A blog I read pointed me at this interview with Stephen Colbert in Playboy
, and I read it -- cults, bears, interview guests, superPACs, and all -- because the quote they gave from the long interview was about one of the subjects I'll read pretty much anything about: dead brothers.
Colbert's father and two of his brothers died in a plane crash when he, the youngest of the family, was ten.
PLAYBOY: It’s been almost four decades since it happened. Does the grief dissipate?
COLBERT: No. It’s not as keen. Well, it’s not as present, how about that? It’s just as keen but not as present. But it will always accept the invitation. Grief will always accept the invitation to appear. It’s got plenty of time for you.... “I’ll be here when you need me.” The interesting thing about grief, I think, is that it is its own size. It is not the size of you. It is its own size. And grief comes to you. You know what I mean? I’ve always liked that phrase He was visited by grief, because that’s really what it is. Grief is its own thing. It’s not like it’s in me and I’m going to deal with it. It’s a thing, and you have to be okay with its presence. If you try to ignore it, it will be like a wolf at
I am drawn to people talking about their dead brothers for reasons not totally known to me but I suppose it's because losing a brother at what we've been lead to believe is such an unnaturally young age is a rare thing now; it doesn't happen to a lot of people, so it's easy to feel lost and bewildered and alone.
I remember just after Chris died, among all the well-wishes and expressions of love and concern -- touching and monumentally important though those were! -- the only person I could really stand to talk to was Hilary, Andrew's aunt, who told me about losing a brother a handful of years earlier. Her brother was about twice the age of mine, but it was still considered a tragically young death, and I think it was of something quite sudden too. I don't remember the details now, but I remember being grateful to have her to exchange e-mails with. It might seem like the most horrid way to cope with such a blow, by thinking about other people who've experienced similar horrible things, but it worked for me. She knew what to say.
I remember everybody telling me "I don't know what to say" and while (I hope!) I rarely if ever said anything as abrupt as this out loud, I always thought "Good." May you never know what to say. I wouldn't be surprised if the only way to know is to have it happen to you. Hilary knew what to say. My mom knew what to say when a co-worker's son of roughly my age died suddenly a few years after Chris did. Stephen Colbert knows what to say: "Grief is not the size of you," indeed. "It’s not like it’s in me and I’m going to deal with it. It’s a thing, and you have to be okay with its presence."
Sometimes I'm more okay than others, of course. Next week it will have been seven years since my brother died I'm not one for anniversaries -- I keep saying, he's no more gone that day than any other -- but it's hard on my mom. Thanksgiving is hard on her, and it being a floating holiday, so the date of his death and the holiday are sometimes on the same day and sometimes not, means each year is hard in a different way: last year they were the same day and she was particularly dreading that, but this year they're almost a week apart and that just sounds like an unfairly extended period of agony.
But then of course it's all unfairly prolonged agony. I think of the interview question Colbert got asked: It’s been almost four decades
... And of course it doesn't stop hurting, and I don't expect I will have stopped hurting after four decades or any greater number of decades that I might live. His story is part of my story.