Saturday, December 31, 2005


Powerful Event 2005

There is a light rain here at home. It is a good time to write because I feel reflective. I am thinking to myself about the most powerful event in the year 2005. It wasn’t Katrina or my mother or the War in Iraq. It was the death of my brother, two years younger than I.

Barbara Kingsolver wrote “It’s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time”. During the wake, I was recounting a memory I had about Pieter and I to my cousin Carmen. My father’s friend Julio walked to the table where I sat with Carmen and asked me if I could stop talking while my relatives prayed. I snapped at him because it felt as if he did not respect my space in the home I grew up in. I said; go back to your prayers old man, “your praying does not minimize my need to talk about my brother’s memory”. He’d interrupted a soulful moment of honest expression to satisfy his sense of prayer decorum. He shrunk as we met eye to eye.

In March my brother died. In the middle of the day in my office, I was in a conference call with my client Chuck and John our PM. “Miles, my structural guy has concerns the building can’t handle the weight of your equipment selection.” Shit, this phone keeps going on give me a minute.” The calls coming in on my cell-it was my mother. “Miles, Pieter is gone.” “Where is he?” “Pieter he’s gone!” I thought “Dammit, I should’ve pulled the starter! He’s found his car keys. “Miles, you don’t understand, he’s gone!” Her tone pierced through my original focus. “Where is he? He was in the garage and I dragged him into the hall. I looked at John in my office and said “take care of this problem. I’m out of here!

It was difficult to think about things during this time. It hits you hard in the gut; like a fist to your heart. When I finally heard my mother’s cry, “Pieter, he’s gone!” I locked in and focused. I focused on the paramedics, police, crises intervention and the examiner. They all came when I called 911. I told the examiner he was an alcoholic. The creeping thought came over me…this “business of death” it gets in the way of grieving. When I finished with them, my tears flooded my vision and my heart heaved and wailed. I held his hand it was cold like his eyes, vacant to the world around him. Several days later we received news from the autopsy: He bled to death because of a breach in his esophagus. They believe it was due to the alcohol. It made his esophageal tissue brittle and prone to breaching. It was slow and physically painless death. Carmen placed her arms on my hand and asked me to continue…

It was earlier in March when I drove up in my vintage Ontario Orange 71 convertible Vette. I drug Pieter out from bed and chucked him in the passenger seat. He was still groggy but his eyes cleared as the unmistakable rumble of a muscle car’s engine breathed. All three hundred plus horses vibrated to life. First gear and then second gear planted us against the seat. It felt as if we were riding the engine of an overgrown go cart. The speed bumps on the road became digital dots and our hair resisted the wind. At some point we were on Hwy 52 enjoying the desert bloom and killing butterflies at 100 miles and hour far into El Cajon! There were thousands of them floating through the desert, migrating from Mexico. He told me I didn’t know how to drive. “You drive like dad-reckless! We were hearing each other that day. We talked over a wind that mumbled our words and burned our skin. On Kearny Villa Road, a dip scraped the cowl and the fucker laughed-the bastard! I didn’t notice at the time- it is a memory of my brother who I love and shared joy. Much sweetness was built around things like this. But with him too, I lived a thousand deaths and killed him a thousand times before I set boundaries. When we finished, the sense of quiet surrounded us as he cleaned my tires, and helped me wipe the bugs from my car. Little did I know, this would be our last drive together. It was another memory unnoticed at the time, built around “things”. At the Eulogy, others shared their memories too built around these things unnoticed in the past. I now relive them as memories.

Death is still a matter I cannot handle emotionally. I dont how I would react in such a case. But I believe the soul exists beyond death.
Hi Virus,

I've been forced to look at death and handle it with my abilities which I've found lacking. With Pieter, being present with him during his moments of lucidness enabled me to enjoy more good memories of him. I hope it is true in what you say about our soul existing beyond death. If in another dimension where this might happen, we could reminsce on how well we lived when we were physically present.
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