Today is my brother Frank’s birthday. He would have been thirty-five years old today.
My heart breaks. Without him, my heart breaks. It leaks a river of sorrow, salt and mucus and regret, to a melody of late-night lawnchairs against pavement patios, glowing in the inhale of our cigarettes, shivering under layers of sweatshirts and the smoky smell of old knit caps. My heart breaks and sends up photographs of my nieces like moths against the moon, delicate silhouettes already departing, ephemeral, growing up. A hundred moments my brother dreamt of; he slipped away before he could see them.
Or maybe he sees. I’d like to think so. I know he continues, that he’s gone on but not away, to a place with a brighter access to wisdom, deep philosophies, the kind of divine truths that he adored. I believe he’s moved closer to those planes where time and space and love are the same — the page and the book and the reader and what’s read. But I like to think that the imprint of who he was here continues to where he is now, and that he remains somehow connected to how we knew each other. That his Eternal recognizes and continues to love and share my Eternal. I fear that is, in the end, too convenient and perhaps too small to contain what he has gone on to. But hope is holy and faith is the most courageous of the spiritual strengths, I think, only after humility, perhaps. And I feel that too, humbled, in the wake of all that I’ve lost and everything I’ve been given. It is as though I have only been a receiver, ever, though I have fancied myself so many more things. But when I am humble, I know that I’ve been gifted my brothers, my family, my loves and also my capacity to love them. I’ve been gifted my heart and my mind and this aging body. I’ve been gifted some talent and a deep but selective empathy. And then, I’ve been gifted all these days to practice and cultivate these blessings and to make so many mistakes, the most brutal with the ones I love the most dear.
This is how this human life has been for me. Full of gifts and lessons and more love than it seems my heart can contain. And so it breaks. On days like today, my heart breaks wide open still.