When I was growing up, there were days when my mother would get very quiet and would not talk much, something that is very different than the way she usually relates to everyone. When that would happen, sometimes she would tell us that it was the date when someone important to her had died in the past. Sometimes the remembrance of those special days would bring her to tears. Other times she would just be melancholy for a while and then snap out of it. As I get older, I find myself doing the same thing--remembering a date when someone from my past died.
Today is the one year anniversary of the day when we buried my older brother. He died on April 4 and his funeral was held on April 8. My brother had a major stroke that sent him into unconsciousness on Good Friday last year and was kept alive by machines for a week until all who wanted to be there gathered in the hospital room and the machines were turned off and he died within a few short minutes. It was easy to see his spirit leaving his body, thanks to the heart monitor that stayed attached and counted down the beats until there was the well known flat line that we often see on television programs and in the movies. I left the room where the crowd continued to mourn and made my way alone from the hospital to my car and drove home alone and silently reflecting upon the life of my brother.
Today I pause to remember my brother and two uncles who also were buried on days with an 8 in them. My Uncle Shorty, who was as close to me as my parents, was buried 26 years ago today. I remember his passing because it actually hurt more than the death of my own father. Uncle Shorty was the jolly, cheerful uncle who always had something funny to share and I always felt comfortable around him. I was a pallbearer at his funeral and remember crying my way through the funeral without remembering a thing that was said or done in it. Uncle Shorty's real name was Orville so he used Shorty throughout life. He smoked cigars and gave us the boxes that his cigars came in to use for our school supplies, boxes made of real, stiff cardboard with a slight smell of tobacco still in them. Uncle Shorty was short (as the nickname implies) and fat, never able to lose weight regardless of what methods he tried. That may be part of the reason why he died younger than his other brothers, even though he was one of the younger brothers of the five.
Uncle Shorty and Uncle Charlie (who was buried just a few months ago on the 8th of a month) and my brother Danny are all still alive because I remember so much about them. The great Christian scholar Frederick Buechner once said, "When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart. For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost." (Listening to Your Life).
April 8 will always be a special day for me and my family because it was on this day we said our final goodbye to my older brother, Danny. The goodbyes may be over, but the hellos of remembrance will last forever, as long as we remember who he is. Danny and I were close at one time in life and that is the part of remembering him that I like to remember. Nothing else really matters because love is at the center of remembering the fondness and the connection that we once shared.