My little brother Russell died in a car crash 8 years ago today.
I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard the news. I had just come out of the bathroom at Maggiano’s, and my mom had left me message saying that I needed to call home. I did, and she told me with this voice that I’ll never forget. It was muffled and high pitched, like her throat was closing and the words were being choked out with great effort. It had been the same sound she’d left the voicemail in that had made me immediately call. I was working a shift at the host stand. I’d been there for three months.
I remember walking downstairs and seeing my manager Brendan, telling him that my brother had just died and that I needed to take a minute. I remember him telling me “no, you’re going home. Do you need a ride?” while the busy bar kind of swayed around me like a boat. Unsteady.
I clearly remember the guy who drove me home to Liz’s place, checking to look at me, seeing if I was going to break down, or puke, or do something crazy. I remember he had a nice car, and I remember telling him that. It was a Mercedes, I think. And, I remember Liz crying when I met her at her door. She hadn’t answered her phone when I’d called her at the restaurant, but she picked up as I was walking up the stairs to her studio apartment, and so I heard her through the door.
She didn’t feel shock right away like I did, she felt the loss immediately. It made me feel some of it, too as we hugged. It had happened to her before, losing someone who was very close to her. It hadn’t happened to me before.
It was a night that changed my life. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Everything was different after that voicemail from my mother. Everything still is different. It changes all of us when we lose someone close to us, especially when it’s unexpected, and tragic. When it wasn’t supposed to happen.
I’ve written about my brother before on this blog, back on his birthday on July 2nd, I believe. He was kind, gentle, emotional, a great sharer, and very big. He was the tallest of all us boys, in fact. Bright red hair, much brighter than mine. He loved animals, and anime, and playing video games with my brother Scott.
He died in his car, which he drove off a cliff over the ocean of Centerville Beach. We know it was because he’d had a teenage break-up with a girl he’d fallen in love with online, and because he followed an impulse to be dramatic. It’s something all of us have felt to some degree during our teen years, the feeling of despair and hopelessness and the desire to be understood, respected, and loved. Russell was a dramatic person with big feelings, much like I am sometimes. I remember having many dark fantasies when I was his age, many I imagine that he had, of dramatic gestures, and extreme actions. I wish very, very much that all those elements hadn’t come to such an intense peak that day, September 19, 2006, that those thoughts hadn’t been acted upon, and that my brother was still with me today.
Losing my brother taught me that things change. There is no escaping that fact. Things around us will not stay the same, and I learned the value of cherishing those things around me that should be cherished while they are around me. It brought my family closer. It changed the course, particularly, of my brother Scott’s life. His view of the world altered to the point where he found himself, and what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. I learned that we move on. We never get over these losses, we never recover, and there isn’t really healing. But, we move on. The world keeps turning, and life keeps happening. It’s an unstoppable current, and time sweeps us forward. There is always life just ahead of death, and so we embrace because we must, and because we want to because it’s natural to do so. It is the way things are.
Russell, I miss you and I love you. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years. Mom, Dad, Seth and Scott, I love you very very very much. This horrible day always reminds me of that.