Something is different this year! A letter to my brother…
Dear Little Brother,
It’s November 8th again, 6 years since you left us. And as on every anniversary, I release a red balloon for you, for our shared birthstone, a deep garnet.
I take my red balloon to the clerk who inflates it for me, telling me it’s not really red and maybe I don’t want it. I assure him it’s ok, not bothering to tell him why you won’t notice or even care about the color. So he ties a nice pink ribbon to the end of the pink-supposed-to-be-red balloon and I head over to the Beach.
The first time I released a balloon for you, I went to my favorite beach. I knew you’d like it too. It’s a wild, rugged beach, but it’s too far to drive today and it’s cold.
The wind is whipping the balloon around in crazy circles and I don’t want it to fly out of my hand until I’m ready.
That first year, you (well, your balloon) slipped right out of my hand before I was ready, just as you slipped out of our lives with no warning. That day I went back to the car and got another balloon and released another one when I was ready!
Letting go of the balloon seems to mean something different this year.
In the past the balloon was a symbol of you – the little brother I prayed for – the one who shared my birth month.
Today it seems to be a symbol of letting go – but letting go of what, of whom. How do I let go of you? You’re part of who I am.
I turn to leave after your balloon disappears out of site.
Each year, on these anniversary days, I look for a rock before I leave the beach. And today I look again. This beach has few rocks, but I find one. . . A rock within a rock . . . part of, yet separate. It’s how I see you and me.
As I ponder these things over the next few days, I realize this experience is a symbol of letting go of the grief surrounding the loss. This year, releasing the balloon was a celebration of you – not a remembering of loss.
Early in my grief, I read an article about the need to release grief. I wondered how you know when that needs to happen. And is it a specific moment in time, or a gradual adjustment to the loss?
I still don’t know for sure, but it was important for me to take my own journey through grief. I had to embrace it, accept the invitation your loss brought, run into the darkness so I could find the light, get the help I need and keep writing. Then when the time was right for me, I found release from the grief. The anniversary of your loss becomes a celebration of YOU and the gift you were in my life, rather than a commemoration of the sadness and grief of losing you.
I have learned: having formulas and time tables are much easier for those who want to help the griever, but not helpful for the one grieving. Had my friends told me I needed to let go of my grief rather than letting me work through my grief, I would have focused on the impossibility of letting go.
I am grateful for friends and family who allowed me to journey my own path, incorporating the unresolved losses of the past so that I could arrive on the time table God had for me. I suspect there is still more to this journey, more to learn, but this anniversary was a milestone.
It feels good little brother. I wish you were here so I could tell you all of this in person. That’s silly . . . I suspect you’d have little patience for this symbolism and processing, but since you’re not here, you can’t give me a hard time about it. We were so different, yet alike in many ways.
I love you little brother. Wish you were here. I’ll see you in heaven some day!
Your Big Sis