The longest week of my life started Wednesday, March 19th at 2am, when I received a Facebook invite to my friend Jeremy’s wedding. It was on Monday, March 24th. A normal person would start panicking and immediately decline (“Grrrr. You didn’t give me enough time!”). But not me–I’m excited. My first wedding as an adult! The last wedding I went to was in 2005. I was in fifth grade. So I immediately said, “Hell yeah!” and started planning. I planned what I was going to bring, wear, and say. And in the midst of all this, my brother received some frightening news.
A little over a month ago, my brother started dating this Olympic-level gymnast named Bri. Two weeks ago, she went to Arizona for the Olympic pre-trials, and suffered a bad fall. She broke two ribs, her wrist, cracked two vertebrae, and had a concussion. After doing back surgery, Bri eventually came back home to Indiana, seemingly fine albeit drugged from all the pain medication.
On Thursday at noon, my mother called. She said that Bri suddenly had to go into surgery because she couldn’t feel her legs. They thought the doctors hadn’t fixed her back. The doctors also had to relieve pressure on her brain. When my brother heard the news from her cousin, he immediately freaked out, said Mom. There was a chance she wouldn’t survive the surgeries.
I remember telling myself I would pray. As an agnostic, I usually find praying to be hypocritical. I personally feel odd trying to ask for leniency or consideration from a being I tell myself I have no knowledge of. It was the only thing I felt I could do. But I soon forgot about it in view of the enormous amount of homework I had, and the personal statements I needed to write. I called my father. He told me her first surgery went well, and they were transferring her up north. So I went to Starbucks without my phone, and worked until 11pm. Arriving back at my dorm, I picked up my phone and felt sick.
Missed phone: Mom. Missed phone: Mom. Missed phone: Mom. Text: Mom Missed phone: Dad. Missed phone: Dad. Missed phone: Mom. Text: Mom. Missed phone: Mom.
I read the texts.
“I’ve been trying 2 get hold of u. Nate’s in bad shape. Bri’s passed away. He’s devastated.”
“Can u call us? He needs u. I don’t know if I can take care of this by myself.”
I called her, scared to know more but understanding it was my duty.
“Hey. I’m sorry,” I said.
“It’s okay.” She was oddly calm.
Bri had gone into shock during her second surgery. The brain surgery was fine, oddly enough. But her back surgery was the turning point. When my brother heard she died, he broke down. My mother was so upset, she started crying over the phone.
I talked to my brother for a little bit. But I could not think of anything comforting. What do you say when someone’s world sustains a crack that size?
After almost an hour, I ended the conversation, saying I would be coming home Friday afternoon.
That night, I could not get to sleep. I wrote One Fan is Different and went to bed at 5am.
Everything was cloudy. Not just the weather, which was once again cold. Each building, each car and street sign had a shadow on I-69. I tried not to feel anything. My father, on the other hand, seemed so nonchalant it was insulting. Perhaps it was because he’d been a funeral director. Maybe after so many deaths, they stop becoming people and start becoming bodies. Things to pity and bury.
Nate was different. He was cloudy too, I could see. I did not expect him to be sunny, per say. I do not know what I expected, but it was not this anxious, unable-to-eat Nate. It was not this Nate who paced to hear funeral arrangements and guarded his phone.
On Saturday, my great aunt Mary had her 85th birthday party. My whole family decided to go, though my parents have been separated for 13 years. I was once again angry at my father, who told his family what happened. Why should they know? It would only produce unwanted pity.
But by the end of the day, I was glad they knew. It would have been difficult explaining my brother’s distance and sudden tears, and his obsessive texting. There was something wrong. Her mother, who on Thursday promised to have a funeral service for her in Indiana before cremating her in California, was not returning his messages or calls. I am glad they were there to support him.
It was all explained the next day. Mom and I were fixing lobster–a rare treat for us, done for Nate. Mom sent him to the store for lemons, and when he came back, his face showed something. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“She isn’t bringing her body back. They cremated her.”
It was the saddest outcome we could expect. He couldn’t do anything but cry for awhile.
On the wedding front, I was prepared. I bought baby clothes as wedding presents, and bought hummus, pastry puffs and mushroom turnovers. I invited my father to the wedding in case there weren’t a lot of people.
We were very glad we decided to leave early, because the groom, Jeremy, changed the venue to the bride’s sister’s house thirty minutes before the wedding. I should explain that this was the weirdest wedding I’ve ever and will ever encounter. I call it a potluck wedding because the literally said, “Can you guys bring food? We are short on cash, thanks.”
Jeremy and Sylvia were 22 and just welcomed a baby boy to their family a month ago March 1st. I was more dressed up than either of them, which made me feel weird. And the “priest” was in a t-shirt and jeans. We waited for an hour so the last guest would arrive, but I’m glad we waited.
They did the ceremony in the living room, a room so small that 25 people could not fit–some had to stand in the kitchen walkway. But it was homey, and after awhile, I got used to everything. I also got to hold a 3-month old baby boy! He cried for most of it, but hey.
I. Am. Exhausted. I am starting a new job in two days, I am rehearsing for Vag Mon all this week and next, and my life goal right now is to sleep 9 hours. But if my class on religion has taught me anything, it is that without suffering, you would not survive. Trials and pains are what drive us to seek shelter and food and companionship. So I will try to get through it all as best I can.
Thank you for listening,