I have never known what it was like to experience a great loss. Until last week.
When I was 6, my Great Nana passed away. She was 93 (I believe), and she lived a very long and happy life. I remember feeling very sad when she died, but I was also very young. Death wasn’t a concept I had wrapped my head around at that point. I do remember my mother grieving though, which surprises me, because of my age. I just remember her sitting in her rocking chair and crying a lot. I didn’t understand what grief meant then. I had no idea what my mother was actually going through. I just knew that I felt sad. My mom kept my Nana’s spirit alive, however. To this very day, I still feel her with me, all the time. And I truly believe she is with me, every day.
When you lose someone who is very young, though, and you lose that person tragically, I believe that the grief and mourning you experience is a different type of pain than the loss of old age.
When I was seven, my family moved from Medford to Stoneham. My Mom, Dad, Brother (James, but I call him Jamie – no one else does, except for my mom) and I lived on Summer Street, right behind South School. There was a little boy who lived across the street from us, who was the same age as my brother. His name was Dean. He and my brother quickly became friends – best friends. They were inseparable. Dean was always at our house, or Jamie was always at Dean’s house. Dean had a pool – I remember the two of them swimming all summer. My Dad took them to Red Sox games. They played baseball together in the back yard, or basketball at South School. They were always at The Boys and Girls Club, too.
My Brother and Dean stayed friends throughout the years. Dean had introduced my brother to Steve, Mark and TJ, and they all formed an immediate bond. They became a tightknit group, and they still are. In my own experience, middle school and high school friendships come and go. There are many people I was close with growing up, who I just lost touch with over the years. It wasn’t like that for Jamie and Dean, though. They stuck by each other, through it all. They stayed close through middle school, through high school, and after graduation. They weren’t just best friends, they were basically brothers. The bond that they shared with each other is rare, and beautiful.
Jamie and Dean are very similar. They both had the same sense of humor, and they were always acting silly together. The two of them would drive me crazy when we were younger, in the way that little brothers do. (I know Dean was not my brother, but that’s how I viewed him as – a little brother.) I remember one night, I think it was my 22nd birthday. My cousin Melissa and I had come home after a night of bar hopping, and I was dismayed to see that my house was full of people. My brother was having a party – on my birthday! I quickly kicked everyone out, or so I thought. I could hear people giggling in the hallway near the front door. When I went to investigate, there was Dean, hiding in the corner with a girl. He smirked and laughed when I saw them. “Dean!” I exclaimed, which just made him laugh more. He was silly and mischievous. His grin was so contagious, you couldn’t even get mad at him. You just had to smile and laugh.
Last week, I received a call that Dean had passed away. My first reaction was just shock. Then disbelief. I was at work when I heard, and I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t go home, so I took a short break and sat outside, trying to process what I just learned. I sobbed, still not fully believing it. Dean was the most kindhearted person, the most amazing friend – it couldn’t be true. My heart was broken – for Dean, for his family, for my brother. How would he get through this?
The wake and the funeral were very hard. I worried about my brother night and day, and cried for him. Dean was his Day 1, as he called him. Best friends since they were four years old. I knew how much pain he was in, and I wanted to take it all away. I still want to take it all away.
After the funeral, everyone went to Tulip to be together. I felt better seeing my brother with his friends – I realized that they were such a good group of friends, and they were all there for each other during this horrible time. I finally realized that my brother would be okay. He has a great support system. So many people had loved Dean so much, and they all came together to help each other through his passing. I also realized that even though Dean may be physically gone, he will always be with Jamie. Always. His spirit lives on, and I like to think of him as his Guardian Angel now.
I don’t want to think of Dean and be sad, and I don’t think he would want us to feel sad either. I want to keep Dean’s memory alive, in the happiest way possible. I want to remember the good times, and all of the wonderful qualities Dean had. In a way, it’s like we are keeping Dean alive in our hearts.
Dean, I’ve been praying for you so much. I know that you are in Peace now. You are with your mom and Dad, and you’re not in pain any longer. We all love you. And I know that we will meet again in Heaven one day.