The first Christmas without my brother.

I’m sitting here, in my kitchen. As I do every night these days. It’s the only time I have for myself. The quiet solitude of my teacup and my computer. The time I get writing done or catch up on my correspondence. Tonight, I find myself melancholy, despite the plate of “Santa’s cookies” sitting beside my laptop.

This is my second Christmas as a married woman. My second Christmas with the man I love. My second Christmas without my grandmother. My first Christmas in my own home. My son’s first Christmas. My mother’s first Christmas without her son.

My mother works as a DSS (Direct Support Staff) caregiver in a hone for the disabled and elderly. She works the graveyard shift, which is perfect for her. She’s a natural night owl. This year, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, she is working through the holiday. Keeping herself busy because if she doesn’t, she will feel the loss harder than any other time of year.

In January of this year, my brother was struck by a teen driver out after the curfew restriction of her license. She was doing approximately 65 in a 35 zone in front of our local Hospital. She was also texting at the same time. My brother was killed upon impact. The teenage girl waited with his body until police showed up.

These are the details we were allowed to know. We were not allowed to know the girl’s name. Only that she was 17 years old and as such, a minor. Therefore, her name could not be released.

Here are the details that nobody else really knows.

I had worked that day and was to work the next day. I was borrowing my mother’s car to do so, as I worked in the next county over, did not own a car, and my mother-in-law basically was dicking around about getting her truck fixed. My brother had called literally moments before he died. He had called my mother. He could not walk any further. He was exhausted, trying to get home. He had given every penny in his pocket that night to his landlord, who came to his work to collect it. He didn’t have enough for a cab. My mother was the last call he made. Asking for a ride. She told him that I had the car. He said it was okay. That he loved her. That he was sorry for waking her up on her night off. He said he worried about her, and that she should go back to sleep. I lived a five minute walk from his job. A 10 minute drive to where he had called my mother from. Instead of calling me, I was left to sleep. I lived five minutes away from his job – and no one tried to get hold of me. Not until it was too late. Not until hours after my brother had been mowed down by a teenage girl who shouldn’t have been driving during hours restricted by her license, and certainly shouldn’t have been texting as she drove. He died around 10:30PM January 13th. I did not find out he was dead until nearly 2AM January 14th. His fiance called me, because she didn’t know how to tell my mother.

His fiance called me, because she knew she was the reason my brother had to walk home that night, and nearly every night during their entire 6 year relationship. She had a car. She could drive. The fact is, she “didn’t feel like it”. Not because she was tired, exhausted, drunk, couldn’t find her keys, didn’t have enough gas…. No. She didn’t pick him up from work simply because it meant she had to put on shoes and go outside. That’s it. That’s literally it. She didn’t WANT to get him, so she didn’t.

And now, my brother is dead. I am sitting in my kitchen during the wee hours of Christmas morning, unable to sleep. Unable to sit still. Attempting to calm myself with peppermint tea because I have run out of Benedryl and dare not take anything else to help me sleep because my only alternatives are cold medicine that makes me higher than a kite, and pain killers which, due to my history with them, I dare not touch.

Meanwhile, while I silently mourn, while one sister uses my brother’s death to gain holiday sympathy points, and my mother is forcing herself to continue on through her grief in order to work and keep busy, my brother’s oh-so-loving fiance is using his death to get holiday sympathy points from his friends on Facebook. Oh yeah, this is the same woman who just over 2 months after my brother’s body was cremated, already attempted to replace him because she had lost her job and needed someone to pay her bills.

Tonight, I am bitter. I am angry. I am full of so much hate right now. Hate of his fiance. Hate of the girl who killed him. Hate of the world that has done this to my family. And hate of myself, for indulging in this melancholy during a time of year my brother had loved. My brother’s favorite holiday of the year. Because it is meant to be filled with kindness and cheer. With joy and unconditional love for our fellow man. To be good, and do good. To be the light in the lives of others.

And I am trying. Oh goddess I am trying so hard to stay positive. To be happy right now. My life is wonderful. I have the man of my dreams, my best friend. I have a beautiful, wonderful, energetic baby boy with the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve got a spitfire of a dog who’s dumb as a fence post but so absolutely loyal and kind and loving. And a mother who, despite the hell we’ve gone through both together and apart, has yet to give up on me. I have a home to call my own for the first time since February 2010. I have my health, well mostly, okay sort of. Some of it. Enough to fill a teacup at least. I have food on my table, a laptop to type on, and tea in my cup. I have clothes on my back. Money is tight but my bills are paid. I have a prodigal sister back in my life who I never thought I could even be near again.

And yet, for all of this, I still feel this anger, this bubbling rage in my gut. Because my brother isn’t here. He’s not going to burst in my door as he has done every year for as long as I can remember, shouting “ho ho ho! merry Christmas!” with his belly so big it’s a bowl full of jelly. His goofy smile and his lopsided santa hat. His annoying stupid jokes and his giant lung crushing hugs. I will never have this again. And it hurts like hell. I have this giant man sized void in my heart that I keep trying to fill with as much happiness as I can. As much fond memories, traditions, and love as I have in me, and I keep finding more to shove in there. But it’s not enough. It will never be enough. And so I sit and I fester.

my brother

My brother John Crawford.

All I can do is my best. All I can do is try to get some sleep, even if it’s fitful. And look forward to my son’s first Christmas as he shreds the wrapping paper and knows the joy and magic of Santa Claus for the first time.


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