The Lost but Never Forgotten

“It’s not something you get over, it’s something you get through.”

-Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson nailed it with that song. We have all lost someone. Some were lost unexpectedly, some we were waiting for it to happen, but neither of those are easy. Truth be told, if you have yet to lose someone, just know it sucks….. Most days I deal with it pretty well, but then grief will come out of no where and hits me like an 18 wheeler to a wall, and I find myself filled with sadness and sorrow. I try to talk about him, hoping that it will help, but its hard. Not many people want to sit there and listen to you talk about your brothers death, and those who can relate with what you’re feeling are going through the same struggle and also do not like to talk about it. So here I am, writing about it instead, hoping for just a smidge of relief.

June 2, 2018

My world as I knew it, stopped suddenly and unexpectedly when I got the worst call of my life. Nothing could have ever prepared me for those words that burned my soul, “your brother died.” I still have a hard time processing it. It has been two, almost three years, and I still struggle with talking about him. I guess I should warn you now, this is an emotional post.

Robert, my older brother, was 6 years older than me. He was from my mom’s first marriage. Unlike our older sister, I did not grow up with him. I grew up with my mom’s second husband, and their son, my younger brother Ryan. Jennifer and Robert were as close as Ryan and I were. As we grew up, the four of us were close. We would hold what we called “Sibling Day” a couple times a year. We would go eat, walk Disneyland, Seaworld, or just chill at Jennifer’s house, watching Friends or Forest Gump.

Robert was the second of four. He had a loud, dominating belly laugh, especially when it was at my expense. For some reason, that man loved to make fun of me. When my sister’s daughter was around 2 or 3, she got mad at me and called me a “turkey”. He thought that was the best insult ever. He kept that as a nickname for me, for the rest of his life. He would go big on Thanksgiving, often calling it my second birthday, bringing Turkey balloons to our family dinners. One year he found a light up turkey hat to give me. I used to be so sensitive and would get so mad. He never let it go. It’s funny, because I would give anything to hear him call me a “turkey” just one more time.

My brother died around 2am, at the age 34 from a heart attack caused by an enlarged heart. His dad found him around 6 that evening, in his room. In just seconds, our world as a family had collapsed.

“Robert died.”

The words that haunt me. I never thought I would get that call. I was making cheesecake when my dad called me. He said “Lynn, Robert died…. come over.” I literally grabbed my keys as fast as humanly possible and drove to my parents house. My younger brother was close by my sister and Robert’s house. He went to Robert’s house and met my sister and her dad. I got to my mom’s house in record time.

Hearing her cry was just has painful and heart wrenching as hearing my dad say those words. I ran into her room. She was sitting on the edge of her bed, heartbroken, crying for her son. I have never held another human so tight in my life. We sat there for about a half hour, holding onto each other, crying together. It was a beautiful yet horrible experience. No one wants to see their mother’s heart break like that. Her reaction was one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The sound of her cry for him is one that I will hear for the rest of my life.

June 13, 2018

The day before his funeral. The days leading up to this day were some of the hardest my family and I have ever gone through. Robert was 34. He was supposed to live so much longer than that. He was supposed to grow old with us. Instead, we were preparing for his funeral. I cant tell you which is harder, watching a mother discuss burial details for her son, or discussing those details for your brother with the funeral director. Our older sister took these days with grace. She seemed so strong, stronger than the rest of us. Inside, her world was crumbling more than mine. She and Robert were closer than I was with him. She stayed strong for her dad and our mom. I, on the other hand, tried to be strong, but I honestly don’t think I stopped crying. I would wake up every morning, remember what had happened, and the tears would just flow like someone turned on a faucet. I often cried myself to sleep at night.

June 13 was our visitation day. Friends and family came from all over to say goodbye to our brother and give us their condolences. I sat next to his casket , unable to leave his side until they made us leave. I struggled to let go. I am sure you can all relate to that.

Saying “Goodbye”

On June 14, we laid our brother to rest. His was buried at Forest Lawn in Cypress, where his nana is also resting in peace. The service was beautiful. We ordered gorgeous white lilys and he was laid in a beautiful silver casket. We had him dressed in his suit, the one he wore to my wedding.

So many friends of his came to say goodbye. He belonged to a car club, and the members all came and displayed their cars, just as he would have wanted. Our sister did most of the talking during the ceremony and she spoke with such grace and poise. She made us all cry and then she would make us laugh. She sang Phil Collins’ “You’ll be in my heart” with her daughter. To this day, I cannot listen to that song without my heart shattering.

Losing a family member is extremely hard. Your world feels empty. As Willie also says in his song “Life is nothing but a sad, sad song.” It never goes back to normal. You learn to live with the pain. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. We just learn to live with the emptiness. I long to hear my brothers laugh and I miss his hugs even more. I have learned to not talk about him, with anyone. When someone brings him up, I tend to leave or ignore the conversation. To this day, I struggle with his death; its hard wrap my head around it.

At the end of his service, the funeral home opened his casket so we could say goodbye for good. I will never forget how cold his head was when I leaned over to kiss him and say goodbye. He looked so peaceful, yet I regret the experience more than you could ever imagine. Seeing him there, lifeless, cold, hands folded and as stiff as concrete. It haunts me. My younger brother and I stood there, next to his father, helping him stand up as he said goodbye to his only son. That is another experience I cant let go of. The cries of two parent who have lost their son is the most heart wrenching thing one could possibly hear. We said our goodbyes and they closed his casket, for the last time. We went to the gravesite and said a prayer.

Everyone left and I sat there with his dad, as the employees of the cemetery lowered our loved one into the ground. That is something I hope to never experience again. It was so quiet, yet so intense. We sat there, watching him be laid in his final resting spot.

Nothing prepares you to lose a loved one. There are no amount of books that you can read to help you get through the situation, trust me, I tried. Losing my brother was and still is the worst experience of my life. The sadness is so overwhelming and is constant. There is forever an empty void in my life. I am often finding myself wanting to text him a quote when Forest Gump or The Hangover is on. Thanksgiving is no longer my favorite holiday, but the most dreaded one instead. I am told it gets easier as the time passes, but I honestly disagree. It isn’t that it gets easier, it’s something I have learned to life with.

In Loving Memory of my brother, Robert Park. 11/19/86 – 6/2/2018