I remember looking at the ruddy hair on your forearms and the darkness of your brow and wondering when you suddenly became an adult. My little brother, forever fair and small, now with hands that dwarfed my own. The added fluids from the hospital emphasized the distinction.
I remember the regret I felt for missing more of your recent life up to that point. You were starting to level off into adulthood, fast approaching a place where we could both relate to each other. I didn't really know you that well, not grownup you anyway, but when we talked over the holidays we started to reform the bonds between us. You were still working through things on your own, from a place of independence rather than isolation, and it was deeply encouraging. Being the third kid of four wasn't easy.
I remember the cavernous feeling -- cavernous is really the only word that seems to fit -- I had when it was time to say goodbye. I grabbed your swollen hand, squeezed it hoping that maybe -- maybe! -- you'd somehow squeeze back. I remember the unfamiliar smell of the medical ointment on your skin. I remember thinking that, six days later, isn't it funny? Your bruises were starting to heal. I remember thinking that you would have survived all of this, these broken bones and bruised limbs, with some defiance had you not also smacked your head on the pavement.
I remember all this like it wasn't five years ago, but it was, and that's sometimes hard for me to believe because it at once feels like it was yesterday and a lifetime ago. I don't think of it very much, but it washes over me at the strangest times, in the strangest places and situations, and I feel for a fleeting moment that vast emptiness again. I miss my brother, who died five years ago tonight, following an accident riding the motorcycle that he loved.
It's never lost on me that I lost my brother that day, but in the days that followed I came to learn that he left me many more brothers and sisters -- his network of close friends and college acquaintances that would drag me through everything that came after and teach me about all that I had missed. For that, I'm thankful.