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He is not here: Easter morning 2005

March 30th, 2005 · 3 Comments


Easter morning I woke early and drove to the library. There I placed a stepping stone for my brother Jim beside his tree in the island’s Cancer Awareness Garden. I’ve been waiting and wanting to do this for a while and Easter morning seemed an appropriate date.

To make the stone, I woke early Friday and went to work soon after sunrise, kneeling on the cold concrete of the garage. Into the wet cement I pressed twelve stones: six from the beach where we released my brother’s ashes in December and six stones I’d saved from the gravel river of our childhood home. I also added seven pieces of sea glass, one I found on the beach in December and the rest from Bainbridge.

I spelled out words with tiles. Perhaps writing by hand would have been preferable but not as legible. I seem to have difficulty making the mix the right consistency for writing. I wanted the words to be clear, to express my love and memory of my brother.

Jim had three brain tumors in his life. The first one announced itself when he was a toddler. Removing the tumor and treating him with chemo and radiation affected my brother’s brain in irreparable ways. He lived the rest of his life developmentally disabled, or what was termed at that time mentally retarded. Jim didn’t speak normally. My brother also ended up significantly short in height. His difficulties were evident to everyone.

When he answered the phone, my brother would say Jim is there. At least that is what I remember from a period of our childhood. Once someone has died, the past is no longer shared. I can’t be corrected. Whatever I remember becomes the truth for now.

Jim is there. A sentence that brings to mind my brother. Both alive and dead. I can still see him talking in the kitchen of our childhood home, the yellow cord dangling down from the wall high above his head, Jim pressing the receiver against his face, speaking his short dialogue, difficult to decipher. Again I am in college, sitting on my bed, holding the phone to my ear, hoping for a glimpse of his world across the miles that separate us, hoping we can still somehow communicate although apart. In San Jose, years later, I am listening to him on the phone as he is sick for the last time with the last tumor, savoring each sentence in my memory because the words are few.

Jim is there. The atoms in his ashes by now have become part of the beach. So perhaps one could say he is there, in the sand and sea of the Olympic Peninsula. But he wasn’t in his body. He borrowed some atoms for a while as a storage case for his soul. Once his body stopped breathing on that December morning years ago, he stopping living here.

Jim is there. He is not here. One passage often read for Easter quotes an angel in the tomb telling the women who had been hoping to prepare Jesus’ body with spices: He is not here; he has risen! I don’t know exactly where Jim is. What happens to the soul, whether resurrection is immediate or delayed, whether we go to heaven now or later, I don’t know. But I know that because Jesus was not in his tomb, so also my brother is not where his body was placed. Someday I will see both of them. Someday I will be there too.

Tags: jim

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Earth Girl // Mar 31, 2005 at 4:39 am

    Thank you for sharing this. Mom is now there too, even though Jim and my mother had very different atoms as temporary storage cases for their souls.

  • 2 Hamburger lad // Mar 31, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    Beautiful. Just… beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.
    He is risen indeed!

  • 3 Mike Marden // Apr 2, 2005 at 11:07 am

    Thank-you very much. I lost my older sister a year and a half ago after a long battle with cancer. Although I wasn’t able to get up to Washington to see her these past five years, we talked often on the phone, and I could tell toward the end that it was hard for her. Fortunately she had been the head intensive care nurse at the hospital, and the staff made sure she was comfortable. I know that wherever she is now, she can feel the sun on her face and the wind in her hair.

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