Over the years I did everything I could to get back home. No matter where I was living, Chicago, Miami, New York, or LA, I would beg, steal, borrow and screw my way back home to my "family". That's how much I missed my brothers and sisters, nephews, nieces and my mom. But in the last twenty two years of living with my husband, watching our boys grow into intelligent, young men, I've learned what family really is. I've lost the two closest biological family members, tragically and far before their time. A big brother isn't supposed to live longer than his little brother. A favorite uncle should never outlive his favorite nephew. And yet, the best friends I ever had, who knew me better than anyone else in the world, who grew up knowing me their entire lives, are gone. And all I have left are the memories and the hope of reuniting with them in another realm, an afterlife. At age sixteen, my nephew attempted suicide. I used all my savings from stripping at a gay bar to put gas in my beat up 1978 Thunderbird, and had to stop ever hour to refill the power steering fluid, but I made the six hour trip to see him in the hospital. He never forgot that. I showed him what family means when I showed up that night. He would spend the rest of his life returning that gift to me. I can honestly say that I have not ever had an argument with my nephew Brian. And while I can reluctantly admit that my husband and I both forgot our 7th anniversary, I never, ever forgot Brian's birthday. It was yesterday, May 8th. He would have been 38 years old. Losing him has had a profound effect on me and how I view the world and people who claim to love me. I know what real, biological, family love is. I had it and now it's gone, but there's a ray of light at the end of this dark tunnel I've seemingly found myself in. Her name is Jamie, and she's Brian's little sister. Jamie and I have been getting closer for a few years now, but we are much closer now that we share the pain of losing Brian. I have had to do some incredibly hard things in my life. I've held my elderly cat and a few dogs in my arms and watched them draw their last breath, as the vet gave them a lethal injection to end their pain and suffering. The hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life was to be the one to tell Jamie that her brother had died. I will never be able to escape that memory.
I lost my hotel room deposit when I cancelled my reservation at the last minute. How could I attend Brian's funeral with the swarm of hate that started raining down on me before I could even pack my bag? I had posted on facebook that I supported Brian's wife Diana in all of her decisions, with regards to his funeral arrangements and final resting place. This outraged some of my siblings, especially Brian's mother Starliene, my sister. Star wanted to have Brian's body transported to Shelbyville, KY to be put on display for the public. Brian hated Shelbyville. He had way too many enemies there. I suggested that anyone who didn't think he was worth the drive in death, probably never drove to see him in life, so stay home because he knew how you felt about him. That brought me some unexpected backlash from a brother in law, who called, out of the blue, to insist that if I show up at the funeral I should be willing to hug my sister Star. Why in the hell would I want to console her? Her last words to Brian were so harsh that he called me two weeks before he died, literally sobbing. "My own mother said that 'm her biggest mistake in life and that I am dead to her". He said. Now, suddenly, Star wants to snatch his body from his wife, have it delivered to her desired location, like a pizza, and put on display, so that she can put on her Oscar winning acting performance and put out her "woe is me, donate money to my addiction" monologue. My brother in law was offended and started taking personal jabs at me. "Do you still bite your hand when you get angry?" he said. As a child I learned to bite myself whenever I wanted to hit my little brother. It's a running joke in our family. It reminded me of all the other running jokes in our family, and so I asked him if he got a job, learned to read or stopped pissing on my sister in the bed on occasion. He didn't like that very much. I doubt I'll ever see or hear from him again. And you know what, that's just fine with me. I'll take one real love over a million fake ones any day. But I wasn't going to Brian's funeral and allowing my presence to distract from the celebration of his life that took place that day. I'm not going to second guess the decision either. I did the right thing, although it was a sacrifice, it was made in his honor. He wasn't in that casket. His spirit is free, and he will always live on in my heart. I would trade places with him or my little brother who died, if I could. Life without them will never be the same for me.