I(Abbey) wrote the following one night when I couldn't sleep. I sit here, unable to sleep again. My words aren't pretty and probably don't flow, but that's kind of how our life feels right now. Somehow, life keeps going even though we feel like it's come to a screeching halt. The pain still comes to the surface, both my own and the sympathy I feel for those I watch that are hurting, changed forever. The experience of Jeff's brother Trae dying suddenly took our breath away, and somehow we are still breathing.
I can't sleep. As I try to close my eyes, the memory pushes itself to the front of my mind. I hear Jeff's voice, and I try to determine what's happened. I hear the sorrow and the shock. I hear him talking, not making sense. I take the phone from his hand and listen. Trae's dead, she says. Jeff is crying. He asks over and over if he's in a dream. I wish it was. Somehow the boys sleep through the pain being expressed.
Pain. I feel it. I see it. I sense it. I feel it in my heart and my stomach. Raw, gnawing sadness that at times makes it hard to even take a breath. Tears roll down my face at times I can't explain. Flashbacks keep happening.
I first met Trae in a parking lot at Northpark Mall in Jackson, Mississippi. Jeff and I had been dating, and we were meeting his brothers to go to the Mississippi State Fair. I didn't know what to make of this tall, red-headed guy that seemed nothing like Jeff. I was more worried about what he and Bobby were thinking of me. I marveled at how different all three boys were, and yet they had a bond. I can see the picture they took at the fair, in one of those old timey effect photographs. Trae's in the middle with his arms around both his brothers.
Trae weaved in and out of our lives, working offshore. We never knew if he would make a holiday or not. Lots of pictures of him on the couch at holidays. I hear his laugh. I can hear him telling me how he would play tricks on his brothers. Once he convinced Jeff he had whipped cream on his toothbrush, so Jeff willingly put a huge mound of shaving cream in his mouth. I hear Trae telling about wrecking a car. I hear him reflecting on his mom showing his picture at every convenience store in the county, almost challenging store clerks to sell him something they shouldn't. I hear him talking about going with his dad on runs to pick up bodies for the funeral home. I remember him driving to Nashville for a visit. We ate at Demo's, and he loved their steak as much as we do. I remember visiting his house boat, and thinking only Trae could live on a boat!
His love for Joshi and our boys was visible, especially when he got them New Orleans Saints jerseys. You never knew what Uncle 'Rae was going to get the kids next. I remember Reed's fascination with Trae's wound vac bag, and how he would let him inspect its contents. I see the boys inspecting the professional diving picture of Trae that he gave us that hangs on our wall. They wanted to be reminded what Trae's job was and how he did it. I remember one of the last meals I guess we had with Trae at Logan's. We were about to head out of town after Christmas, and we got to eat one more meal with him. For someone who wasn't a part of my everyday life, I knew Trae loved me and my family.
His life here is over. As Jeff says, if you asked him now, Trae wouldn't want to come back. This doesn't change the fact that we miss him. When someone asks me how I'm doing, even a stranger, I'm almost tempted to tell them. Going through pain is hard. Watching those you love suffer is even harder. Answering questions about heaven, and hearing little boys voices asking again where Uncle Trae is makes it harder. Watching a home be emptied, and possessions dispersed doesn't seem real. The pain lingers. The memories come and go. The questions go unanswered. Life carries on around us.
Losing Trae seems unreal. Love your family. Tell them. Visit. Don't take time together for granted. Prepare for your family in case something happens.
Memories matter; possessions don't. Focus on the important. Breathe in and out, even when you feel like you can't take another breath. Sleep won't come, but memories do.