I believe that being lonely and being alone are not the same, and that sometimes the most comfort can come from being alone. When my 27-year old brother suddenly died, he left behind a baby, a young wife, and a sister who was 2000 miles away from home – me. Sure, there were others. Parents, friends, other siblings… but they all had someone. I didn’t. My brother was my source of friendship, inspiration, confidence, counsel, and love when I arrived to start college in a city I didn’t know. He was the Familiar to me, and he was enough of it to make me feel grounded, safe, confident.
When the call came, Monday morning at 7:35 a.m., Mom was matter-of-fact. I made her repeat herself three times. A fog settled in my mind, and I felt numb. Dead? I mentally listed the reasons why he had to still be alive. I had just seen him the night before last. We had talked all night until dawn. We were going to see a concert tomorrow. He had a baby and a wife who needed to be taken care of. And me. He couldn’t leave me. He couldn’t.
Many people seek comfort in the warmth of a hug, a conversation with a dear friend, the love and support of family, a few drinks or indulgent food or exaggerated social interaction for an escape. I ignored the reality for a couple of days, going to nightclubs and parties all night long, skipping classes, and hanging out with friends. I barely slept. The fact that finals were upon me mattered little. I lost weight and dark circles engulfed my eyes.
I couldn’t stop the weekend of the funeral from approaching. Family arrived from thousands of miles away. My world turned inward as they all reached out to each other. Didn’t they realize I was the one who needed my brother? Didn’t they? And now I was alone.
The funeral service was bland and empty. I had a hard time facing the gravesite. My ears rang, my eyes burned with salty tears, my heart pounded through my shirt, my hands clenched my skirt by my knees and every muscle of my body tensed as I stared at the casket hovering above a huge, gaping hole in the ground. No matter how much mental power I exerted, willing him back to life, he was gone.
Everyone disappeared, returning to their normal lives. I sat in my dorm room, alone. I listened to the quiet hum of the heater. I looked out the double-enforced window designed to prevent people from jumping to their death. I shuffled my feet on the industrial carpet speckled with hues of green, blue, brown, grey, and yellow. I let my eyes blur out of focus, and my mind caught hold of the words my brother had uttered just days earlier: “Sometimes the most comfort can come from being alone.” I believe he was right.
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