My brother stood out.

After lunch at home with my parents yesterday, we went to the Columbarium to visit Ed. After spending some time cleaning the glass of his niche and peering into the little world I built for him, it was time to bid him farewell for now. On our way out, I went into the main building and ended up meeting the new family service counselor. She’d actually been there for a couple years now, and we had just not met yet. Part of her job is to go around to each of the halls in the Columbarium to do routine checks of each niche to make sure each is in good shape. She asked me what my brother’s name is, and I told her. “Edward?” she repeated, surprised. “Wait, is he in the Hall of Olympians? He’s the one who has the Simpsons family with him?”

I almost lost my breath. I just stared at her and felt chills all over my body. How is it possible that in what is probably thousands of niches throughout this historic building that she could remember Ed’s over all of the others?

When she first began about two years ago, she walked around and browsed the niches, trying to get a feel for the place that she called her new workplace. She said she immediately noticed Ed’s niche. Ed’s niche was the one that touched her the most, and she kept wondering what happened to him and what the stories were behind the Simpsons and the other trinkets that decorated the surrounds of his urn.

She said that she felt for me because she also lost a sibling recently, as well. A couple of years ago, she was on a family vacation with her four siblings and parents when suddenly, one of her sisters was found dead in her hotel room by their father. She was just 34. “34?” I said. “Ed was just a month shy of his 34th birthday when he died.” Our eyes just locked. “That is just too strange, too much of a coincidence,” she responded pensively. Her sister also had a decades long struggle with depression. Another sister had attempted suicide. It was all too real for her, too.

She told my dad and me that we did a really good job decorating Ed’s niche. My dad shifted a bit and cracked a little smile. “Well, that was all Yvonne,” my dad said, looking down, still smiling. “Yvonne did everything and organized it all for him.”

“Well, then, you did a really great job,” she said to me. “I don’t think you realize how many people you unknowingly touch and how they can feel your brother through his niche.”

She said she was so happy we met, and that she got to meet the person who decorated that memorable niche. I’m still feeling strange that this meeting occurred, that we have these tragic commonalities, that she was so touched by my brother’s niche that she’d remember it and say it stood out from the others. I wonder if Ed was listening to that conversation.

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