today, i took the day off from work to honor my brother’s birthday. he would have turned 33.
i haven’t spent time with just my parents in awhile. we spent the morning at the cemetery and had some dim sum for brunch.
it is always so incredibly difficult to talk about dennis for any sustained amount of time. even when we visit the gravesite, we can’t stand their too long. it just hurts too much. when his name is mentioned, my body tightens. but on this day, i felt a stirring in my heart, and i felt compelled to ask about dennis’s last day alive.
the last time i saw dennis conscious was on a sunday afternoon. the seahawks lost to the arizona cardinals despite a pretty solid game from matt hasselbeck. my parents were both napping upstairs. dennis was really tired. he wasn’t eating much besides his haagen-dazs strawberry sorbet, and he struggled to keep his head upright and his eyes open. stone called and asked if he could come over, but dennis wasn’t sure if this was such a good idea. he was in bad shape and he knew it, and he didn’t want people seeing him in such a terrible state. but my mom knocked some sense into him, reminding him this is stone, and he doesn’t really care what you look like, he wants to see you.
when he came over, they all gathered in the kitchen/ family room area, and i was on my way out. i would come back tomorrow with more sorbet. i turned the corner and walked out the door. and that was it. that was the last time i saw him conscious.
so much of what occured that night had been shrouded in mystery. i needed to know what happened, so i finally asked.
in the middle of a crowded dim-sum restaurant, my parents recounted their story in detail, and they shed tears. i fought back my own. i couldn’t hold eye-contact with them for too long. hearing about everything that happened from 2:00 am on the day of my brother’s death to about 10:00 am reminded me that my own journey toward understanding what the heck happened to my brother during those 15 months won’t end in this lifetime. it just won’t.
the most difficult part about dennis’s death isn’t the fact that he’s gone (though that is bad). it’s how he died. the amount of suffering he endured is just beyond my imagination. it’s not right.
at one point, my parents started wondering aloud about what caused the cancer. was it a darn mole? too much sun exposure? a cell phone? or was it random? does stuff like this just arbitrarily happen? was dennis just unlucky? i had already answered those kinds of questions for myself and they no longer bothered me. but in that moment, i forgot the answers i had come up with. i wondered anew, why did this have to happen to dennis?
at times, i feel like we are living in a messed up alternate-reality. none of this was really supposed to happen, and in the real world, it didn’t. there, dennis is a pharmacist and living his life. he’s picking on me for dumb stuff. he’s listening to sappy slow jams.
as we drove back home, we passed by mutual fish on rainier ave. dennis and i used to go with my mom to mutual fish all the time growing up. it was part of our saturday morning grocery shopping routine. she smiled and even laughed a lil remembering how the nice workers there used to always give us candy. two dum-dums for her two dumb-dumbs, to go with the cod.
we just took a deep breath, exhaled, looked away, and carried on missing dennis.