52 years ago. 52 years and it still catches me every time.
On February 20, 1970, I lost my three-year-old baby brother Allen in a single-car crash in Rensselaer County. I blogged about it twelve years ago, and eleven years ago I blogged about providing the proper respect.
I’m not going to lie. In an instant, my brother went from happy and rambunctious to gravely injured and brain-damaged, and would pass away nine months later in a medical facility on Hackett Boulevard when you wait until God calls your name.
I was six years old when it happened.
There are several things I took from that moment. Emotionally speaking, that is.
I hate car accidents. I hate them with a passion. I hate drunk drivers and I hate distracted drivers. I hate drivers who can’t be bothered to clean off all the snow on their car, who just clean a little peephole in the windshield and figure that’s all fine for the highway. I hate seeing fire trucks and ambulances at a car accident. Fire trucks don’t just show up for the fun of it. And ambulances aren’t there just for aesthetics.
I hate the finality of life. I hate that I could get out of my car with a hundred thoughts in my mind, slip on a tiny patch of ice, come crashing down backwards so that the back of my skull bounces on the pavement, and that would be where they found me the next morning. I hate that. I hate that we could all be robbed of that full experience of life, birth to sunset. That in one single second, life is stolen and never returned.
I hate the lies. Make an effort to explain to me what happened. I’m sure my six-year-old self will understand. Or at least give it a worthwhile attempt. Don’t give me this spit and spat about going to Heaven and maybe some day if someone builds a long enough ladder, you could visit him or he could come down and visit you. It’s a false hope that brings nothing to the table.
Twelve years ago, I wrote that blog post that took 40 years of anger and hurt and frustration, and condensed it into one blog post. And in doing so, I essentially sliced away any remaining connections between myself and my maternal family members. And although I apologized online for some of the more emotional words used that day, I will not apologize for my moments of grief. Don’t ever give me a “it’s been ‘X’ number of years, get over it” homily. Your healing is not concurrent to someone else’s timeline.
One more lesson I learned about that day. Life is never promised to anyone. Take every moment you’re on this earth. Enjoy every sunrise. Bask in every starry night. These are your days. Live these days as if you might leave tomorrow.
This is where we are in our world. And all I can say right now is that on this day, as on every February 20th until God taps me on the shoulder and says, “Your ride’s here,” I will remember the fragility of life, and all that it beholds. That every moment needs to be treasured, savored, and enjoyed.
That’s where I stand in all this.
Rest peacefully, baby brother. Your memory truly is a blessing.