As a little girl there was only one thing I wanted… a brother. When my Mom called that September day to tell me she had just delivered her fourth daughter (my third sister), I put down the phone, grabbed my pre-packed basket with all the necessities a four-year old could possibly need (white t-shirts, underpants (as we loved to call them then), my blanket (of course) and snacks) and off I went. I had warned my mother before she left that if she didn’t bring me a brother, I would leave. Granted, one couldn’t go very far on an island and by nightfall I was back home. But the longing for a brother stayed with me.
Nearly 9 years later, William Ashton was born. My world changed that day. You see, I was a determined and driven little girl (I mean I did run away from home at the age of 4) and dreamt of the Ivy Leagues and law school and thus children and being a mom was never really a thought. But then, I held my new brother just hours old for the first time. And my world stopped. The instant bond and love I had for little Will was like nothing I had experienced before.
From that day on, my life goal was quite simple… to be the best big sister I could be. I enjoyed every basketball game at The Club, little league games at The Delta Fields, pizza nights at Sophie T’s, just times together. As we both got older, I cherished visits to my apartment in Boston and proudly took Will to his first concert at The Orpheum. Moe. What a trip.
And then the unimaginable happened. I was walking down Charles Street that January night in 2008 and my world stopped. Again. My sister called to tell me that William had been in an accident and was taken to the emergency room. I looked at the time and realized there was no way for me to get home. The 7 pm flight from Logan was taking off in 10 minutes and the last boat was leaving Hyannis in an hour. I couldn’t get home to be by his side. Thirty minutes later, my mom called and told me that William was gone.
To this day, it is still difficult for me to comprehend that my sweet brother is not here. I will never see his smile or be the reason he laughs again. I will never see him graduate from college, fall in love, get married, be a father. I have written about loss before but nothing, even my divorce, compares. You know what I struggle with most… what were the last words I spoke to him. We had spent the holidays together and enjoyed our yearly ritual of going for a drive to look at all the Christmas lights. I remember him getting out of the car and opening my door to give me a big hug. Did I tell him I loved him then? Did I tell him how proud I was of him? I think so but I can’t remember. It still eats at me to this day.
I try to find peace in the written word and this past weekend, I picked up Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons. Her Short Guide to a Happy Life has always been one of my favorites. She writes “I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. This is what makes us human. This is why our world is so precious.” I have learned that the hard way. People often comment that I have such strength in going after what I want. I have my brother to thank for this. So let his passing remind you of this too. If you want something, fight for it. If you love someone, tell them. If you have wronged someone, apologize. Life is far too short to hold onto any fear.
And Will, thanks for continuing to shine your light on me. You were everything I ever hoped a brother could be and so much more. Can’t wait to see you again!