On Dealing With Family Tragedy

I really wish I weren’t writing this post.

But here I am, typing away about something none of us could have seen coming six months ago. I don’t want to get into specifics out of respect, but we lost one of us today and it hurts more than I really care to admit.

An Italian family is not just a mother, father, sister, and brother. It’s made up of aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins and grandparents and great aunts and nephews’ sisters’ fiances. A circle encloses its members, and all of our love and wrath and warmth and consciousness radiants inside, pulsing and bouncing off one another, multiplying and growing. And when one of us dies, he leaves a hole in the circle. We’re used to bouncing our emotions off him, and we’re used to the pulses of humor and wit and intelligence that get returned. What do we do with all this emotion now? Where does it go?

When I think about a life cut short, I  become angry at the thought of what could have been. If this chance thing only happened, then this other awful thing wouldn’t have taken place. Then he could have done this, this, and this, and we all know what he was capable of, where he could have gone with all those years he had left to live. Of course it isn’t fair that this happened. Death never is.

But then I think about all the things that did happen in his life. All the meaning he brought to my life and to the lives of those in his family. Maybe he didn’t know it, maybe we took it for granted. But it’s no small thing to grow up with a person. To hide behind pillows in his living room while you watched JAWS when you weren’t supposed to, to throw plastic WWF action figures into rubber ropes, to jump up and down on his bed to Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” To watch him beam with pride when his mom brought home his baby brother. To laugh so hard you cry. To toast to Merry Christmases and Happy New Years.

It’s no small thing to leave an indelible mark on the world. To have people who truly loved you.

When I think about our family circle now, I wonder what happens to his place. Does the circle tighten, do we crowd around each other a bit closer to fill up the space? Do we scatter because it hurts too much to notice the void? Those things might happen to other families. But I think our circle will not change. The memories of him, his beautiful soul, they left a mark. We will still radiate our love and wrath and warmth and consciousness his way, and when we think of who he was and how much we loved him, we’ll still feel the pulses of humor and wit and intelligence coming back to us. His spot doesn’t get filled, we won’t crowd him out, because he’s part of our family.

Always.

I love you, Sam.

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