Stepping off the airplane, the only concern I had was where the women’s restroom was located. I waited for a few minutes for my parents, who were sitting several rows behind me, to de-board the plane. One moment, I was concerned about where the bathroom was; the next, seeing my dad nearly stumble off the jetway towards me and wondering why this man, all 200 pounds of him, was having what appeared to be a complete meltdown. He was almost incoherent as he walked straight to me and said it: Dan. Dan died.
Confusion isn’t the right word. Complete bewilderment, denial, and outrage is what I initially felt. And that was just the first few seconds. Then, without seeing it coming, I fell to my knees.
I remember looking up and all around me. My mom was bawling. My dad was on the phone, trying to contact the morgue. The morgue where my brother’s body had just arrived to.
All the while, I’m on the floor, not sure for how long, and wailing. Then stopping. Then wailing.
There are crowds of people; we’re at an airport. A fucking airport. The pastor who’d been notified of my brother’s death was incessantly calling my family – while we were on the plane. Totally unreachable, for hours.
At some point I stood up, while still crying – when a police officer approached me. He looked somewhat irritated. He said “I’m sorry ma’am, but you’ll have to step aside. You’re making people nervous.”
I looked up at him, weakly, saying, “But my brother just died.” He said he was sorry, in a very unattached, insincere way. I walked away from him and found a stairwell to sit on. I remember feeling upset, sitting on those stairs. What the hell has happened? What is wrong with that cop? Where is Dan? He’s not dead. He cannot be dead.
The most profound moment of this hour, the hour that changed my life forever, was when I saw on my phone that my younger brother had been calling me. Repeatedly. Not because he knew – he didn’t know yet. But because he had been waiting for my parents and I to take him to dinner – with his new girlfriend.
My brother kept calling. We just kept driving towards him, to tell him, and to be with him. He called one more time right before we pulled into his driveway, I answered. And I said it. I could barely make out the words, and when I said it I could hear myself and knew I didn’t sound human. For some reason, and to this day I have no idea why, but I hung up, right after I said those words. Dan died.
We finally arrived to my brother’s place, and he got into the car with my mom, dad, and me. That was the moment. The moment it was now, forever, and always – just the four of us.
It’s just the four of us now.