Tomorrow, (or today, depending on when you read this) the 18th of February is a milestone in our family.
One year ago, on that day, my brother accidentally shot himself and died. It was tragic, shocking, heartbreaking for his wife and children, and his extended family, his brothers, sisters and mother.
Milestones are hard, they are reminders of the pain and loss that we thought had gone away. They are what they are and we have to deal.
Every time something significant in the Old Testament happened, the protagonist would create a milestone, or a standing stone of the event.
When Jacob dreamt about the ladder with the angels descending and ascending up on it, when he awoke, he set it up as a standing stone or a milestone. “'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it'....then Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it." Genesis 28:17-18.
Dictionary.com defines a milestone this way: "a stone functioning as a milepost; a significant event or stage in the life, progress, and development of a person, nation, etc."
The death of a family member may not seem like it would promote progress or development, but I believe it has.
Through his death I now realize just how important relationships are. I'm not afraid to tell people that I love them. Not just family members, but friends. Some people look at me like I'm nuts, but I feel these emotions deeply and I'm not afraid to say it.
Because Clarence is gone, I'm ever mindful of the role that my husband Bear plays in my children's lives. They need both parents. All the time. Not just on the weekends, or when you aren't burdened down with duties and projects at work. I have felt the hurt when my nephew has had to step into the role of his father and walk his sisters down the aisle to be married. I've watched as he has taken over as the patriarch of the family. My nephew is an amazing man and certainly qualified for the job, but I believe he was handed the baton too soon.
Because I feel the loss of my brother in my own life, I am aware of my children's feelings toward their brothers and sisters. I try to instill in them how important it is to really love each other; for one day, we will have partings among us too. I want them to always know how much they are loved.
It is because of the example of my dear brother that I write this blog. He was my encouragement. He was my source of strength when I thought that my writings weren't good enough. It didn't matter to him. He thought what I had to say mattered and so he gave me the boost I needed to submit an article for publication.
So, tomorrow I will set a standing stone in remembrance of a family member. February 18th will be the standing stone. The milepost. That date on the calendar will say to me, "We have come this far. We have hurt, we have cried, been enraged, but we have grown. We will move on from the hurt and pain. We will overcome."
My dear brother, I was angry, I was in shock, I was hurt, I mourned your loss. But because of this milestone, I will remember, and I will be stronger for knowing you.
(You can read the eulogy I gave at his funeral here.)