Where Did He Go?
His heart stopped beating permanently some time during the morning of December 9; ours are only now starting to regain a consistent tempo. Mine still skips a beat when he comes to mind, and that is every few minutes. He drew his last breath that morning; those of us who knew and loved him are just now able to exhale. To be honest, I forget to exhale sometimes. I really do.
As far as we knew, he was fine. He went to the gym every day, with the exception of Sundays. That was his cheat day. Sunday is everybody’s cheat day in my family because my sister, his mom, lays out a spread that could feed a small army. He has not been there the last three Sundays. He will never be there again. He died sometime the morning of December 9. We don’t know how he died; we just know he died. We are waiting on the coroner’s report.
The area that we live in, where we were born and raised, is very small, so everyone knows everyone. Word spread like wildfire. Plenty of people knew before I did. They were devastated and genuinely taken aback. He was supposed to be at work for a 2:30 p.m. shift. It’s still unbelievable in most people’s minds. He was so young.
I got the call as I was driving back from Dallas, and I’ve been in a fog ever since. I’m beginning to see some semblance of light in the distance, but the fog is still so thick. At times, its thickness nearly suffocates me. There are times when I cannot even see my hand in front of my face. That fog is blocking me from seeing him. He was only 41 years old. I am only 50. He was born my nephew, but was raised as my little brother. I’ve never not known where he is. I cannot see him. I cannot touch him, but I can still feel him. I cannot hear his voice, but I’ll never forget the sound of it. I have asked him, aloud, “Where did you go?” I have asked a million times since December 9. I never get an answer.
I talked to him very briefly on the afternoon of December 8 when he called to tell me that he couldn’t reach his mom, but that he needed her to bring some antifreeze for his car. He was in a hurry, trying to get to work on time. Who knew that would be the last time he would call me? Who knew that before noon the next day, he would die? Later that night, on one of his breaks, he messaged me and asked if I would do his hair that Sunday. I wrote back and told him to let me know what time. I was one of very few people he trusted to do his hair. We had the most fun during the two hours it would take me to get that massive amount of hair of his in shape. I’ll never get to do it again.
By trade, I’m a writer. I’ve written all kinds of pieces for all kinds of occasions. I wrote a little tribute on my personal blog to Mama when she passed. I wrote her obituary. This time, though, for my nephew, I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know how to start. What was there to say? Clearly, I completed the task at hand, but I don’t remember writing it. I’m an editor, too, so a big part of what I do is find and correct errors in articles. I didn’t see any of the ones I made on his obituary until I was sitting in the church reading it silently along with the other 300 or so people who came to bid him adieu. I’m sure the errors didn’t bother anyone. I, along with all those other folks, could do nothing but stare at, and half-read, the words on the paper.
My granddaughter referred to him as Sugar Monster. She and the rest of his cousins were the joy of his life. She was about to turn five when he died. I had written to him and told him that I wanted to have a little birthday celebration at his place. We never got to do that. Instead of a birthday party, there was a wake and a funeral.
Where did he go? I know that may seem like a silly question to some, but I really want to know where he is. Death is nothing new to me – I’m 50, so I’ve seen plenty of it — but this time, I’m lost. I want to know where my nephew is. I know where his body is, but I want to know where his soul is. It’s so difficult to explain, but I just don’t know where he is. I’m not haunted, I’m just lost. A piece of my very being died on December 9 when he took his last breath. Where did he go?