This post originally appeared as a Facebook Note here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/deb-butler/when-there-are-no-words/10153757199883462
Today is April 1, 5 days from now will be 1 month since my nephew died. The month of March will never feel the same. Every 6th will be an anniversary. Every 23rd birthday will be the one that wasn’t reached.
My nephew died the day before his birthday. Instead of cake, there was a tray of chicken parmesan. Because when you know the family that owns the Chateau, and they love you, they feed you. Chicken parm for days, rolls for the week, pasta for a month.
How is your sister? They say to me. How is his dad? I’m grateful for the question. And yet who can do either Michelle or Gary justice with any words. How are they? Blinded. Crippled. Severed.
They need to write a bio for a memorial run. To somehow distill him into prose so a piece of him exists for those that didn’t know him. Was he a saint? Perfect? Good lord no. But his flaws were marginal. Fractional. At his age, at every age, he just sailed through so much of the drudgery that is being a kid, a teen, a young man. He sparkled.
He smelled. His room was dirty. There wasn’t a license he didn’t drop, a key he didn’t lose, a piece of equipment that got left behind. Was he careless? Actually, no. What many people didn’t know is that he had an informational processing disorder. A form of dyslexia that didn’t just affect the written word, but also lent itself to trouble decoding the world. His processor worked differently but neither he, nor we, knew until much later. Because he was a honor student that had learned to compensate for a disability that wasn’t revealed until many years.
At 12 he wore a pink shirt. “That’s SO GAY” someone said. “Dude, Gay is cool. No one cares. Besides, I look good in pink.” At 15 he could look you in the eye and shake your hand. At 18, he was still gentle – with animals and littles. At 22, he was a man. A friend not a child.
The thing that kills me… Kills all of us is that he was the kind of guy that couldn’t stand to see anyone in pain. Pain of the heart, pain in the mind. He bled for people. His priority was “what do you need” and if you said something shitty about someone or something, you’d hear a chuckle and a light chiding “Nah man, maybe he was just <this> or <that>” For a rugged guy there was a dreamer quality. Something a little introspective that always slowed you down when you were about to start a fight. A natural mediator. He could channel your angry energy and soften it and feed it back to you. Because he REALLY saw the best in people. And not a naive best, but he could sift through your soul and actually isolate the version of you that you wanted to be seen.
Joy. Who takes joy in SUCH little things. You could buy his a bakery cookie for $2 and he’d be as delighted as a drunk in Downtown Crossing finding a $20. Any gift was the best gift you ever gave him, every hug he held on till you decided to let go, not him. Every kid was to be knelt down in front of, every woman to be respected, every friend to be honored. Was he always happy? Please. Who is. But he mirrored joy back to you. Finding pleasure in everything. So the thing the wrecks me, kills me, is that of every person I know, he is…was..the last person that would ever cause anyone pain. Ever. And if he knew today, the hundreds of people that miss him, he’d be devastated. He’d give you everything he had if he thought it would save you one minute of pain, and yet the loss of him, not his things, gives us the most pain of all.
Loss. Logically we know. You’ve lost someone once, we’ve lost someone once, someone lost someone 2 minutes ago, someone will lose someone an hour from now. Logically. Logically we know grieving isn’t a linear process but a circular one. Of course we know all that. But still.
My sister asked me to write a few things about my nephew for some upcoming road races and I’ve been working on a draft in my head for like the last 3 days>
The only thing I keep thinking about is when you get on a cruise ship and the first couple of days you feel disgusting and it’s crazy and you want desperately to get off regardless of how much money you paid but you’re stuck in the middle of the ocean. And even though logically you understand what’s going on on the ship you hate it, you hate everything about it, you hate the room, you hate the people, you don’t even like yourself very much. You’re isolated in these tiny tiny rooms and everything feels off balance and nothing is normal and you’ve forgotten something and you feel displaced and everything is surreal. And after a few days you realize you learn to hold your balance on the deck and you’re able to walk upright and it kind of feels awkward but you can manage it but not exactly. And every night when you go to bed you feel like you want to vomit. And sometimes you forget for a second that you’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean and other times it’s the only thing you can think about. All the while you walk with sea legs. And you’re begging god to just get into port and walk on land again because you cant remember what it feels like to be on solid ground. Then you step off the boat and you realize that even when you step on dry land, the world is still rocking beneath you and your legs are never going to feel stable again.
Thats what life feels like.
He is in every moment of our day, every space between the moments, every breath in, then out. Every song lyric, every item in the grocery store, every face in profile.
I need to write the piece for my nephew. But today I walk with the loss of our friend, I cry tears for my sister and his father, and deeply grieve the beautiful person that left this earth.