The Brother They Never Met
My daughters have an older brother named Max. He is a part of their lives and a part of our family story. They never had the opportunity to meet him, but his picture hangs on our walls and his photo album lies on the coffee table right next to theirs. We open it up from time to time and look at his pictures just like we do our wedding album and family vacation scrapbooks. Just as if he were here with us, there has never been a time that they have not known of him. He is one of the most beautiful threads of the tapestry of our life.
Max is spoken of in everyday conversations. Our family traditions and holiday celebrations incorporate him, from lighting a simple candle with his name on it, to inviting people to fill his Christmas stocking with letters of Random Acts of Kindness in his honor. On Sunday’s we take flowers to the cemetery. Our oldest daughter has developed her own little tradition and blows bubbles to him nearly every week and says, “I know that Max will be very happy to see all of these bubbles.” On birthday’s we often release balloons when singing Happy Birthday to him and then we eat cake and celebrate all that he is and all that he has taught us about what is important.
Related: Siblings Grieve Too
Every year on Mother’s Day I retell our family story to the girls. I tell them that I want to share the greatest story of love that I know. I include funny things about mommy and daddy and then I talk about how each one of our children are so special and so unique and without them, Mommy’s story would not be near as wonderful as it is. I remind them that I don’t know what I would do without any of them and that I love them with all my heart and to heaven and back.
When questions are asked, I answer them as honestly as I can, in the most age appropriate way that is possible. I wish that the reality of death was not a part of my young daughter’s lives, but it is. I am already seeing ways that it is making the oldest more sensitive to others. Recently when her preschool music teacher died, she immediately said that her teacher must now be with Max. I told her that her teacher was probably teaching Max all of her favorite songs now, just like she had taught her.
When family pictures are scrawled on pieces of paper sometimes Max is included and sometimes he is not. We let our daughters express how they feel, when they feel it. We know that they know of him, they talk about him and love him, yet we do not feel that we should push onto them how they express that.
Our life is far from perfect, and everyday we have to find our way. There is a saying that says, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful,” and although it took a long time, I now know that to be true. If I could rewrite our story, the five year old boy would be alive and a constant companion to the two little girls who fill our once silent house with laughter and noise. He is not here in the way that we wish, but he is very much a part of who we are. The unique threads of our children’s stories are all individually woven together to create, for us, an imperfect but beautiful tapestry that is our life.
Photo Credit: pasja1000/pixabay