The month of May, and its message of rebirth as Spring returns, always leaves me a little melancholy. Memorial Day weekend marks the anniversary of my father’s death. He passed away in 2011. His services were held Memorial Day weekend, a fitting tribute to a proud World War 2 veteran. I’ll be visiting his grave to ask for some of his strength and to say a few prayers in his honor. I’m sure the weather will be beautiful in sharp contrast to the sadness in my heart. He lived a long, happy and healthy life for most of his 87 years. I guess that’s something positive. Still, I miss his twinkling blue eyes and his warm smile.
The month of May also marks the passing of my older brother in 1995. Even though Michael and I were ten years apart, we were very close. My wife and I spent a week in California with him when he knew his time was growing short. He took us on a whirlwind tour of the West Coast, from Hollywood to Tijuana, Mexico. I cherish those memories of that trip to California. My parents were with my brother at the end. I can’t imagine what that was like especially now having children of my own. “You do what you have to do,” my father said. The distance between Massachusetts and California didn’t soften the blow when my brother passed away. I was given a bereavement day from work so I planted flowers in my front yard. I held back tears as I watered the plants. My brother was the glue that held my family together and I feel his loss on a daily basis. It’s been 21 years since he passed away. I still can’t grasp the fact that I’m older than my older brother was when he died.
My wife’s parents are both deceased. On an ordinary Tuesday morning, my father-in-law said good-bye to his wife, headed for the YMCA gym, and was killed in a car accident in Malden a few hours later. Two years from then, my mother-in-law passed away after battling cancer. Every day I think about the family milestones they are missing and how much they would love all the positive things that are happening in our growing family. Their guidance gave us a solid foundation on which we’ve modeled our own lives and it has worked out well.
This year, my Aunt Margaret passed away. She was my father’s last remaining sibling. Her death marked the end of my paternal lineage; a door closed that can never be reopened. Each death in the family makes me think about my own mortality. The only thing for certain is the limited time of our life’s journey here on earth.
I treasure the memories of everyone I’ve lost. They are brought to the forefront of my mind many times a day, sometimes from a familiar smell, a forgotten photograph or a song on the radio. A hat, a jacket or some other random memento can trigger flashbacks of loved ones. They may not be here physically but they live on inside of me.
I keep thinking of the words of my favorite poet/song writer Laurie Anderson. “Remember me is all I ask, and if remembering becomes a task, forget me.”
I think I just found my epitaph.