When my brother was alive, he had a girlfriend whose name was Eva. She was in a PhD program at Duke studying something brilliant that had to do with the ocean, something like the way barnacles interact with certain paint types on the bottom of boats. I am sure this was not her main thesis, but whatever it was she was studying, it was certainly way over my head. She loved my brother and my brother loved her. They were in their early twenties and living in an apartment together near Duke in a neighborhood near Ninth St. in Durham, NC. I am sure that twenty two years later, this neighborhood has become trendy and overpriced, but back then it was just cool and affordable. The two of them would move to Beaufort, NC in the summers where Eva would continue her studies at the Duke program near the beach and my brother would work at the docks. They had a really nice life, one that was easy and the way it should be in your early twenties as you try to find your way. They made lots of great friends along the way and when my brother was diagnosed, these friends would become family as we all tried to navigate this foreign territory of dealing with fatal cancer in a twenty three year old healthy full of life young man.

Eva was a really special young woman. Her family was from Germany and she had a slight accent, I think she was probably born there, but I can’t remember. I remember her parents thinking that taking care of my brother was too much to expect while she was trying to work on her PhD, but she would not hear of anything else. She had an undying work ethic and an incredible sense of core value. She wasn’t going anywhere. She really cared for my brother and she really took care of him in their tiny apartments like a committed partner.

Ann, aka our mother, tried to take care of him, but she hadn’t had the experience of going through what being a mother was to a teenager since both of us had left to move in with my father, mothering was kind of lost to her. My brother tried to live with her when he was first diagnosed, but it was too stressful as Ann was freaked out. Any mother would certainly be freaked out at the prospect of losing your child, especially when you had already lost him once before because he moved in with our father when he was ten. Ann never really had the skill set in raising young adults; she really struggled with dealing with children who weren’t children anymore. So when Michael was diagnosed, she tackled the trauma head on, but as the sad novelty wore off and the harsh reality of Michael’s inevitable mortality became apparent, the grief became unbearable.

In my personal psycho analysis of Ann, pain and Ann were never a match. Pain for Ann meant flight, not fight and so flight was what she was good at. Her history was when the going got tough, we would move. I think probably always in search of looking to fill the hole with things and places and change. This had been going on since I was born so it is not because of my brother. Like all grief, when you run, it shows up over and over forcing you to move through it. The power of grief is in its refusal to allow you to circle around it. At least this has been my experience, but who am I? I can only speak of my own dealings with grief and I have knock on wood never lost a child.

Our mother in her dealing with the fact that her son would be leaving our lives turned her grief into blame. Blaming someone else for your personal pain is so much easier than facing the reality of grief at the moment. She became really resentful of Eva which of course as I write this sounds totally fucking crazy. One of Ann’s character traits that she learned from her mother for sure was the way she struggled with love coming at her. Love for Ann was with strings attached or never enough to go around. This seemed to be her own experience of love. Love would leave, love would desert, love was never good enough. Love was not one of those emotions to be totally trusted and Eva unconditionally caring and loving my brother put our mother’s blatant inadequacies front and center in the Snow White Magic Mirror. It was like Ann could never be happy for either of us being loved wholly and unconditionally by someone else. If she were reading this I am sure this analysis would jolt her. Perception is reality and for me and my brother recovering from the trauma of our parents terrible divorce and their behavior towards each other was clinging to each other deeper and more intensely. Losing my brother was the final insult to my mother and my fragile relationship. If there was even a thread of hope for my mother and I to repair anything, it ended when I showed appreciation for Eva’s care for Michael.

About ten years ago, my father tried to find Eva and I can’t remember if he did, I heard from her maybe when my father died or sometime that caused me to keep the envelope with her return address. I think I wrote to her and the letter came back with “unable to forward.” This past year I looked her up on Facebook and sent her a message. I didn’t hear back from her, thinking maybe my reach or my father’s reach drummed up some serious sadness that had long been put to rest. I think that recently finding all of my old writings about Michael coupled with my own son approaching twenty, this whole nonsense with Ann and my own cancer experience has put me in a time machine propelling me back to 1995. So in my EIGHT WEEKS TODAY piece, bringing back my reflections on the day my brother died, I put some universal flow out there in the planet.

So yesterday, it shouldn’t have surprised me when I got a note from Eva on Facebook. The note didn’t mention the writing, as a matter of fact, I don’t even think she had read it. She was responding to my message dated September 4, 2016 mentioning my son going to college on his first day. She being a professor, after all she is probably 47 now, and super busy seldom going on Facebook finally checked her message now that school is over.

After all this time on the exact time I rewrote the sadness of the day my brother died is the exact day I hear from Eva, I love universal flow, I am humbled by its power every single time it happens and so grateful.

I bow in appreciation.

Eva and Michael BC, the note I sent to Eva on sept 4, 2016, her reply to me yesterday on EIGHT WEEKS TODAY. 🙏

A self proclaimed lover of all things beauty, business + lifestyle, and a typewriter enthusiast, I write because it feels good.