Friday, July 11, 2008

July 11, 1996

No, that’s not a typo. Twelve years ago today, the world lost (in bodily form, anyway) one if its most quirky, witty, and caring members. I’m thinking of you today, Hunter, and need you to know that.

Although your death was imminent that hot summer day in 1996, it still felt like the ground had been knocked out from underneath me when the nurse told me over the phone. Mom and Dad had gone home for an overnight to get haircuts and some fresh clothes—preparing for the influx of Atlanta Olympic athletes and fans soon to hit the city. The nurse’s station had to call Ellen for the name of another family member, but wouldn’t tell her what was going on. In retrospect, I’m sure she knew, but she called me at home to tell me that I needed to call the nurse’s station. “Mr. Patterson expired in his sleep last night.”

Deep breath. Not enough air. Another deep breath. I can’t breathe. God help me.

I called Joel for strength, then called Tom and Calli to let them know they should check in with Mom and Dad soon. And then I called and told my parents that you were gone--probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my 42 years.

But you aren’t gone, and you never will be. Even now, twelve years later, I know you are “with” us. Soaring by on the wings of the neighborhood hawk at times when we need it most, or even just to say hello on an ordinary day—reminding us to stop and enjoy the life that is now. You gave much to us when you were with us, and continue to give to us even now, entering into our daily conversations and our family gatherings, your absence louder than your presence, if that’s possible.

The only lingering, overwhelming sadness that I have now, twelve years later, is that our children—your nieces and nephews—don’t have you in their lives like we wish they did. I know in my heart of hearts that you can see them, and that you know them. But as hard as I have tried to keep you alive for them, I cannot. On the rare occasions they do speak of you, it’s as if you were some oversized, historic figure, not the uncle that I know you wish you could be. There are many reasons why your death seemed unfair, but that one hurts the most.

I wish I could hear you tell me what life is like on the other side. I’m sure it’s far bigger than we can possibly imagine. I wish I knew for sure that we’ll be together again—that our children will have the chance to really know you. But I don’t. While I do know and trust that all is well, and that all WILL be well, I don’t dare imagine death in my mind, lest I limit it to worldly knowledge. But I think I do know, deep within me, that you are still with us. You live on in us—in our memories, in our hearts, and in our lives. Not only through Mom and Dad and Tom and Calli and me, but through the countless number of people whose lives you touched.

You live on in and through and around us. But I sure do wish you were still here. I miss you, brother. See you on the flip side.

Your Baby Sister