Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. How to come to grips with facing an urn that contains the ashes of what once was my wonderful brother. He is gone, I know. And the urn and its contents do not contain him. But they contain the suggestion of him, a trace. The urn, I suppose, is like one of those mnemonics we sometimes use to jog imperfect memories, telling us that we need to do something. A close friend tells us that she keeps just such an urn for her beloved, now gone. She talks to him, with the urn as a channeling device, whenever she feels the urge.
I prefer my memory traces for that purpose, although I must confess that I have never really felt the urge to literally speak with a loved one, gone from this place we call Earth. But we all use whatever means we have for recalling, and therefore keeping alive our memories. Pictures are useful, but they capture a moment in time, and the memory fragments associated with that moment.
When I wrote my little memoire, I noted that I had for several years noted down what I called snippets—little memory fragments that remained in my brain fairly vividly and that came to the surface with some frequency, triggered by odd things that passed across my path. Someone sent me a cute E-mail set of pictures with the common theme of, “Why Boys Need Parents.” The pictures, of course illustrated boys being boys, putting themselves stupidly at risk. Immediately my mind leaped to my brother and me, playing “War” in our Second Avenue flat. We dueled with steak knives, turning it into a real blood sport. We also made a flame thrower out of a water pistol filled with lighter fluid. If you aimed it at a lighted match, a large flame shot out several feet—Wheeeeee! See, that’s how my weird memory bank operates.
But I digress.
Meeting up with the remains of my dear brother I do not expect to be easy. But it must be done. It is a necessary step to moving on, with my memories intact, but with the full knowledge that we have reached this crossroads, with him on one path and me on another. It is satisfying to me that, despite our harsh early childhood, we both survived with our basic personalities intact, partly because of my brother’s will to be “normal.” Our relationship continued throughout our lives, despite great distances between us. It remained a highly satisfying relationship. Seeing the urn will bring all that back with an immediacy. Another chance to say, “thank you William, for being who you are.”