My brother died recently. Unexpectedly. Tragically. As a person who references the “Soundtrack of My life” regularly, I suddenly felt as though that soundtrack was frozen on pause.
My brother and I didn’t share a love for most of the same genres of music. Perhaps that is why, for one of the few times in my life, I struggled to find ANY type of song that was relatable. Sure, there are a lot of songs that “could” be appropriate. Probably many that even “should” be appropriate but surprisingly not one that seemed to be a perfect fit.
I asked a few of those who were close to him if they could guess his favorite song. No one seemed to know. Why didn’t I know? The answer will haunt me, I’m sure. I’d be willing to bet my brother loved music as much as I did. And he was an artist. So it’s possible we might even have shared some similar personality traits, but not to the average onlooker.
My brother was bold and unfiltered. I am reserved but equally as passionate. Although we were apparently close prior to beginning school (after all with only 18 months age difference, he was my first playmate), after that, he went one way and I went another. Still, I can remember his excitement over getting a new CD to play on our home stereo at maximum volume. It wasn’t a matter of if he would do this, but when. My brother and I got home from school before our parents came home from work. I’d usually choose to go to my room, but he often took advantage of no parents to blast some loud music downstairs. I’m not really sure what happened to that stereo we had, but the speakers were huge, and he made sure we knew their capacity.
Prior to my brother passing away, we hadn’t been close. In fact after my grandmother passed away and family stopped getting together for Holidays, a decade passed after leaving home since I’d seen him. A quick trip home, then nearly another decade. But in between the times I saw him, every so often, I used to send him a message and say, “Hey Aaron, are we ever gonna put our past disagreements behind us?” and I’d make an effort to try to connect with him; he would just say “F#ck you Renee” and that was that. After trying numerous times, The last time he said that, I just thought to myself “Maybe I’ll just wait till he gets older and calms down before I ask him again.”
I never got that opportunity.
About two weeks after the heartbreaking news, I flew back home for his funeral, then returned and tried to get back to “normal”. It was surprisingly difficult accepting the death of a brother I always thought I’d eventually have time to get to know. But then, this morning on the way to work I accidentally selected “shuffle stations” on my Pandora app, resulting in a random selection of the song ‘Colder Weather’ by the Zac Brown Band. Surprisingly, the floodgates opened and I just bawled my eyes out, listening to a genre of music that was probably more dear to his heart than my own.
I’d heard the song once a long time ago and it wasn’t relatable. This time it hit me differently; in grief I seem drawn to anything that reminds me of my brother, almost as a way to cope with a loss I hadn’t had time to prepare for. He was 47 when he died. Surely I had thought on many occasions that he just needed more time to simmer down -with age many men grow milder- maybe then we’d be able to become closer.
It’s hard to imagine not having the opportunity to grow old. I always envisioned the two of us being there to figure things out when we were the oldest 2 remaining in our immediate family. Suddenly, I was left as the oldest surviving sibling, feeling like I was frozen there, just holding a pile of question marks.
The song has this line that says 🎶 Im a rambling man and Im never going to change. 🎶 Now, I am personally not one to use the clichè phrase “People never change.” I don’t believe in it. As a therapist I see transformation and generational patterns broken on the daily. It’s almost magical when it happens. Aaron would have said it though. It’s possible maybe he even thought that about me, resulting in his continuous rejection of my attempts. I guess I will never really know. Maybe not in so many words, but he’d have said “This is who I am, if you don’t like it, tough.” That authenticity was something we could probably agree on, despite our many differences. The irony of it all is I don’t want to remember him any differently than exactly the way he was.
🎶Maybe tomorrow will be better, can I call you then? 🎶 It’s heartbreaking singing this verse of the song. I’ll never to be able to call my brother and ask him if we can finally resolve our differences. I saw his body in the casket. I remember thinking I was glad to see him again one last time. We all sobbed as the bugler played taps and the Army carefully folded up that flag that was draped across his grave. No parent thinks they will bury their son before they pass. Honestly even though my brother served in the military years ago, I realized I’d never considered after he survived his time on active duty that he could still die before he had a chance to grow old.
It’s a strange song to have resonated with me enough to blog about. The song is about a different type of relationship, but left me with the same feeling of longing for something more that the lyrics describe. I went from a little sister who sat across from my brother and mirrored everything he did to a grown woman who felt like she barely knew him; on the outside looking in.
I don’t currently live close to where he is now buried. We hadn’t had time to think out his gravestone but I look forward to the next time I get to visit. While others find cemetery’s morbid, I’ve always felt a strange sense of comfort and peace there among the headstones honoring the legacy of generations with the groupings of familiar names. Although I can visit his final resting place I’m left finding truth in a quote I heard over the years that never applied to me. Until it did….
What one thing resonated with me most during this experience? My brother had two Bibles he used and studied. When my Mother and I looked at them there were so many things underlined and highlighted. I’m not sure why this surprised me. I’m so glad even though I never anticipated this happening, that I did anticipate bad things would happen in life and prepare for it by devoting my life to a spiritual practice that provides peace during difficult times. It was comforting to see that he did too.
Inspiration: Zac Brown Band/Colder Weather https://youtu.be/oouFE51HcqM