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.
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.