Tonight I did something that's pretty hard for me to do.
I cried alone.
I know some people can ONLY cry when they're on their own, but for some reason, that's always been a difficult thing for me to do, because the weight of whatever I'm feeling often seems too big to handle by myself.
But I've been talking to God so much lately, seeking a greater guidance and wisdom and strength, and tonight was no different, with me out on the patio late, when everyone else is sleeping.
I brought my phone with me this time, which I never normally do, so that I could listen to some meditative music. I heard a song with a children's choir in the back and thought, that sounds beautiful, I'd like more. So off to Youtube I went, seeking children's choir music.
As I scrolled through video options, I passed "Pie Jesu", a beautiful hymn I am all too familiar with after a childhood singing for a Catholic Church as both a soloist and choir member.
I immediately got a feeling in my gut of pain and dread and scrolled past the video fast, my inner voice saying, "Noooo".
Then I stopped, and I had a little conversation with myself.
"Because when you even THINK about that song, you remember singing it with John Peter, and it will wreck you."
John Peter is...was?...is my little brother. He died in 2012. We had sung that piece together in duet when I was only a teenager and he a small boy with an angelic voice. To this day I couldn't handle hearing the song performed that way.
Then I listened to a different voice. One that seemed to be coming from a self-parenting perspective.
"I think we need to do things differently now. You can't hide from how you feel. Just because the emotion is scary, doesn't mean you shouldn't feel it. I think your fear means that you need to have this experience."
So, with trepidation and suspecting what would come, I clicked play and set my phone down and sat in the dark. As the boy started singing, just like I'd feared, I relived hearing John's voice, seeing the shy, gentle, completely unassuming look on his face as he sang, innocently going along with what was asked of him, singing a song in front of so many people. It should have scared my brother, who was full of fears and anxiety, but for some reason, he just stood there and sang in perfect harmony with me, no reservations or arguments.
I'll never forget joining voices with that little boy, standing side by side, and praying in music with our best voices.
I admittedly cried a lot....for a while after that song ended. Because the song did exactly what I was afraid it would, pulling memories into view and forcing me to deal with them at a really inconvenient time. And what was so inconvenient about it, you ask? Well....that whole alone thing, you know? No distractions. Scary stuff.
I thought about the day of his funeral, when I'd have to go and see his body, and how sick that made me feel. How much the week leading up to the inevitable twisted my guts into sickness and dread. I had to carry the weight of losing someone who was essentially my little boy by myself. The family I'd been raised with was a zero comfort, zero compassion group of people, and that required I somehow hold myself together on my own in the midst of horrific chaos.
I had barely cried that week, surrounded by relations. Because I didn't have that luxury. So I kept the horror inside, and all the dread of it held me down like a heavy weight, keeping me from flying apart, manifesting in repeated instances of sickness, an inability to even look at food. I could scarcely do more than sip from a bottle of water.
The day of his viewing, we got to the funeral home late. The women in my family may not be tardy to their own funerals, but their loved ones....no problem.
As we gathered in the outer vestibule, I couldn't bring myself to go into the viewing room. There was a table in one of the sitting rooms off to the side with a poster covered in messages and pictures of John. I tried to look at it but couldn't do that either. There were little funeral cards with his picture, and a prayer. Every single moment that passed, my mind said it couldn't have been real, and yet it was.
I waited and waited, procrastinating to leave where I was, everyone else filtering in before me. My Uncle came to check on me, I said I'd be in when I could. My mom, ever brash and childlike, said, "Aren't you going in to see your brother?"
"I will when I'm ready," I said, trying not to throw up. This was the ultimate and worst. My brother was dead and his body was laying in the other room and I didn't know how the hell I was going to do this.
I eventually left a side room and stood in the front vestibule again, alone, staring into the center of the viewing room where I couldn't see him yet. I was giving myself the world's most horrific pep talk. I still remember it. You don't forget that kinda stuff. So I talked to him.
"How am I gonna do this, John? I don't know HOW I'm gonna do this. I need you to be with me. I need you to help me have strength."
I imagined my brother's arm around me, making a joke about how I needed to go in there and be with those crazy people and be tough. I imagined that arm on my shoulder the whole, long walk down that funeral hallway. Right into the room where his body was laid out.
It was the most frightening, agonizing, and alone moment of my life. It took more courage and faith to do than anything I had ever, and maybe WILL ever do, walking into that room. My brother dying was literally the worst case scenario. I had told God once, whatever you do, do NOT let anything happen to my brother or sister. That was the forbidden. I had laid down the law. God saw differently.
So toward my little brother I went. Toward the culmination of the love I felt and the destructiveness of our family through the years, ending in my brother's death at 25.
Somehow, I had always known this would happen. I had feared for him, but knowing and accepting are two different things. And what my spirit knew, my heart couldn't bear. So, even now, five plus years later....hell, especially now, after I've gone through a new kind of hell and the rapid self growth that often results from pain...I am more broken open than I used to be. I can see the strength I had and the grace through a nightmare, and I can be proud of myself for that, but also willing to love and accept and nurture my own emotions first instead of last. To protect my needs--which often involves feeling things that I dread--and defending my right to them. Because sometimes people won't be there to share your tears. Or worse, they'll use them against you. So YOU have to be there. You have to be there for your own self. Show up for your own heart. You can't just bury pain until a "safer" moment. You should be the safest place for your own heart. I needed to be strong enough to love myself through any pain. Not just shove it down.
I guess that means I'll be crying alone sometimes. Which is okay. It's part of the journey, and I'm grateful.