Last week, my step brother died. It’s a fact he was excited to hear about.
When it happened, I was sitting at my parents’ kitchen table with my head in my hands, trying to digest the events of the last few days. Vignetted memories surged through my mind of the smiles, the laughs, the hugs, the tears from my going away party; of delicately peeling the stenciled decorative letters off my walls that declared “Live, Laugh, Love” and packing my life into a few plastic bins; of driving out of Santa Barbara and up the familiar coastline with a haze over the deep blue horizon that matched the fog in my head. I tried to cry, but I couldn’t.
I hadn’t been able to cry since that strange moment during my last day of work.
My coworkers–who apparently have paid attention to me all these years–could not have thrown me a more appropriately themed party, and so we had a room full of cupcakes and champagne. Champagne! At work! I should go away more often! I’d say I’d never before drank at the office but that would be a lie, since there was that one time I brought a half gallon of my home brew to share with my coworkers– except no one decided to show up that day, so I proceeded to sit at my desk and drink it myself… But I digress.
(Obviously), I fully imbibed in all the party’s treats and after a while I
stumbled stepped into the courtyard with a sugar high and a champagne buzz. En route to the ladies room, I passed the same rose bush that gave me a bit of an epiphany before and now I swear that there is some sort of vortex in the universe that triggers profound realizations about life in that courtyard, because it happened again.
This time, it was a camellia tree.
While walking, a wilted flower bud dropped from the tree and landed in front of my feet, stopping me dead in my tracks. For reasons I can’t explain (okay, the champagne may have had something to do with it), I stood there, silently gaping at the delicate pink petals on the ground before me and it occurred to me how very symbolic it was. My last day of work was the end of a chapter, the closing of a season; much like this flower, a beautiful part of life had run its course and was making room for new growth. It is a natural part of life, and new blooms will inevitably grow, so there is no need for sadness. I was overwhelmed by the significance of it all.
Really, though, who gets drunk and somehow finds metaphorical significance in a plant? I will never understand how my own brain works. Regardless, it implanted (pun intended- ha!) in me a seed of confidence, and reassured me that I’m doing the right thing. I suddenly experienced a sensation of peace and the corners of my lips turned up into a contented smile. Thank you, universe, for giving me the sign I needed.
And so, as I sat at the wooden table letting the thoughts and emotions of recent events wash over me, I received the phone call that Seth had had complications during his heart surgery. Something had gone wrong; his heart had bled out and stopped, and he was technically dead for nearly an hour as they hand pumped his heart and attempted to resuscitate him. As he remained in critical condition in the ICU we feared the worst, and the following days became a blur of green hospital scrubs, breathing tubes, beeping machines, and strained faces. Slowly but surely, though, he came out of it and is now in recovery mode.
He has no memory of the entire incident and recently asked his mom, “Did I die?”
She tearfully replied, “Well, yes…” and his immediate response was, “YESSSS!”
Because now a whole host of zombie jokes are his for the taking and he can brag to people he is so powerful that he came back from the dead… I can’t blame him, that’s some good material. Yet I can’t help but think that his life is going to be different now. Nobody can go through an ordeal like that and not acquire a new perspective on life. Whether he knows it, likes it, wants it or not, his life has been forever altered and he is now entering a new chapter of life.
Meanwhile, my other step brother’s wife had a baby last weekend, and my little sister celebrated her birthday. All of us within our little family are experiencing new beginnings in varying forms, and it is a reminder of the beauty, challenges, and perpetual forward flow of life in all its inevitability.
The last week was not quite what I had envisioned for my final stay in the country; I’d hoped for long, relaxing days spent reading in the California sunshine and drinking wine with family by the evening fireside. But perhaps, on top of everything else, this experience has served to reinforce the concept that I cannot count on life to go how I’ve expected. If I’ve learned nothing else in the last year and a half, at least I have come to understand that life rarely goes according to plan and I must be flexible in accepting the situations that face me.
Now, more than ever, I am ready for Korea.
Special Note: Please donate blood. The units of blood they pumped into my step brother’s veins while his heart was stopped helped to save his life. I’m not a huge fan of needles, but I’ve now seen firsthand the difference some of my blood can make. Want to be a hero? It doesn’t take much. Please go to United Blood Services and find out how you can donate blood to save a life.