This week my blog is being taken over by Jessica Charles. This from Jessica: I am Corporal Joshua Alexander Harton’s Big Sister. I am his sister and I protected him his whole life. That is until September 18th, 2010 when a bullet from Taliban’s rifle went through his neck, cutting his carotid artery, moving through his torso and destroying organs and finally leaving his body at the left hip and shattering his Kevlar armor. I am Josh’s sister and I need you to know that my little brother is dead and my epic life will never be the same again.
I lost something the other day. It was something small but very important to me. I lost the locket I had made with my Gold Star lapel pin. The bevel broke and I am fairly sure it is somewhere in my house. With the added trouble of a two year old who may have helped misplace it I am at a loss over my lost item. Where is it? Will I find it again? How could I have been so careless?
But, then I think, well it is just a thing. It probably will turn up in the next month. If it does not surface, I had it insured and I can have another one made with only a deductible and a scolding from my husband.
I did not lose my brother. He is not somewhere in the back of my closet in the spare room we never use. He isn’t misplaced. He isn’t replaceable. He is dead.
When someone asks me “How I lost my brother?”, I feel very uncomfortable. I know they mean well, I know they are trying to soften the blow of the real question (How did your brother DIE?). But the truth is, I did not lose my brother. It wasn’t my turn to watch him and I turned my back for just one second….then he was gone. No, my brother volunteered to do a dangerous job, and in doing that job, he was killed. I can’t emphasize how much that does not equate to the word ‘lost’.
When I am asked about my ‘lost’ brother, I get defensive, which really means I get snarky (love that word!). The response is, “Oh, he isn’t lost, I know right where he is, the hole in the ground where I put him”. Or, maybe something like, “I lost him while we were playing hide and seek, he is a sore loser and went all the way to Afghanistan so I wouldn’t find him”.
I mostly don’t say those things, not aloud anyway. Like I said, I KNOW that people are trying to be kind, we just aren’t very good at it. We want to soften the blow of harsh unchanging words like died, death, killed. Only, the words we use do not mean what has happened. I didn’t lose my brother, he did not pass me like two ships in the night, his life ended and mine continues.
When you say lost, I know that you are uncomfortable with what we are talking about. So am I, friend. It is uncomfortable to wake up every day knowing I am again a little older than the previous 15 months difference that separated my birth and my brother’s. It hurts, but your words do not add to my pain.
There is no nice way to say that someone you loved has died. I recommend that you don’t spend too much time trying. Instead, try asking me about my brother’s life, about his smile, or my favorite shared memory. Ask me about how he lived. Because I will never be snarky when answering those questions.
He is my brother and I can never lose him, but I will be happy to share him with you!