letting greg's memory shine through to others

I said yesterday that I haven't found an answer to the question of what to do with the memories.  Not having a good handle on that answer makes it hard to communicate who Greg was to others, including those who never knew him and those who knew him briefly or not very well. 

When we moved from the Philadelphia suburbs to Manhattan five months after Greg died, I was very panicky about meeting new people.  I did not want to know anybody who did not know my brother.  This crippled me for more than a year after moving here, until I started to figure out how to express myself regarding my brother to new friends.  It turns out, for me, the best way is to work it into normal conversation the way you would stories of any sibling.  I tell stories of Greg when they intertwine with stories of childhood, brothers, siblings, growing up, etc.  The biggest hurdles are initial telling of his death, followed by the how.  If you think people shy away and clam up when you tell them your little brother is dead, try telling them he died of a heroin overdose.  Telling this to almost anyone brings conversation to a screeching halt and, often, personal conversations never start up again. 

The few friends that have made it past this hurdle and become close know my brother.  They know him through pictures and stories and through seeing the person I am when I talk about him.  I am guarded, still, and keep a lot close to my heart.  Too much, probably.  But it helps.  The fear I faced in showing new friends glimpses of my story, his story, our story, has played a vital role in my healing process. 

I need to share more and I need to open my heart to allow dormant memories to come to the surface.  These small steps, though, the tiny rare moments of showing my raw self to someone who has offered me friendship and support, they are everything.

I haven't addressed my parents' role in the grieving and healing process this week, by my own choosing, because that is another thing I keep private.  I don't want to lay out their personal journeys or speak for them here.  I have asked my mom for permission to share one thing today, though, which relates directly to what I've just described. 

My mom had a group of good friends in high school.  Real friends, treasured friends.  They lost touch years ago.  Long before Greg and I were even born, let alone Greg's death.  Through the wonders of Facebook, she found them again last spring and the friendships have opened up again.  She even went with her sister Jeanne to gather with a few of their friends in person a few months ago, and they laughed and bonded and behaved like schoolgirls again.  It has been wonderful for her, at least in my humble opinion.

But she has had to face the discussions of Greg's life and death.  The friends keep in touch through Facebook messaging, and her inbox is always full with her former classmates' updates and catching up.  A friend recently mentioned her daughter's battle with and victory over addiction. 

This puts her in a position I have been in many times.  The position of being both genuinely happy for this person and simultaneously angry and hurt for yourself.  You want to respond appropriately, without diminishing your own experiences or theirs. 

Eventually, she responded with this:    "When my son, Gregory, died from an overdose of heroin, I wondered why God did not answer my constant prayers to keep him safe and sound. Then I realized that God is keeping him safe and sound."


maresi said...

Oh, He is, to be sure. Thank you for sharing this, Amy (and ML).

Anonymous said...

Yes, he is. I read that on fb and felt a bit of a weight lifted off me. Because even though we can't really feel your pain, we carry some of it with us. Moving through the dark valley of grief, soaking up a glimpse of light and healing and trusting God with the big picture which we can't see is good.

I know how the heaviness of truth stops chatter. Think of it as a screening process. Whoever can stay with you after hearing the truth will be a good friend. I mean, really, who wants a bunch of chattering,shallow, cheerful "friends" who can't handle the truth?

Love and continuing strength and healling to you and your parents.

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