Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Surviving Brad - An Altered Existence

The siblings! Brad, Lisa and I during my senior year of college, 2003.

Some people create when they feel desperate, when life is hard. It's the only way they can survive the pain. I am not like that. When I am ill or under duress, I have a hard time making. Depression gets me nowhere artistically. I just want to hunker down with the people I love and watch movies, read, or play on Facebook. I escape from myself through mediated experiences. When I make, I turn into myself and become contemplative. I reflect upon my difficult experiences, but I can't create my way out of them. Instead, I nurture myself and rise up with the passing of time. Then, when I have enough distance, I can use that raw material as fodder.

I have been silent this year, at least in blog-time. In realtime, I've been many things, from eloquent to writhing in pain.

The most existence-altering experience I have been through this year is the death of my brother. My 27-year old brother Brad died in a car accident on May 19, a beautiful Sunday afternoon, while he was on his way to work along a straight road. In fact, the business he worked for was just yards away from the crash-site. For some unknown reason my brother's car crossed two lanes of traffic, traveled along the curb, knocked down a speed-limit sign, hopped the curb, and then crashed into a tree. After that, it caught on fire. The medical examiner and the investigating officer both think my brother probably had a medical emergency in the car (such as a stroke, heart attack or seizure), which prevented him from steering or braking, because there was no sign that he had attempted to do either.

There's part of me that wishes I had recorded every thought I have had since then, especially in the first days following Brad's death. The first week, in particular, was surreal. It takes a lot of time and energy to plan a funeral. It doesn't help that what we were experiencing was primarily shock and disbelief, even while framing Brad's drawings and finding the right ammo box for his ashes to be buried in. 

On the other hand, those memories will remain with me. The physical pain, the feeling that I had lost an arm - an actual member - of my body, of my family - subsides with time. Now, it's been nearly 4 months since Brad died. I think of him every single day - multiple times. Sometimes, I'm happy. Sometimes, I'm sad and angry. At other times, I think of Brad as a matter of course and it hardly interrupts my mood or the day at all. It's still a surreal experience and one I wish upon no one. I have discovered since May 19 that many other people I care about, as well as complete strangers, have been through similar experiences. They have come out on the other side. That gives me strength, and helps me feel less alone in my and my family's grief.

I am sure I will write more about my brother. I am ready to share and translate my experiences into a new form, something outside of myself. Know that while no one ever moves on, I am moving along into the "new normal", as my family refers to life after losing Brad. 


Many thanks to those of you who loved Brad, the family and friends who have offered unfailing support to my family and me, and those generous strangers who I have bonded with over our losses. 

Much love goes out to those of you who have lost family members or other loved ones.

And, obviously, I owe everything to my family. I am glad I belong to you guys.

Alison :)

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