that I looked away from that bird– because its obvious pain was too much for me to handle and I felt that I was in no position to help.
I think today it is still a bit of an issue in that I have friends that I just don’t hear from much anymore and in a few instances I feel it is simply because I remind them of their own pain and they’d rather avoid it. I understand that, but it still hurts. I didn’t ask for this sadness but it is mine and I still have a lot of processing to do to get rid of that empty feeling I get. And there are still those friends who are fine with me on my good days but on the really bad days they avoid me altogether. It’s not that I’m acting out or anything, I just think people naturally don’t want to be around pain if they don’t have to… but it would be nice instead of staying away from me that they might choose instead to just offer up a hug to let me know they recognize my sorrow and that they also accept that part of me.
I really wish I hadn’t driven away from that little bird but, more importantly, I wish I’d been able to do more to help you.