Thursday, January 30, 2014


There are many euphemisms for “die,” “dead,” “death,” although some are more popular than others. My least favorite ones are variations of  “lose,” such as “loss” or “lost,” perhaps because they refer to the second or third scariest possibility for a parent.

When I was 11 years old, one of my little sisters somehow became separated from our family and was lost at an amusement park. I don’t know how long it took before someone found her and Security contacted my parents to let them know she was safe. I can tell you that my parents were frantic, and the time between the realization that she was missing until they were contacted that she was found seemed like a very, very long time. Having a child disappear is torture.

Yet people often refer to Brandon as if he suddenly disappeared. Some say, “I’m so sorry about the loss of your son.” Another version is, “I heard you lost your son.”

Yes, yes, I know these people mean well. I also know that many parents don’t mind these euphemisms. But what is it in our culture that makes it so difficult to speak the word “die”?

We did not lose Brandon. He was right in front of us when he took his last breath. I was with him at the crematorium. We may not know exactly where the essence of who he is went, but he wasn’t lost. Brandon died. Brandon is dead. We do feel the loss of his presence in our lives, and his death has created a gaping hole in the fabric of our family. It isn’t that our fabric isn’t holding strongly together, it’s that this hole has disrupted its pattern and has taken some of its beauty. There is no patch able to camouflage a gash of this proportion.

Then there are the other “lose” euphemisms in reference to cancer, such as “I was sorry to hear Brandon lost his battle with cancer.” But if cancer is a war then it is a war with one’s own cells. Can one win or lose to oneself? If cancer “wins,” then it also “loses” since the death of the body means the cancer cells die too. And how can we consider that a person lost to a disease if he refused to let that disease control him – who he is and what he did?

I hate the f’ing cell disease that took Brandon from our daily lives. I miss his hugs. I miss his reassuring, calming, “don’t sweat the small stuff” presence. I miss his mannerisms, which seemed a reflection of his spirit and body interacting. I especially miss that he can’t be here to physically watch his daughter grow up and enjoy the love he shared with his wife.

Still, Brandon didn’t lose, and we didn’t lose Brandon. He died. He’s dead. No euphemisms can change that or lessen the tears that flow every time I re-remember that fact – a fact that my mind still can’t completely comprehend. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year?

We returned from Naples, FL the afternoon of New Year’s Eve in plenty of time for the annual dinner party with good friends from the “old” neighborhood. I both looked forward to and dreaded the get together with friends. I didn’t dread it because I didn’t want to spend New Year’s Eve with friends who’ve all been tremendously supportive; I dreaded it because my mind wanted to wander to New Year’s Eve 2011 when Brandon had helped me prepare to host the annual dinner party, and that is a tough destination for me. Throughout the evening I occasionally traveled to 2011, but then I or a friend would pull me back to the last few hours of 2013.  

I thought I was doing pretty darn well. I felt fine as we all gathered around the television just before midnight to join the countdown to 2014. We watched Manhattan’s Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball descend during the final seconds of the old year until it proclaimed the beginning of the new one. Everyone began shouting, “Happy New Year!” as husbands and wives kissed each other and then turned to share New Year’s greetings with friends.

Yet as excited “Happy New Year” greetings rang out, it hit me. I would never know a Happy New Year again. It hit me that every New Year now means one more year without having Brandon here, physically present in our lives. One more year missing him. One more year missing everything about him. One more year without “Brandon hugs” and one more year without his humor and kind commonsense.

A friend turned, hugged me and said, “Happy New Year!” And I replied, “No more happy new years for me.” The tears started, and I could tell any efforts to stop them would fail. I left the room to find a private spot where I could cry in peace by myself, as I prefer. The tears surprised me by turning into loud sobs. After a minute or two, my husband found me and put his arms around me. It took several minutes, but I eventually “collected” myself and we rejoined the party.  

I don’t think I’ve ever had a reputation as a “weepy” female! Quite the contrary. (And “quite the contrary” is probably an understatement!) It has been 19 months, and I am still always on the verge of tears. Always. One second I can speak of Brandon, his life, his illness and even his death while remaining cool, calm and collected; however, the next second I may completely dissolve. Or I may completely dissolve without ever mentioning him. Still, I’m thinking of him. The mere thought that he’s really not ever going to open our front door, stride in and announce his presence easily results in tears.

And tears are no longer watery eyes. Tears are now these giant alien blobs of salty water, which roll down each cheek, one after the other, in what seems an endless trail.

Grief is a bitch.