We haven't gone a day without thinking about him, missing him or laughing over a memory. It seems unfathomable that December 3rd marks 365 days without a text, phone call or visit with my brother, Bunks.
In the last year, I've reached for my phone to tell him something and caught myself. I've talked to him as I drive. I've cried when I walk. I've checked our Whatsapp exchanges daily to re-live our rumpus.
Marking this anniversary naturally rakes up emotions from the first moments of grief. How time flies is a common refrain. Truth is that sometimes it stood still enough to drive us mad.
My sister-in-law, Boudi, and I have spoken every day except for a few days when we were busy at the appointed time or travel interfered. Lately because of the anniversary we are reminiscing about the days that preceded, the first days after and recalling stories about him and my parents. We laugh and we cry. Before we hang up we make sure that the other one is in a good place.
Boudi infuses me with strength, even though she doesn't think so.
Her first act of courage was to summon help and take him to the hospital as quickly as she could. When I wanted to crumble after hearing the news, my grief paled at the thought of what she had just gone through.
Twelve days after his passing, she went back to work. This was her second act of courage. Work brought her relief from the exhaustion of grieving. It allowed her to snatch a measure of normalcy, whatever that meant at the time. She says she doesn't know what she was teaching but going back to work forced her to care for her mental health by getting out of bed, getting ready, eating and hydrating, being with others and contributing.
In the past year, she has continued to teach, engaged with her own friends and the ones they had as a couple, participated in her book club, and she has traveled and spent time with her mother and brothers. With this third act of courage, she is showing her children and my family how to thrive.
This doesn't mean she has moved "on". Guilt, she poignantly observes, is a constant companion - how can she go on with life's regular programming when he is gone?
The part of her life that Bunks inhabited will never be left behind. Same for their kids and me. For this reason, we are moving and taking him along with us.
Our resolve is not to feel guilty on this journey. This is our collective act of courage for Boudi. The best way to honor him is to focus on the happy, whacky and funny memories and to channel him in our thoughts and actions. Guilt has no place in this plan.
Bunks was an incredibly inspiring person, full of genius wit. He would be mortified that we are doing anything but living our best life.