Tomorrow would have been my brother’s 34th birthday. He left us one cold January morning almost four years ago, and I miss him. Almost every day I drive the car that was his, with the temperamental gear shift and the bipolar speedometer The plastic Bengals football he hung on the rear view mirror is still there, and his sunglasses in the odd little compartment in the dash right next to the dimmer switch for the headlights. And I miss him. I finally threw away the roll of duct tape he left on the back ledge (a few summers baking in the sun had turned it into a gummy mass), but the small plastic tub of various bottles of car-related fluids & Febreze is still in the trunk. I hate the smell of Febreze, but I still can’t bring myself to throw it away. It was my brother’s, and I miss him.
Four years is a long time. You can get a college degree in that time. You can fall in love, get married, and have your first child in that time. You can change jobs, change residences, change all kinds of things in that time. It is strange to me to think that there are people in my family now who have never met Jacob, and never will until (hopefully) they join him in heaven.
It’s true what they say about time healing all wounds. The pain of losing Jacob is less intense now. There are some days I don’t feel it at all, or only in the, “Oh, I wish I could tell him this!” sort of way. I wish I could tell him about Disney buying Star Wars, and find out what he thinks. I wish I could see him hold Sweet Pea or the Little Philosopher or Big Brother’s baby just once. But sometimes the hard days still come. Tomorrow would have been Jacob’s 34th birthday, and I miss him.
Lately, while missing Jacob, I have been thinking about the stars, particularly about the constellation Orion. I have always loved that particular constellation. It’s the only one I can always find in the sky. I can’t even find the Big Dipper reliably, but I can always find Orion. When I was a baby Latin scholar in high school I learned Orion’s story, and something about it captivated me. When I took the trash out on clear winter evenings, I would look up, find Orion high above me, and say hello. And then, the first Christmas after Jacob died, the gift Aunt C gave us all for Christmas (since she could not give the gift directly to Jacob) was that she had arranged to have a star named for Jacob, and it happened to be in the constellation Orion, right on Orion’s shoulder, not far from the brighter star Betelgeuse. It was perhaps the best present I’ve ever received.
I still have the star chart that I got from Aunt C that night, though it’s gotten a little battered as I’ve kept it around trying to figure out what to do with it. I wanted to display it somehow, or do something special with the constellation. For a while I thought about embroidering it on a piece of dark cloth, and then framing it, or doing something else similar. I even went so far as to look up a star chart for the sky at the time when Jacob died, only to discover that at our latitude Orion was below the horizon and therefore not visible. After a while I found the right frame for the star chart, so now it’s ready to hang, which is good and satisfying. But there was something in me that still wanted something more, even if I didn’t know what.
And then a few days ago I saw a blog post talking about a new lace shawl pattern. The shawl itself is actually a star chart, with the stars in the sky marked by eyelets and beads. I looked at the chart of constellations that the pattern designer includes so the knitter can see exactly what she’s knitting, and there was Orion down at the bottom center, clear as day. And I thought, “I could knit that, and add one special bead for the Jacob star, and it would be a very good thing.” And, you know, I think I will. I don’t think I can do it now. There’s just too much Christmas knitting & crafting to get through. But maybe in January, when Christmas is over, and the anniversary of Jacob’s death is at hand, maybe then I’ll be ready to start something warm and comforting that is also a remembrance of my brother.
In the meantime, the next few days are probably going to be a little rough. But that’s ok. We’ll get through them, and all will be well. It always is in the end.
Happy birthday, Jacob. I miss you.