Every year, I try to take stock of the flurry of emotions that come on July 5. This has been the hardest one yet to spit out.
I am exhausted in general. It comes with the territory with two young children, a two month backpacking trip around Europe and a full-time job. For the first year since 2007, I was actually asleep at 5 am on July 5. Passed out cold. When I did wake up to my alarm a couple of hours later, I slipped immediately into action – get up, shower, get dressed, get the kids changed, fed, out the door and onto the train with all necessary accessories (as if that has ever been achieved) by 7:45 am. We were in Berlin and I was guest speaking at a girls’ summer camp. I was well aware of the date but instead of facing into it and feeling emotions honestly as they arrived, I kept them at surface level. I acknowledged what came, but never with true depth. Mostly because my toddler and baby have no clue that this day is any different from the others and their needs turn rapidly into screaming and crying if not met. Also because, for the very first time, they were confusing and I was unsure of my ability to deal with them.
Until night time. When the sun finally set, the kids were asleep and after a blistering 38 degree day (100 F), the sky erupted into an epic thunder and lightning storm and the feelings poured down like the rain. I sat on the stoop of our little apartment, feet in a puddle, smelling the sweet drops as they bounced off the hot concrete, listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and crying so hard that my insides shook.
What came to me in torrents as strong as the storm:
1) The ever-familiar longing for my brother. I miss him every single day. As promised by many, I have learned to live with it. The pain has become far less acute as it has become far more familiar. It arrives again every morning just like the last. It has been a long time since it has slowed me down or stopped me from wanting bigger and better for myself, my family or the world. But it still overwhelms. I miss my brother. The loss never dulls. It continues to come with the same intensely hollowing sadness. I have gotten used to life without him here, but every now and again it punches me right in the gut with fresh shock. I continue to wish there was something I could give or do to make this one truth, this one fact, different. If only this one person, this one life, this one story could have had a different ending.
2) A new uncomfortable feeling – for the first time in 8 years, I have had to dig harder within myself to find him. I am so very sad to admit that it is becoming harder to connect with the Strachan we lost in 2007. Simply because it is now harder to connect with the 2007 version of anybody. For years after we lost him we were more or less the same as he left us – single, achieving, professional, fit. All of the things that he taught us to be. In fact, I believe we each became even better versions of ourselves to honour his legacy and rise to the standards he set for us.
I am no longer any of those things. I am a mother and a wife first. Wyatt is a Dad. Blythe has a dog with her live-in partner. Mom and Dad are facing retirement. Abbey and Riley are gone. We all own property. There are now 2 baby boys with Strachan’s name. They are magnificent. They are perfect. They are completely transforming who we are and what we do.
This is the first season in our lives you are not here to go first and pave the way. My heart-twin is not standing to my right with a ready-made example of how I could do and be better. Now, I have to seek people to look up to and decide how to go about it, all on my own. I wish you were here to set the bar. I wish you knew this version of us. I wish you were here to cheerlead and have my back when I screw up. I wish our kids could go on summer holidays together.
But I wish for none of this as badly as I wish you could have done it yourself. I now know what you missed and it is truly too hard to bear. I cannot face this feeling honestly without falling apart with sadness.
When my Dad called Blythe to tell her the news that Strachan had cancer, her reaction was “anybody but him”….. “no offence” she said to me when recounting it. It wasn’t because she loved me any less, it was because nobody -NOBODY- would have loved and lived better than him, particularly when it came to having a family. He would have given more and been better at this season of life than any other. The loss of all that could have been breaks my heart all over again.
Usually the tears, like my journals and blogs, round a corner and find a sense of peace eventually. I surface from unchecked emotions and find the maturity within me that knows you cannot sit on a doorstep crying forever. The world is not fair. We are not victims. This is one loss in a world of many. We remain so blessed and so embarrassingly privileged. People may get tired of hearing you talk about this yet again. You do not get to choose what happens in life, only how you handle it. The sun continues to rise and to set on us all.
But this year, this night, the tears kept coming. I do not have a closing to this blog that is inspiring or hopeful or that calls on us to do more or do better. I just miss my brother and wish he were here.
Strachan Hartley, July 5, 2007. You are so very loved and so very missed. Still. Always.