Like almost everyone else in the world, at this time of year I think about my family. I get super nostalgic at Christmas and remember all of the little things that made my Christmases so special as a kid. Mom taking us to stroll down Candy Cane Lane, the Santa Claus parade (when it was still outside!) tobogganing and building snow forts with my siblings, all of us getting to stay up late to watch The Sound of Music on our ghetto TV channel (those of you who did not have cable as a kid know what I am talking about!). And now I get to start all kinds of new traditions with my kids. Ones I hope they will look back on one day with nostalgia as well.
But this post is supposed to be about something that I hope to NEVER have to do in my life. There is a lot in my life that I hope I never have to do, but I keep coming back to this one thing, and it is about my family and my siblings.
I grew up in a family of four kids, me (the oldest), Brother #1, Brother #2 and Baby Sister. We were your typical siblings, there were fights, teasing, bickering and also a lot of love and laughter. We grew up in a single parent home and didn't always have a lot of material things, but we always had each other and especially at Christmas that meant the most.
There was also this funny kind of grouping with us as well. Brother #1 and Baby Sister were the fair-haired children. They were the white blonde children with baby blue eyes that everyone oo'ed and ah'ed over. And then there was Brother #2 and myself. The dark ones. Dark hair, darker eyes and this made us the other pair, the ones who did not shine so bright (on the outside). Regardless of our looks we were a pretty close family, and even though we technically came from a 'broken home' we all turned out very well. Not a criminal record amongst us, no one got knocked up and we all graduated High School and then some. Well, almost all of us....
In the summer of 1993, just three days after his 17th birthday, Brother #2 was killed in a totally freak car accident. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday in August and he was on his way to see a friend in a local rodeo. At 10:30 AM that morning something happened, he lost control of his vehicle and crashed head-on with an oncoming pick-up truck. His vehicle burst into flames and we have been told that he died on impact (I guess this is some kind of solace).
At the time of the accident Brother #2 and Baby Sister were at a Christian summer camp in Northern Alberta. She was the first family member that the authorities were able to track down and so my Baby Sister, at the age of 15, was the first one to be notified of my brother's death. My mother and step-father and I were at a retirement party outside of Edmonton at the time and they were dropping me off at my apartment at around five PM. We were very surprised to see my Baby Sister emerge from a vehicle with two of the camp pastors when we got home. And then they told us what had happened....
...and THIS is what I hope and pray that I NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER have to do in my life.
I NEVER want to have to hear the words that my child has died. I witnessed first hand my mother's heart breaking into a million tiny pieces at that moment and the primal sound that emanated from her body still haunts me to this day. My mother has a very strong faith and belief system and I know that it is the one thing that carried her through that day and all the days that followed. And I am pretty sure that if you asked her she would tell you that this is the one thing she never wanted to have to do in her life.
My family was forever changed that summer. I was now the lone dark one and I felt that. I missed him...I still miss him. Especially at this time of the year. I wonder what he would be like today. Who his wife would be, how much our kids would love each other. How good it would feel to have his huge arms wrapped around me for one more hug (he was 6' 2" and 240 lbs when he died)!
These things I can not have, no matter how hard I wish for them. So, I will take my kids to Candy Cane Lane, we will make the coolest snow fort on our block and we will stay up late and watch The Sound of Music all curled up together on the couch. And because he is Brother #2's namesake, I will hug my son just a little bit tighter too.