Last year, at around 5:50 a.m., I heard a crash upstairs. When I awoke, I simply said, “No.”
I tried to run, but my muscles were not racing as fast as my mind– my mind was already holding my brother, how dearly I wanted to hold my brother. I made it upstairs to find my mom crouched over Zach who had fallen on the bathroom floor.
This morning, a year later, at around 5:50 a.m., I dreamt Zach and I were in an empty movie theater. The seats were dark red, and the theater was fogged in shadow with only a single beam of light piercing over our heads. The screen showed the end to a very sad film, a movie about a boy who was about to die. The movie angles were close-ups of winces, white sheets, and curly hair. The film filled the theater with silence and last movements grabbing for just a little more of everything. This layer of screen kept us – we could only watch.
With the stillness of the boy’s body, Zach laid his head on my shoulder. I rested my cheek on his head. And together, we cried.
On this first anniversary of Zach’s death, I believe he is watching his movie, this movie recalling his death, right along with us.
He remembers the echoey phone tree relaying the message of his death, the thousands of half empty water bottles, the picked-at veggie trays, the dewey and cold tulips, and the very sunny day. He hears the year-old “I will always love you,” “I’ll miss you,” “I wish I could have done this for you” swishing in bitter tears and quiet breaths.
And while he knows more now than ever, while he sees the picture as complete and whole— as we lost him, he lost us.
As I dry my eyes with warm sunlight and blowing fans, as I feel the salt ache on my face, for some reason I feel comfort.
Because this morning, he laid on my shoulder. Together, we cried.
We may have lost Zach inasmuch as he is out of sight, yet he is so near, filling spaces with a presence that spreads far beyond memory and mourning. Why else would I have cried out to the empty passenger seat “Zach, I just want you back here”? Why else would I have said, “I miss you” to the air whipping past my car window?