Unexpected triggers

I’ve been spending the last three days in Tampa for work and was unlucky in not being able to get a direct flight back to New York. I connected in Miami tonight — my first time in the Miami airport, and it certainly lived up to Miami’s shiny and glitzy image.

My mother’s been worrying ever since I let her know on Monday afternoon that I was on my way to the airport for this trip. She hates it when I have to fly for work, especially when she knows I am traveling alone and to a city that I’m not familiar with. It’s even worse when my flights are at night (like this one), and she knows I will be riding in a cab from JFK back to my apartment alone. She called three times this afternoon to see where I was, and I was finally able to call her when I reached Miami.

“You know your mommy loves you very much, right?” she said on the phone today.

It sounded as though one of us was going to die soon.

“Yes, I love you, too,” I responded. “Don’t worry!”

“I know you think I am crazy and worry too much, but I worry about you when you do work travel. I only have one daughter. You are my baby girl,” my mom said tenderly.

I’m not sure what happened in that moment, but I suddenly started tearing up when she said that. I just felt this deep, sinking sensation because it occurred to me that yes, she only has one daughter; she only has one baby girl. And she used to have one son, her baby boy, and now he’s gone. Where did he go, and why did he have to go?

It doesn’t matter how old we get; we’re still our parents’ babies – at five weeks, at five years, at 50 years. No parent should ever have to bury her child. My parents know what that pain feels like. And even though Ed is my older brother, it still feels like in many ways, I had to bury my younger brother – my baby.

Over the last year and almost four months, I’ve realized that even the strangest things trigger emotion in me. The most harmless, normal things suddenly make me remember Ed and all the devastation I felt when I knew we lost him. Most of the time now, when I think of Ed, which usually happens multiple times throughout every day, I think of our happy moments together when we talked about things that were meaningful, when we had good food together and walked to places together. I think of how much he loved me and showered me with affection. I think of all the things I tried to do to help him get better… even though I failed. A lot of me has healed, and much faster than I thought. I am doing my everyday things again like my workouts, my job, reading, cooking. But I know that a part of me will never get over him. It’s like being permanently damaged, always wondering what you did wrong and what you could have done differently to prevent such damage from happening.

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