The question I am asked most often is, “what happened?” What could have possibly led someone as outgoing, generous, and gregarious as my brother to take his own life?
I think I understand that answer a lot more now than I did a year ago, though no one will ever be able to say exactly what was going through his head. I don’t know if it is for me to surmise, or to write about. Perhaps in time but certainly not yet. For now, I can only tell my story, witness the places where it overlaps his own. I keep moving from room to room, setting down and picking up items, looking out the window, sitting, standing. I am waiting for some revelation. I am trying to untangle the pieces. Time folds in on itself. The beginning and end and everything in between.
I am at the lunch table in our high school dining hall. It is Sunday but, as I live and work at a boarding school, this isn’t unusual. My coworker sits across from me. We are members of the same duty team, small groups of teachers and staff who oversee the students after school hours. The leaders, of which I am one, are referred to as chiefs. It is a strange and ironic title, as though we have been designated rulers of some small wasteland. Still, there is something sacred in this shared space. The late-night hours spent scouring for miscreants create a unique bonding experience. You get to know your teammates in ways you never otherwise would.
Luke is a new faculty member, having joined the year prior. He is in his late 20’s but his quiet and reserved demeanor makes him seem much older. Each time we speak, I feel threads of something familiar. In time, I begin to understand where those threads lead. We discover over plastic plates of cold fried rice that we were both raised in well-intentioned Christian homes, the kind where church membership begins for all the right reasons but ends up better serving as a cloak to hide one’s sins behind. And, we both have alcoholic fathers.
We talk about the burden of those relationships, the unrequited affection, the constant feeling of holding one’s breath, the fear that any day could be their last. We pause on that sentence. That fear can take up so much space. I tell him how I used to call my father’s neighbor or my youngest brother to check in on my dad if too many days went by without word. Or the time my brother knocked and knocked but couldn’t get an answer. How he called me at work and I talked him through picking the lock. How, when he finally opened the door, he found our dad unconscious on the floor. How we tried another round of rehab that didn’t stick.
Luke shares his own stories. We talk about the men our fathers used to be. Mine gentle, observant, encouraging, the one who taught me to see the world, to listen, to write. We conclude by acknowledging that at some point, the caring becomes too much to sustain, as does the unearned resentment and blame and guilt. And so we have both sort of just let it go. And by that, I mean let them go. Neither of us speak to our fathers much anymore. We hold our breaths and wait for whatever devastation must inevitably come next.
In November, Luke pulls me from an after-school meeting to say he has had a family emergency. We find someone to cover for him. He is gone the next few days but someone sends me a news report. His father has gone missing. A city-wide search has commenced. It is while I am at my brother’s house for Thanksgiving- not the one I share an alcoholic father with, but the one I shared a room with for five years- when I hear that a body has been found. The cause of death is ruled suicide. Something hollows out inside of me. My eyes inexplicably smart up. I marvel at the strangeness of this thing seemingly prognosticated just weeks earlier. I wonder how the grief must tangle with the anger and abandonment. The idea of it… suicide, a willful leaving… hangs over me.
I am nine and having my second sleepover at Stephanie Piccola’s house. Having lived in five different homes and three different towns by now, friends have become to make. Sleepovers feel like a real achievement. Stephanie is an only child and prone to biting when she doesn’t get her own way. She is an awful brat but has more toys than FAO Schwartz, junk food in her pantry, and no siblings to compete with. I relish the opportunity to visit her. By late afternoon we have played in the sprinkler and fed all her baby dolls, twice the ones that pee when you give them a bottle. We have just set up her new watercolor kit when the phone rings. Stephanie’s mother stands in the doorway, the cord reaching back into the kitchen. I can tell by the way she is looking at me that my mom is on the other end, which is strange because she and my sister are meant to be at an equestrian show.
She hangs up and tells me I need to pack my bag. I protest, insisting that she call back to explain we haven’t yet had the chance to paint. Before I can make any headway, the phone rings again. Stephanie’s mother stays on for a long time now. Her voice is high and tight. Something adult is happening but I can’t discern what.
It is dark by the time my mom arrives. A family friend sits in the front of our van. When I open the back, I am surprised to see the seats have been removed. My brother and sister are surrounded by blankets and suitcases. A short and tense argument ensues between my mother and Mrs. Piccola. I try to listen but understand little more than the fact that we were leaving. Leaving home. Leaving North Carolina. Leaving my step-dad. Leaving Stephanie Piccola’s toys.
We are driving to Pennsylvania, the place we had moved from just five years prior after a series of sudden house fires. My mother explains somewhat erratically that we need to cross state lines before the police find us. Otherwise, my step-dad could have us taken away. She cries. My sister and brother jostle each other for space. I try to sleep. Nothing makes sense.
In the weeks following, we move into a small two-bedroom apartment. My mom and sister share a bunk bed in one room. My brother and I share the other. The place feels like a catacomb. We tiptoe around, trying not to upset our mother. Most of her time is spent on the phone crying. I feel certain I have done something wrong, something irrevocable, unforgivable, though I don’t know what. At night, I offer to sing my brother to sleep. He submits for a time and then throws a pillow at me, annoyed. We both want, more than anything, to go home.
Though my step-dad traveled north to visit us, it would be nearly a year before we would see North Carolina again. When I finally return, I walk through our house feeling like a stranger. The rooms are empty, the house in the midst of a remodel. I look for my barbies, my dolls, my books. My step-dad explains apologetically that he has given them away, thinking we might never return. If I want to play with my toys, I will have to visit Stephanie Piccola. Stephanie, the biter, has stolen my life.
I do not look forward to New Year’s Eve with my usual enthusiasm. It is one of my favorite nights of the year, a time for sequined shoes and all things new, when my early-to-bed friends stifle their yawns and brave the late night hours. But this year feels different. This year feels as though I am being dragged toward something weighty and draining, something I have neither the energy nor courage to face. I call my best friend in Pennsylvania and tell her I don’t have it in me to make the six hour drive. I can’t explain it, but I am overcome by a deep exhaustion and dread.
The morning of New Year’s Eve, I wake with an epiphany. I am going to build a candlelit labyrinth in my backyard. I am going to do something slow and contemplative, shake off the burnout of the past year. I will leave the darkness of 2019 behind and walk into the light of 2020.
My daughter and I drive to the dollar store and buy several dozen pillar candles. I spend the afternoon in the backyard, fortified against the cold by my Carhartt overalls and tangled in rope as I lay the spiraling path of light. After dark, I light each hopeful flame. A smattering of friends stop by to walk the looping arches. By 11, the wind has blown half the glass jars over and the grass has caught fire a half dozen times. The bottoms of my boots have melted from stomping flames. I blow the rest of the candles out and join my daughter inside.
I have had a burning sensation in the back of my throat for days. Today is the worst, that red hot creeping inescapable. My stomach is in knots. I stifle the urge to vomit. Today, the issue of custody will be decided in the case of King vs. King. I, and each of my siblings, will speak to the judge. We will tell him that we do not want to live with our father. We tell him we want to stay with our mother. I do. But also I don’t.
The conversation began a year prior, a slow unfolding and a stark realization. At times, I felt my mind might break. There was that one night, standing on my bed and screaming at the top of my lungs, “but he’s my dad! I love him! And HE loves ME!”
“He’s not your dad,” my sister yells back, leaning on the bedroom doorway next to my mom. “And he’s a jerk. You don’t know anything about him.”
“He is my dad!” I scream back, though it’s a bit of an obfuscated topic. Technically, he is my step-dad, though he adopted my sister and I when I was barely two, just after he married my mom. We had spent the two years prior straddled between Hawaii and Alaska, the most extreme distances within the U.S. that my mom could find to separate herself from her family in Pennsylvania. She was seven months pregnant with me when she boarded that plane. My father had returned to California by then, ousted by her family after revealing my grandfather’s affair. My mother chose neither my father nor her family. She fled them all.
I know none of this at the age of twelve. But I do know that my sister remembers a time before my step-dad. She was nearly five when he came into our lives. Maybe, then, she knows something I don’t. Still, he is the man I have called daddy since I can remember. He is the man who tucked my brother and me in every night, weaving stories of mystery and intrigue to send us off to sleep. He is the man who drove us to school every morning, making up his own lyrics to radio songs and renaming the passing landmarks in our honor. He is the fun-bringer, the joke-maker, the adventurer, the reason we felt safe in bed at night.
Inside the courtroom is nothing like I imagined, nothing like tv. It is white with marble floors, bright and airy despite the winter day. We do not have to “take the stand.” Rather, we go one at a time into the judge’s chambers, which is really just a small office behind the courtroom. There is no grand inquisition and I do not have to say any of the things rehearsed over the prior weeks. He is friendly. He simply asks where I would like to live. I am relieved not to have to sort through the ideas swimming in my head.
My brother goes last. He is the youngest and therefore the most unpredictable. He is also the only one of the three of us who is actually, by blood, our father’s child. That was never something I had understood in years past. But the past few months, we have been reminded of it ad nauseum. He is the desired one, the one both parties are truly fighting for. And much of him still wants to be with his dad.
I wait with my sister in the large hallway outside the courtroom. A few family friends sit with us. When my brother rejoins, he seems happy, because he is always so, but also small and uncertain. I wonder what he told the judge. No doubt, he chatted his ear off. He knows no strangers, could carry on a conversation with a lightbulb.
My mother is smiling when the large doors finally swing open. My grandfather takes us out to eat in celebration. Two years later, my step-dad completely cuts me and my sister out of his life. I do not see or speak to him again until I am 21. I fill in that space by getting to know my biological father, though by the time I am 21, he will have almost entirely handed himself over to his drinking.
January 07, 2020
I pause while making dinner. The news eeking out through the speaker I keep in the kitchen sounds alarming. If I am hearing correctly, it seems as though WWIII has possibly just begun. I pick up the phone and text my brother, a Marine veteran. “Has WWIII just begun?” I ask.
He explains the potential risks of what has occurred. The next day, he sends an article that validates our discomfort while simultaneously allowing us to sleep. I smile when I see the notification at the top of my phone. These casual exchanges still feel new, having steadily bloomed over the past two years. They are the hard won result of years spent navigating the baggage of our history and the walls built between us throughout our childhood.
It is an arrival. Not to what once was… but to what should have always been.
I am 17, sitting in the kitchen of our house. The weather is unseasonably warm, but I keep the windows closed. It has become my habit when I am alone. Despite the tenant in the basement apartment, the house feels empty. My brother left the summer prior to live with his dad. My sister graduated the year before and departed for military school, though she has since dropped out and taken up residence in Colorado. In another four months she will be married. My mom has started traveling several days at a time, presumably for work, but the fact that her phone goes to voicemail when I call likely has something to do with her new boyfriend in DC.
Last weekend, I caught the tire of my car on the berm of the road while driving home from my waitressing job. I spun out and landed in the middle of a cornfield. The car seemed fine, but I was afraid to start it. In the movies, things always blow up. It was nearly midnight by the time I reached the nearest gas station. In the dark of the night, I was too afraid to hitch a ride so I walked. I tried my mom from the payphone but reached voicemail. Over the top of the gas pumps, I saw a few friends from high school. There were two trucks between the lot of them. Heroically, they offered to help. Within the hour, we were back at my house, the car fully intact aside from a few scratches. Each of the dozen calls I make to my mom go to voicemail.
Tonight is a school night but the silence in the house is more than I can take. Aloneness is not something that is new to me, but now it reaches inward. For the two years before my siblings moved out, my mother and I fought, endlessly and relentlessly. I ran away twice in that time. So much of our lives revolved around keeping my brother with us. Now that he is gone, there seems to be nothing left to be angry over. I don’t miss the fighting and yelling and tumult of all my family members under one roof. But also, this doesn’t feel much better.
The tenant in the basement is supposed to check on me periodically, but she is a college student and shy. She rarely comes up. I turn the lights off in the house and leave. It is past 11. I walk so she doesn’t notice my car missing. It is 1.8 miles to the house I often party at with friends, a place rented by recent high school graduates. It used to be our weekend spot, but this year, I’ve taken to going there whenever I’m home alone. I’ve had nightmares since I can remember and waking up alone is undesirable. Here, there is always someone to keep company with.
On this night, I don’t return home. On this night, I stay and drink until my head spins and the sun comes up. And then I walk to school. There’s no one to notice that I haven’t come home. No one to notice that I smell like beer and cigarettes. No one to notice that I am still mildly drunk as I sit through my first period class.
January 26, 2020
Despite it being a Sunday, I rise early to unlock the school doors. My duty team is on for the day. I plan to head back home after the first member arrives, hoping to pick up some groceries before I come back in the afternoon. Before I can do so, a student hobbles in with a sore ankle. I call the school nurse and she advises a trip to urgent care. I pack up the papers I need to grade and pull the school van around.
We return too late for lunch. I check in with the rest of the team. Ten minutes later, another student appears clutching his abdomen. He’s been having pain all day. I check his temperature and call the nurse again. No fever. We decide to wait until Monday to see a doctor. I finish dorm checks and grade papers. I place an order for grocery delivery. During dinner, the topic of Asheville comes up. I mention my brother runs a retreat center there. A coworker is intrigued. I pull the website up and share pictures. He is clearly impressed. I explain that my brother completed the renovations himself, built the additional cabins and tent platforms. I feel proud. He says he will have to visit some time. I don’t believe him but still, it’s a nice sentiment.
In the evening, we round up students for study hall. I step out briefly to meet the grocery deliveryman and carry the bags to my car. It’s cold enough that they’ll last until I finish at 9. An hour later, the student with the stomach pain appears again. He is visibly worse. I call the nurse a third time and we decide a trip to the ER is necessary. Despite the imminent end to our shift, we are short on dorm parents. I will have to make the drive. I move my car so it is parked in front of my apartment, and I jog the 500 ft back to the school. I text my teen daughter and ask her to bring the groceries in when she returns from her grandmother’s. I text my upstairs neighbor, a fellow teacher, and ask her to check in on my daughter. I am hopeful this will be a quick trip, or if not, that a dorm parent will be able to relieve me soon.
At the hospital, it is determined that surgery is needed. The student is transported to a different location. I follow in the school van. The hours stretch on. I think of my daughter asleep at home, grateful that we live on a gated school campus in a building full of teachers. I pace the halls while the surgeon on call is paged from home. He arrives at 4am. At 5, we are moved to a different floor. I have managed to stay awake the entire night, but as the nurse explains the procedure, I nod off while sitting straight up.
It is the afternoon before I finally make it home. I crawl into bed for a quick nap before my daughter returns from school. By 8pm, I am in bed for good.
January 27, 2020
I am sleeping deeply, the pressure of the last 36 hours dissolving. The January air is cool, and I am cocooned beneath several layers of quilts and blankets. I love my bedroom. Vestiges of its former life as an elementary school classroom remain, ink stains dotting the ancient wood floors. Built in the early 1900’s, it has 12’ ceilings and 8’ windows. I love the way the sun dances through the tall single pane glass in the mornings.
It is not the sun that wakes me now, but rather the dog growling from the foot of my bed. He is not yet a year, and it is the first time I’ve heard him growl. His ears prick and he rises, staring alarmingly at the door across from my bed. My room opens to a small side porch, easily accessible from the yard. And then I hear it, a creaking of the porch boards, the discernible weight of footsteps. The doorknob jiggles and the dog breaks into a bark. A scream escapes me, something I am wholly powerless to. I cannot move. The thing I have always dreaded is finally happening, and I cannot move. When that door swings open, I will be paralyzed and defenseless to whatever comes next.
And then I hear, above my own screaming, my mother’s voice. Somehow, she is on my porch. “It’s me. It’s mommy. It’s just me,” she calls. I stumble from bed, bare legs cold, and lurch toward the door. As I pull it inward, I catch a brief glimpse of the star-studded sky behind her. The cold sweeps into the room, my mother in her mustard yellow dress coat, her neighbor behind her. I think it is an odd choice for a winter’s night. I think someone has died because my mother is on my porch in a mustard yellow coat with a sky full of stars. She is shaking, falls toward me, grips my arms. She is not saying anything but I know then. I am certain my sister has died. My sister, the battles she has fought, the last year her hardest, the recent months we have spent collectively holding our breath. I begin to wail. My legs tumble backward and I feel the cold of the floor beneath me, my whole being folding inward.
My mother is saying my name again. And then my brother’s. She repeats this several times. I squint through the darkness as though seeing clearly will make this make sense. “Frankie?” I ask, incredulous. My mind cannot take it in. My mom is mumbling streams of words that make no sense to me. “A car accident?” I ask. “No… no… a gun.” I am pushing my body away from her. Pushing all of this away and trying to find air. I feel that I am shaking. Someone sets a blanket over me. The dog is wriggling in excitement to see the new guests. My mother says she can feel my brother, that she can feel him right now. I brighten. He is still alive then. I picture a hospital bed and realize I have misunderstood. “I don’t understand,” I cry out. “Is my brother alive?” No… no… he is not. But my mother can feel him still.
I am astounded at my body’s physical response, at my inability to think myself out of the impenetrable cold that has overtaken me, of the shaking, the frailty of my limbs. I do not know what time my mother came to my door or how much time passed in the darkness on that floor. I am amazed and relieved and grateful that my daughter does not hear and wake up. I would not want her to see this, could not possibly be present for her now. Someone makes tea. My mother collapses into the chair in the corner of my bedroom, intermittently sobbing and moaning. We have all stayed in the room together, my mom and her neighbor and her neighbor’s husband, so we do not wake my daughter. I think how strange it is to have my mother’s neighbors sitting on my bed in the middle of the night, murmuring idioms about grief and lessons gained.
My mother asks me to call my uncle. I do, but first I call my step-dad, my brother’s father. I am sure he has not heard the news yet. Despite my brother’s unflagging loyalty, he too was cut out of my step-dad’s life several years earlier. It weighed on him in incalculable ways. My step-dad does not answer; I leave the cruelest voice message imaginable and hang up.
I call my uncle. He answers but I cannot say the words. “What?” he keeps asking. “I can’t understand you.” I try my little brother next, once, twice, three times. I curse the iphone sleep setting. My mother is in the room with me but she is a thousand miles away. I cannot comfort her and she cannot comfort me. I try my step-mom. She doesn’t answer either.
The sky begins to lighten. I will need to wake my daughter for school soon. My mother’s neighbors urge me to try to sleep and take her to their car. I try to call my brother’s wife. A few minutes later, my phone rings. It is their neighbor. He is factual and calm, though I know he and my brother were at each other’s homes daily. He fills in the details of the evening. My mind resists every word. I picture the bathroom off the guest bedroom, a detail that will imbue my dreams for months to come.
January 28, 2020
I lie in bed for the hour before I need to wake my daughter. I splash water on my face, hoping the redness will disappear. I lean over her, taking in her small body, her smell, her childhood stuffed animals snuggled close. I try not to think of what this might do to her. When the bus disappears out of sight, I collapse onto the couch. I am too tired and too stunned to cry anymore. And anyway, I’m not entirely sure I believe that this thing has happened.
My phone dings. It is my ex. “I’m so sorry,” the text reads. I am absolutely flabbergasted. “How do you know?” I ask. “Your mom called,” he responds. “She wanted me to come be with you when she told you.” I am floored. That my ex-boyfriend, whom I have not been with in five years, should know before me seems inconceivable. That my mother thought I would somehow need him in this moment is more than I can even take in. “I’m fine,” I respond. “But just for the record, if either of your parents had called me, I would have come.” I know even as I type this that I wouldn’t have wanted him to. Not even remotely. And I know he is smart enough to know that. Still, it feels good to kick a can.
I can’t sleep. I know my mom probably needs me, though I am reluctant to go. I want to stay in this silent space where it still isn’t real. In the car, I call my younger brother again. He is in Portland and three hours behind, but this time he answers. Though he and Frankie weren’t related by blood and didn’t spend much time together as children, they had become close in their adult years. Last year, I had driven to visit Frankie only to discover that Jason was there as well, having flown across the country to see his not-real-brother without even telling his real sister. I loved it. I loved that they had forged a brotherhood between the two of them, so much so that Jason had begun making plans to relocate to North Carolina that summer.
Now, I don’t know the words. My voice is high and tight as I try to explain, flippant even, in its delivery. I am surprised by his response, surprised by the shock and confusion in his voice, because deep down I still don’t believe the thing I am saying is actually true. “No,” he utters, though it sounds like a question. He repeats the word again. We sit in silence. “I have to go,” he says and hangs up.
In the mile before my mother’s house, my phone rings. It is my step-mom. “Oh Dana,” she says and lets out a sob. She sits there on the other end crying openly and unabashedly. I am grateful for it. I am suddenly able to connect with this thing inside of me. I let loose the torrent and for several minutes we sit together on line, sobbing. When I hang up, I feel less alone.
In the first hours of that first day, everything is in confusion. My sister in law calls and her sobs break something open inside of me. She has not seen him yet. He was taken by ambulance from the house and life-flighted at the bottom of the mountain. She was not allowed to accompany. The hospital will not let her see him there. His body needs to first be moved to a funeral home. This becomes a point of frustration for everyone over the next 24 hours. My brother lies alone in some room, and none of us can get to him. More than anything, this is the thing that causes me pain.
My mother asks for a separate funeral in Pennsylvania, independent of the one that will inevitably be planned in North Carolina. Mostly, she just wants to see him. I understand this desire. By the day’s end, arrangements for a service have been made. I try to scrape together some semblance of an obituary, though I can’t make the words make sense. A friend takes over. Everything is happening so quickly. Plans and demands and requests and necessities. My uncle arrives. I leave to meet my daughter’s school bus.
A friend is waiting for me when I return home. We sit in my living room in silence. I feel as though I should cry or say something profound. I sort through a few disassembled tears, separate of any feeling or meaning. My body seems to have levitated outside of itself. I feel less than I think I should. Despite that, the shaking continues.
My daughter is stoic. She asks only if she can go to her room. I relent.
January 29, 2020
On the way to my mom’s, I stop to pick up a pack of cigarettes. I quit smoking fourteen years ago, though I still sneak it in when I’m with my brother. Now, I am overcome with the craving.
By late afternoon, my uncle has driven my sister, mother, daughter, and I to North Carolina. We drop our bags at the hotel and drive to the funeral home. It is only now, waiting outside of that room, that my body truly begins to believe this thing has happened. I begin shaking again, quick, spastic movements that I can’t seem to control. I do not go in with my mother and sister. I do not want to mingle their grief with my own. When my mother crosses the threshold, she wails. “Somebody help me,” she pleads.
A sound fumbles over my throat, my body doubles over. I want nothing to do with that room, with what lies inside. And yet, I desperately want to be with my brother.
January 30, 2020
We leave my uncle’s car at the airport and fly to Pennsylvania. I feel the rise of anxiety I usually feel when airborne. And then it occurs to me that everyone I love is either here on this plane or already dead. My fear evaporates. For the first time in my life, I fly in peace.
January 31, 2020
We attend the memorial service in our hometown. I see faces I haven’t seen since I graduated high school. I feel suffocated and claustrophobic during the service. In the front row, it seems that all the eyes behind are bearing down on us. I want to stand and scream for everyone to go home, that this is all a joke, a terrible, terrible idea.
February 01, 2020
We fly from Pittsburgh back to Asheville. We make the drive out of the city and into Barnardsville. With each familiar turn, my heart constricts in pain. At the Airbnb, a friend from high school arrives. With 20 years of military experience, she seems to know exactly what to do.
In the evening, Jason and my step-mom arrive. He and I climb into the car and drive to our brother’s home. There are people there I have never met. Everyone is loud and drunk. We slip into the back bedroom, into my brother’s closet. We sit amidst his belongings, tidy, organized, his smell still palpable. My brother’s dog finds us and lays mournfully at our feet.
February 02, 2020
All the people who ever loved my brother descend on the hillside retreat he built for beauty’s sake. I resist it all. I don’t want their kind words or memories or reflections. I want only for this to not be happening. I sit with my little brother in my lined Carhartt overalls and smoke cigarettes, sip the Laphroaig scotch that Frankie loved. It all feels absurd, ridiculous. I am certain that at any moment my brother will come striding down the hill, his swagger and drawl making everyone laugh.
I do not understand in this moment that I have yet to taste true grief. The strain on my heart is merely shock. It will take weeks, months even, for the real grief to settle in, for the absent places to be made clear. My body will hollow itself out. Stop and begin anew. My brother’s death will pull me into another realm. Over the course of the coming year, I will walk away from my old life almost wholly and entirely.
January 27, 2021
I want to tell you all the things I think you should know about him, but I don’t feel equipped to do so. His friends would do it better, because they were the roots of his existence. Thomas, Josh, Travis, Wade, Adam, KT, Veronika, Rebecca, Emma, Dante, Melissa, Roy, his high school buddies aptly named “The Wingdingers,” and dozens of others that I don’t even know about or have, regretfully and accidentally, omitted. His wife, his not-real-brother Jason, his sister Jess. His mother.
There are pieces of me that still cannot believe this thing is true, pieces that wait for him to come walking through the door with his huge grin on his face, his laughter ringing out ahead of him.
His heart beat for the last time at 11:43 pm on January 27, 2020. I imagine it exploding into a million infinitesimal pieces, settling over each of us. I carry it with me. We carry it with us, his heart in our hearts.