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What Comes Next

By: Diane Cameron

Diane Cameron is an award-winning journalist and speaker on recovery and personal growth. She is the author of two personal blogs: “Out of the Woods”—for women in long-term recovery, and “Love in the Time of Cancer”—for couples and caregivers. Diane teaches on topics related to the history and politics of mental health and recovery. Her newspaper column on popular culture appears in the Albany Times Union and in newspapers across the country. “What Comes Next” offers ideas, suggestions and provocative perspectives for men and women who have 10-plus years of recovery and reveals the continued emotional and spiritual growth that occurs with long recovery.

The Easter Brother

(not rated)

Apr 04, 2012

I consider the following to be quite telling about my own personality: I never believed in Santa Claus. I never, even as a little kid, imagined or believed that a man would go house to house in a red suit and bring toys to boys and girls.

I did, however, believe—until I was 10 or maybe even older—in the Easter Bunny.  In my own defense I have to explain that we lived near the woods and I saw all kinds of rabbits, little baby bunnies and distance-covering jackrabbits, all the time. But more importantly I had two older brothers who, as only big brothers can, facilitated my belief in The Easter Bunny. Bert and Larry would talk just slightly out of my earshot about The Bunny. “Don’t let her see him,” and “Did you see the basket he left next door?” They also, to make it more convincing, put bite marks on the handles of our Easter baskets.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.com

My brothers died when they were 42 and 48. Now, I’m the oldest. At Easter I miss them. I miss having an Easter basket from Lar who—even as an adult—made me one that included the bunny’s teeth marks to remind me just how naïve I had been. And I miss our sibling tradition of finding the family “King Egg.” As Easter approached we would each decorate our own hard-boiled egg, fortifying them with dye and crayon and competed (Bert and Lar were both went on to become engineers) by ramming our colored eggs together to see whose broke first.

I also miss dressing up for Easter services, complete with new dress and corsage. The three of us continued to go to church on Easter even when we had walked away from organized religion. We kept this holiday because we all liked the uplifting Easter hymns like “Up From the Grave He Arose.”

I kept going to church on Easter even as, and after, Bert and Larry were dying because those Easter hymns gave me a weird hope.  It was not a hope of miraculous recovery for either brother, or necessarily for a reunion in the “Great Beyond,” but hope for my own  “arose” from the heartache of losing my brothers, my playmates, co-conspirators and occasional torturers.

One of my final conversations with Bert was about my car. I was 40 years old and well into my recovery but still easily defeated by car worries.  Larry, who was then sick, was caring for Bert who was dying, and I called their house in tears to report the impending death of my car. Larry, who was on the phone with me, relayed the mechanic’s opinion to Sig who was lying in what would soon be his deathbed.

Lar said to me, “Bert wants to talk to you.” I was surprised because Bert’s speech had become painful and very difficult for him. I waited until Larry positioned the phone for Bert to talk.

“Here’s what you tell them …,” he began, and he proceeded to dictate a set of car repair instructions to convince any mechanic that I knew a nut from a bolt, and that this girl had a brother who would not see his sister taken for a ride.

Apart from any theology, and because of years in recovery have let me see so many lives saved, Easter lets me believe in the resurrection of my family, of my all too gullible girlhood self, and in a life that rises, falls, rises and dies over and over as we each cycle through layers of loss and gain.

 

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