Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. --Rainer Maria Rilke
Eighteen years on, I realize that one of the most difficult aspects of my brother's death and my divorce, which occurred 105 days apart, is this: a dearth of sound bites. I do not possess a tidy narrative for either trauma. Both events rate as defining life events in the Laurie Narrative, and yet, when a stranger asks me "How did he die?" or "Why did you divorce?" the responses are not tidy.
Being bereft of reasons for why these things happened can be, well, it's this eternal itch. I have theories, yes, but clarity? No, not really.
Michael was only 40 when he died (40 years, 7 months, 5 days), but because he'd suffered from high triglycerides and recurring bouts of pancreatitis, the doctor did not require an autopsy. I wish he had, because somehow, in the dense mental fog that enveloped me in the days after this death, my other brother and my mother made the decision, without consulting me, that an autopsy wasn't necessary. I wasn't even angry, not until maybe two years on.
All these years later, people don't tend to ask me why/how he died. In the beginning, though, they did, and I realized that some were asking to quell their own fears about the same thing befalling their own families. We need to box things up, to tidy up the narrative, see? It's not just me; we all need to believe that we are inoculated against unexpected suffering.
My dead-brother sound bite: Michael died because he had the wrong genes. I am the lucky one. I have a lot of the good cholesterol, not so much of the "bad" cholesterol. I have long life lines on my palms.
My divorce? No one cheated. We rarely fought. And I was genuinely surprised the night my husband revealed that he'd never wished to consummate our marriage. What satisfies? My husband thought he was attracted to me, but by the time we married his attraction had waned? I didn't wish to live like roommates any longer.
"There's this blissful ignorance that when something terrible hasn't happened to us, that we have control, that good things happen to good people, that life has a kind of order.... And then having a devastating experience throws that order completely off-kilter. And also, you have the feelings that you do not want to have. You become a version of yourself that you don't want to meet." --Grief therapist Julia Samuel
My divorce sound bite: My husband thought he was attracted to me, but by the time we married his attraction had waned? I didn't wish to live like roommates any longer.
And I was slowly drying up, a drip, drip drip. And as difficult as it was to leave, staying was unthinkable.
Alleluia: I have lost things---people and homes, and for a while there, I thought I'd lost my dignity. Alleluia: I pushed the stone away from the mouth of the cave. I'm OK. That's a story for another day.