Monday Mournings: The Death of a Brother

Linda Jackson here. And I don’t know why Pam wants to know my age, but I’m a proud 45-year-old, who hopes to turn 46 in June. I am from the great state of Mississippi. (Yes, it’s great, regardless of what you’ve read in books or seen in movies.) I write books for children, specifically middle grade, perhaps someday, YA or even picture books. I self-published a few books to get my start in the business, and I am published in a couple of Chicken Soup for the Soul titles and did freelance writing for educational publishers as well. So, there you have it, I’m a writer. Oh, yeah, and I blog.  And if you comment on this post, you will be entered into a drawing to win this book that I'm in!  Pamela will select a winner on Friday.

DW:  Who was the person that died?

Linda:  My oldest brother, Jessie.

DW:  How old were you at the time?

Linda:  34

DW:  How old was your brother?

Linda :  50

DW:  Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen?

Linda:  Ironically, I thought it was sudden, because, at the time, I didn’t know what the word hospice meant. (Yes, I was 34 and had never heard of hospice before. Living under a rock, right?) When I heard my other siblings say he had been sent home under hospice care, I never thought to ask what that meant. I assumed it meant nurses were coming by his home to check on him until he got better. He had been battling cancer, had gotten better, then it came back, but I didn’t know it was there to stay. So, I guess everybody else knew my brother was in his last days except me. And that made me feel even worse.

DW:  Did you and Jessie talk about his death?

Linda:  A few days before my brother died, I talked to him on the phone. He asked me whether my youngest sister and I were planning to come see him. (That was nearly 12 years ago, but I can still hear his voice.)  He said, “I know y’all are coming to see your big brother.” I laughed and said, “We’re not driving that far.”
Here’s the deal. My brother lived in Decator, Illinois, at the time. I lived in Kansas City, and my sister lived in Mississippi. Both my sister and I were visiting my mom in our hometown in Mississippi for a few weeks during the summer break, which is why he asked if we were coming to see him.
So, even though we didn’t talk about his death, he assumed I knew about his impending death. But, of course, I didn’t. I had planned to surprise him with a visit on my way back to Kansas City. Sadly, he died a week and a half before my vacation ended, shortly after that phone conversation.

DW:  Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before Jessie died?

Linda:  I had another brother die from a gunshot wound when I was sixteen. It was my first experience with someone close dying tragically. In case you’re wondering, my mom had thirteen children—one son died as an infant, a few days after he was born, I think.

DW:  Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away when you were grieving?

Linda:  Since I was in high school when my first brother was killed, I received plenty of support from my classmates. But with my second brother, nobody knew I was grieving. My siblings assumed the death didn’t affect me much because I didn’t attend the funeral. And the reason that I didn’t attend the funeral is because my mother didn’t attend, and I chose to be with her so she wouldn’t be alone. Side note: my mother stopped attending funerals after both her parents passed away. So she didn’t attend the funerals of either of my brothers, her siblings, my father…or  anyone else who died after 1977. I was afraid no one would show up at her funeral last year because of this…but they did. J

DW:  Is there anything you wish you'd done differently with this person?

Linda:  Yes, I wish I had told my brother that I was coming to visit him rather than choosing to surprise him. Had I known what hospice meant, I guess, I would have known better.

DW:  Was he buried or cremated?

Linda:  My brother was buried. I don’t know of any cremations in my family.

DW:  Did you learn anything about the grieving process that you'd like to share?

Linda:  I learned that you can’t live life with regrets. As a result of my brother’s death, I decided to move back home to Mississippi. I felt horrible for my brother during his battle with cancer because I knew he wanted to be home (Mississippi). I never wanted to face that. So as soon as I went back to KC, we sold our house and moved to MS in less than a two-month timeframe. Also, months after the move, I was still grieving over the fact that I didn’t tell my brother that I was coming to visit him. Then one morning after I had taken my daughters to school and daycare, I stood in my bedroom and let it all out. I cried really hard for the first time after my brother’s funeral and told him how sorry I was that I didn’t go see him and that I was sorry I didn’t attend his funeral. Then suddenly I actually felt a presence in the room and sensed my brother’s voice saying, “It’s okay. I know. I know you were coming to see me. You don’t have to keep holding on to that.” From that moment, I let it go and never cried for my brother again.
Shortly after that incident, my family and I started attending a church where we met a man who, I swear, could have been my brother’s twin. And not only did they look alike, but they sounded the same and had the same mannerism. Of course, I questioned him about his family. But his family was from Alabama, and he didn’t think we were in any way related. But since that day, that man has been like an older brother to me.

DW:  Were any songs played at the memorial that were important to Jessie?

Linda:  As stated earlier, I didn’t attend the funeral nor did I want anyone to talk about it. So I have no idea what songs were played. All I know is that it rained really hard on the day of the funeral. Also, because of the age difference (16 years), I didn’t know my brother well enough to know his favorite songs. I just know he liked Blues. So if you know of any good Blues to play, go for it. J

This one goes out to Jessie...

Thanks Linda for sharing your story!