Posted in Sister

Obituary

On my nightstand is a laminated clipping of my father’s obituary from the local newspaper, printed just days after his death.

I have held onto this piece of plastic that encases this clipping since I was two years old.  The paper has yellowed over the past four decades, despite the plastic protection.  The words on the opposite side of the page have bled through, but the words that matter are still perfectly clear.

I have held it in my hands so many times that I know exactly how sharp the edges are, how smooth the plastic face is, and now, in my adult hands, it is four fingers across in width.

There were nights when I was particularly lonely and swept up in my loss, when I slept with it in my hands.  I would wake and feel it there and be reminded of the sadness and heartache I felt as I was falling to sleep.

The obituary says so much, yet it omits so much more.

My father’s obituary reads:

Funeral services will be held Saturday for Arnal D. Bray, 26, who died in a Waterville shooting incident Tuesday night.

It does not tell you he was shot twice by his best friend.

A native of Waterville, Bray was born March 19, 1947, the son of R. and L. Bray.

It does not tell you his parents were scarred, with wounds so deep they wore them on the outside for their entire lives.  These people who believed in the good of others, who were always the first to offer help to someone in need, were shown just how cruel the world could be.

He was graduated from Lawrence High School, Fairfield, in 1967.  He was a member of Fairfield Lodge, 100F, and of the Shawmut Chapel.

It does not point out that he was twenty when he graduated, proof of his rebellious nature.

A veteran of military service in Vietnam, Bray was employed at Scott Paper Co.

It does not tell you of all he saw in the war.  It does not tell you that he saw babies die.  Women.  Men.  Old. Young.  All dead.  All covered in flies. It does not tell you that he struggled to process all that he witnessed.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. A. Bray of Fairfield; his parents, of Shawmut; one daughter, Nichole Bray, of Fairfield; two brothers, one sister … several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

It does not tell you that the hole he left behind was so vast. That each of the people, even those who were lumped as nieces, aunts, cousins, felt his loss deeply.  They felt the reach of the frightening world. They realized that harrowing things didn’t happen only to strangers.  They didn’t happen just in the cities, they happened in their small town, to someone they knew, to someone they loved, to someone they laughed with.  The world became a far more serious and somber place.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at L Bros. Funeral Home, where friends may call today from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.

It does not tell you the way my grandmother cried, the way her heart was more than broken…it was truly decimated.

It does not tell you how hard my grandfather tried to be strong for the family, his wife, his surviving children.

It does not tell you how my aunts and uncles did their best to support their parents, while they were falling apart inside at the sight of their parents’ devastation and heartbreak.

It does not tell you how another piece of my mother died.  It does not tell you I wasn’t there.  That my presence was never even up for discussion.

Bray.  Arnal D. — In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Shawmut Chapel.

This obituary does not tell you my father was magnetic, charming, funny, handsome, dynamic.  It does not tell you he would never be forgotten, never minimized, never truly gone.

I’ve often thought about the person who typed up my father’s obituary.  I’ve thought about him sitting at his typewriter, putting into words the most basic information.  The facts.  That’s what an obituary is.  Truly, just the most basic of facts.  There is no color, no emotion, no compassion.  Just dates, lists of family members, just facts.

The rest, well, the rest lies with those who have lost.


We Don’t Take it Lightly…

Erica E. Goode, in “The Secret World of Siblings, points out that “sibling relationships . . . outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship.  They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust.”

One of the scariest parts of introducing a second baby into our family was the thought that Katie would, even for a single moment, feel as though she wasn’t enough for us.  We worried that she would think that we somehow loved her less and that the love that we have for her would have to be shared with her sibling.

Having another baby was something that we were certain that we wanted to do, we were just cognizant of the fact that doing so could turn her little world upside down.  Our family dynamic was working for us and the thought of disrupting that was more than a bit scary.

In her article on siblings, Goode goes on to say that “[s]ibling relationships shape how people feel about themselves, how they understand and feel about others, even how much they achieve.”

Yes, sibling relationships are huge.  This relationship that they are building now is, to some degree, our responsibility. as their parents, to help nurture and we have always seen it as our role to help build the strong foundation of their relationship that will hopefully outlast us.

Thus far, we have been incredibly fortunate in that Katie truly adores Matthew.  He was the first person that she said “I love you” to without prompting.  She is gentle and kind to him.  She makes him laugh and smile and he just adores her.

For the first few months after we brought him home from the hospital, I was afraid that we had rocked the boat so much that we’d never again find our equilibrium.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  She loves him like she doesn’t remember life without him.  She has honestly never shown even an ounce of resentment.

While we were pregnant with Matthew, we talked a lot about how we would try to help Katie with the transition from only child (read: adored, complete focus of our universe) to one of two children.

Here’s what I think we did right:

1) We didn’t oversell Matthew.  We never told Katie that she would now have a playmate.  Realistically, it will be a long while before they can truly play together.  Instead, we told her that she would now have another person to love, who would love her in return.

2) We don’t ask her to entertain Matthew.  He isn’t her responsibility.

3) We don’t ask her to fetch things to help in his care, i.e. diapers, wipes, etc.  He is our child, not hers.

4) We maintained routines that were in place before Matthew was born.  We’ve always tucked her in together and we still do.  Craig has always gotten her up in the morning.  He continues to do this, as it provides her with predictability and reinforces just how important she is.

5) We each spend time with her one-on-one every single day.

6) We don’t compare them to one another.  While I’ve been incredibly tempted to say, “Look what a great eater Matthew is!” while she’s playing with her food, I resist the urge.

I believe that it is because we did things this way that Katie comforts Matthew when he cries, entertains him when he is bored, and kisses him for absolutely no reason at all.  These are things that she chooses to do and her love for him grows deeper every day.

I don’t profess to know all of the answers and we will undoubtedly have our ups and downs, but I like where this is going and it makes me feel good to know that we’ve laid some pretty solid groundwork for a healthy relationship between the two of them.

Having said all this, I am a realist and I fully expect that sibling rivalry will rear its head at some point.  They will bicker, argue, probably even pull hair and smack one another one day.  I am just hoping that if we continue to make every effort to help them to build a healthy relationship, they’ll enter adulthood as friends and not just siblings.

I would love to hear any additional ideas to help us minimize sibling rivalry.  If your kids get along well or if you have a healthy relationship with your own siblings, please leave your tips in the comments!  Our family will thank you for it.

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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