You might as well be the very sky itself, for how you hang over me.
The other day I went crazy searching for the Rilke poem, which took me hours to find. But I knew, in that shadowy-sense when you can only remember small parts of something, that it described exactly how I feel:
There are always things to remind one of someone who has died, but you just had to work for Amazon, didn’t you? Imagine trying to avoid the Amazon logo — anywhere, ever — but especially this time of year. Every mailman everywhere carries a piece of you. You are on people’s porches, tucked under their arms, affixed to the side of every truck.
Yesterday, in the driveway, they’d backed the U-Haul in, filled with everything you’d ever owned. All of those bins, those vacuum-sealed bags, everything labeled with your handwriting. The familiar T’s and O’s.
I felt sick to my stomach.
Your boots, your tools, your equipment to raise up an engine, plus a million engineer/gizmo-type things that I couldn’t even guess as to their purpose. Everything still pulsating with the life of you.
Except for you, lifeless.
It was all too much. I stood in the driveway, purposeless, while it felt like the entire neighborhood banded together to put what’s left of you into the garage and front room. Like little ants, they busied themselves. They all had the look of knowing exactly what they were doing.
So why did I stand there like a fool?
“Thanks for stopping by,” my mom said at the end of the night.
Stopping by? I’d been in communication all day about helping; no one texted me back for hours. I put my whole life on hold to help move the last of you into the house, but the neighborhood beat me to it. I don’t blame them. We all want to be able to do something.
But there’s nothing I can help with; you’re gone now, and there isn’t a single thing I can do. (Except continuously grieve, and burst into tears every few hours, which are the last things I want to do.)
In March you called me just to say hi, and I ended up just texting you at the end of the night. Thank God I kept the voicemail, which rambles on for almost a minute. All in all, I have three voicemails from you. I cherish all of them.
We led very separate, adult lives, seeing each other only a few times a year. But every once in a while, you still called just to say hi. And I hate talking on the phone so much that I couldn’t overcome my momentary discomfort just to call you back.
I’m glad I got to sit with you in the hospital. I’m glad I got to kiss the top of your head and hold your hand. I’m especially glad I had one last dinner with you a few weeks before, and that I sat beside you that night and thought to bust out my phone to film you carrying V on your shoulders. (I’ll never be able to go to that restaurant again.)
But if I could go back in time, I swear to God all I would change would just be to call you back that one night in March, instead of texting. The single thing I truly wish is that I had answered that final gesture. Because you liked talking on the phone, even though I hate it. And returning that call would have shown you how much I still loved you.
Love. Not loved.
You may be past-tense, my sweet-and-sometimes-difficult younger brother. But my love will never be.
Your words make me stop breathing sometimes, so spot-on in conveying your love for your brother. Xoxo, Sheri Koch Hoffmann