More than a Ring Bearer

Accepting that life actually does go on without Charlie is my biggest obstacle. I sometimes think that life should have been put on pause when he went to heaven. Or, when things are really dark, I sometimes think someone should have hit the stop button on my life. Coming to the realization that life continues to flow when you or someone you’re eternally attached to passes away is painful and sad. Especially when you lose a child. Your children represent your future and legacy. To lose one is unnatural and soul crushing. It’s out of order. Instead of eagerly yearning for a fulfilling future with my family I am desperately grasping for the past.

This past weekend was pretty tough for me. My sister-in-law Jessica had her engagement party on Saturday and while it was nice to see everyone, Charlie’s absence seemed to be magnified more than usual. Watching all of the kids enjoy the interactive Serbian music and dancing was heartbreaking b/c I know Char would’ve been out there dancing his shoes off. Interactions like that, however, are almost old hat to me now. I can usually watch my nieces and nephews run around parties having fun and playing without breaking down anymore. Often times, however, there are events or exchanges that trigger the sadness into hyper drive. These are usually joyous occasions for most people involved but they are tainted by darkness for me because it’s another reminder that my future will not be like my past. Charlie will not physically be with me. Seven months ago, every thought about my future revolved around Charlie, Danny, and Vanessa. Now every thought about my future revolves around Charlie NOT being here, Danny, and Vanessa.

After a couple of hours of eating, drinking, and dancing Jessica and Aleksa started handing out boxes to people at the party. These were obviously gifts for people that were being asked to be in the wedding party. As I was watching them hand out the gifts I physically felt the sadness brewing in the pit of my stomach and the tears welling up in my eyes b/c I knew they were one box short. I watched my nieces excitedly open their boxes to find t-shirts stating their role in the wedding as either a Jr. Bridesmaid or Flower Girl. Jessie gave Vanessa a box for Danny. Vanessa turned to me with a big smile on her face to show me that Danny would be the ring bearer. And it absolutely gutted me. I tried to hide as I began to uncontrollably sob in front of everyone but there was no where to go. All I could do was turn around to not face anyone. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I was trying to catch my breath while wiping away my tears. Once again, I completely changed the mood and atmosphere from joyous and fun to sorrowful and sad. I couldn’t help but think how Charlie should be getting one of those boxes too. It hurt seeing life continue to flow without Charlie.

This is when I wish there was that pause button for life. Watching life continue to flow without my Charlie is the hardest part of my grieving. I want Charlie here for this. He’s already been a ring bearer once before and he knocked it out of the park. He didn’t rush down the aisle or hide because he was afraid of the moment. He confidently strolled down the aisle with that smile he always wore and delivered the goods like it was no big deal. I picture him leading him his younger brother down the aisle. Assuring him that there’s nothing to be afraid of and that he was there to help him. I know Charlie would’ve been a caring, loving, and protective big brother because he already was in his four short months of doing it. It was in his hard wiring. There was never a doubt. Charlie had a way about him that’s hard to describe. It’s that “thing” I kept mentioning in his eulogy. He always seemed to be in his element no matter where we were. I’m obviously biased but he always made people smile with his quick wit and endearing personality.

I look at Danny and I think about how he’s being cheated and that is what I find to be so unfair. He will never know his older brother. Sure, he’ll see videos and pictures and hear stories about him but he’ll never know Charlie. What’s even more unfair are the expectations and standards to which I’ll measure him. How can he ever live up to Charlie, my perfect angel in heaven? It’s unfair to Danny because he’s unwittingly become Charlie’s torch bearer. As I watch Danny grow up, especially when he gets older than 2 years and ten months, I will be watching Charlie grow up too. Danny will unknowingly be carrying Charlie with him his entire life and that is unfair to him.

That’s why next August Dan will be more than a ring bearer. He will be bearing the memory and love of his older brother. He will be bearing the hopes and dreams of his parents. He’ll be carrying our legacy and future. He’ll be carrying the key to our psyches that will allow us to live and love and not wither and despair. It’s a huge burden and one that shouldn’t be placed upon a toddler who isn’t even a year old. But I have faith in Danny. . . he has a lot of his older brother in him.

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Here’s Charlie trying on his tux before he was a ring bearer at his Aunt Liz and Uncle Eshoo’s wedding.  He told the girl working at the tuxedo rental store that he wanted to look GQ smooth.  Yeah, he got it.

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6 thoughts on “More than a Ring Bearer

  1. Charlie was a great ring bearer…Weeks after the wedding when we got the video he would ask me, “Can I watch me in my tuxedo!” We’d turn it on and he would smile that smile as he watch himself on TV, “There’s me! There’s me!.” And then when his part would be over he would say to me, “Wizzie, it’s your turn!” We would watch these 2 parts over and over again and his excitement would never fade. I have a feeling Danny will be the same way and will be up to the challenge. Not only in nailing his walk down the aisle, but also being Charlie’s torch bearer.

  2. Danno will make Charlie proud next August & he will look”GQ smooth” just like Charlie did! I know you wrote that you feel like you change the mood of the party because you get upset, but you have to realize, we all feel that way too. Everyday I wish that I could change things for you both, and bring Charlie back, so everything would be back to “normal” again. We will never know the exact pain that you and Vanessa feel, but we have our own pain too. Everyday the girls and I talk about Charlie & they ask a ton of questions still. Lauren reminds us everyday that “Our little buddy” is always in our hearts forever. Please don’t ever worry about changing the mood of the party, because you have to let those feelings out. They are hard moments to get through. Next August when the “big guy” is walking down the isle, we will all be laughing and crying at the same time. It won’t just be you, and it never is just you. Danno will grow up with Charlie guiding him along the way. They will do it together. We will all be here to help him remember his big brother, tell him stories, & let Danno know that Char loved his “little brudder” more than anything!

  3. I can feel your pain. I wonder as time goes on, if I will have such breakdowns at events when I think of my Angel Alexander. I do sometimes think “oh he would have liked this” and it does make me sad. But, then I try to remember the GOOD times (such as they were with him being sick for 13 out of his 21 months of life) but, I do try to focus on what we HAD not what we won’t ever have. Not easy I know. Some days are easier than others for me….

  4. “Accepting that life actually does go on without Charlie is my biggest obstacle. I sometimes think that life should have been put on pause when he went to heaven. Or, when things are really dark, I sometimes think someone should have hit the stop button on my life. Coming to the realization that life continues to flow when you or someone you’re eternally attached to passes away is painful and sad. Especially when you lose a child. Your children represent your future and legacy. To lose one is unnatural and soul crushing. It’s out of order. Instead of eagerly yearning for a fulfilling future with my family I am desperately grasping for the past.”

    This paragraph resonated with me quite a bit. My wife and I have had many conversations where the theme is “What’s the point of going on?” While we had 23 wonderful years with Allison, she was our only child…there will be no others, no future, no legacy. Somehow we have managed to move on and at least pretend that we have a “normal” life, but that hole is always there. Neither of us have large extended families so there there are no special events on the horizon with little ones running all over the place. But every child I see, from baby to young adult, I see Allison and am reminded that there will be no family gatherings with the grandchildren, something my wife and I looked forward to.

    But as you so eloquently put it, life continues to flow around us, We must join the flow or be swallowed by our grief and die. It’s not an easy journey and not one I would wish on anyone else, but we are making progress…one day at a time.

  5. Bryan, I’ve been reading your blog since Jen first shared in on Facebook and my heart just breaks for you & Vanessa. I remember at Char’s wake and funeral thinking how surreal it was. It still just doesn’t seem real or tangible. But you know more than anyone that it is. With Charlie in heaven, he sees your pain (and probably feels or understands it more than any of us on earth can.). I recently read “Is Heaven for Real” and man, that makes you realize that heaven IS for real. Charlie has got to be happy up there. He can eat all the cereal and watch all the Mickey and jump off all the diving boards he wants!! And I’m sure he’s watching all of you and is so proud of you and Vanessa and little Danny.

    He’s watching over litte Danny and saying, “Hey, Danno — see if you can get Dad to do that silly laugh” or “Hey, Dan, watch what Dad does when you chase him… (or any dozens of silly or normal everyday things!).” Because your love for both your boys is there… and they feel it. Differently, but both strong and full. I have two kids, too (just 18 months apart), and I remember thinking that my husband liked the older one (Skye) more when the little one (Zoe) was just a few months old (eating pooping machine, like you said.). I’m sure that’s totally normal, since we (as parents) have a connection and interaction with the older one. Don’t beat yourself up… The the best thing you can do to keep Charlie’s memory alive is to be a great dad to Danny. And you’re doing that!

    And who knows what type of relationship your boys will have with one another. Danny may talk to Charlie in his head or ask him for guidance over the years. He will keep Char’s memory alive, and keep your love for Charlie burning. He’s a great little guy, and probably more intuitive than any of us realize. He’s lucky to have you & Vanessa for parents.

    Just wanted to say you and your family are always in our thoughts & prayers… and Charlie will not be forgotten.

    Love,
    Kathy (shangraw)

  6. Beautifully written Bryan. I feel your pain re agonising about the inevitable unfair weight of expectation placed on surviving siblings and the anxiety of worrying about the paradox of them experiencing a life time of loss without ever really knowing the amazing person that they have lost.

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