Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Family: Reed

You might have noticed an additional name added to the queue at the top of my interviews the last few days. The truth is, it's not additional, it was part of the queue all along.

I sent this in an email to my siblings and a dear family friend a couple of days ago:

Something has been bugging me about my interviews, something that has nothing to do with your answers or anything YOU all did...

I want to address our brother Reed, but I don't. I don't want to deny that he still lives in my memory and that I feel he is still very much a part of my family. But I also feel guarded about what I share about him, because....well, I don't know why. Maybe because it's a subject that sometimes makes me cry...Or maybe because it's a somewhat complicated subject to approach on a blog, and doesn't need to be approached in that forum. But every time I looked at the list of names above our interviews, I felt wrong that I didn't include Reed's up there. Just incomplete and almost like I WAS being in denial or something, or being somehow fake.

The responses from my dear loved ones had one thing in common--they were compassionate and full of good ideas. The gist of what they suggested was--do what you will, we love you. And even better, a couple of them willingly shared memories of my brother Reed with me, memories that make me feel as if he's not really so far away, or that the time between now and when I get to see him again will go fast.

The fact remains that my brother Reed died when I was 9 and he was 17. It is something I don't write about, and don't much blog about except in rather roundabout ways. I don't mind talking about him--I love talking about him; I love him--but my thoughts and feelings for him are something quite personal to me, and....a blog is a very big space in which to disperse such things.

So it follows that I've thought for a long while about what I could possibly say about him, if anything, that would honor his memory and still give you, my dear friends, some idea of who he was. See, I have this bad habit. I tend to avoid talking about or working out things that cause me a less-than-manageable amount of emotional pain. If it hurts, I don't like it. But in the last several months of hard-earned personal growth that I have experienced (through blood, sweat, tears, and prayer), I have (I hope) gotten better at gently examining those things that are not as pretty to think about. Things that aren't comfortable. Things that make me even more vulnerable than I already feel I am. I read a quote a few days ago that hit me to the quick, especially in light of this recent endeavor.

"...[do not] sacrifice hope in order to bury pain. The Lord is the one who can heal all pain, and as we trust Him, He reminds us that we have everything to hope for."

I want to be clear: No matter my earthly pain over losing my brother, I have never and will never lose hope that I will see him again when my spirit leaves my body. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I know that my family will be complete again. My children will know my brother.

And though I know I don't need to publicize this in a public forum to make it real, I am choosing to openly express that I am forever blessed to be Reed's sister, and his life was a masterpiece in its own right.

I could never summarize him--just as I can never summarize my other siblings, and just as most people really shouldn't be summarized in the first place...but I am choosing to share a little of him, and a whole lot of my love for him, and I am pleased to celebrate his life.

* * * * * * *


When I was 7 or 8, we had some of that "ancient" computer paper--the really wide, large pieces of paper with the perforated sides? I would take the sides off and make little paper springs by folding them together in alternating squares.

Anyway, one day I decided to make a mailbox using this large computer paper. I taped a piece to my bedroom door, then taped three sides of another to that piece, and wrote on the front in large letters, RACHEL'S MAILBOX. I drew beautiful pictures on it, then sat down in my room to wait. After about five minutes of tense and excited waiting, I realized I hadn't told anyone about it. So I made the rounds through the house, letting everyone know I had a mailbox and if they had any mail for me to please direct it to my mailbox. Then I sat down to wait again.

As the minutes wore on, my patience waned, and my excitement turned to bitter disappointment. I sagged with the letdown. I wandered around the house, forlorn, wondering what everyone could be doing that was so important. I leaned in the doorway of Reed and Isaac's bedroom, where they were bent over their notebooks, drawing and laughing with each other. Reed looked up and quickly assessed my mood. "What's wrong, Rae?" I couldn't help but cry. "No one has given me any mail yet!" Reed smiled and said, "Hey, I bet if you wait just a little longer, you'll get some mail soon!" He sounded so sure that I had to believe him. I took to my room and busied myself with my miniature horses, quietly hopeful. Some time passed, and then--so quiet it was almost unmistakable--phith--the sound of paper against paper. I waited a moment in agony, and then opened the door, slid my hand into the huge sheets of paper and, shaking with joy, pulled out a beautiful piece of art.

He didn't stop there. Long after everyone else had (followed his example and) given me mail, he gave me another note.

And, distraught when I couldn't find these precious pieces of paper some months after his death, I prayed desperately, and my prayer was answered when I found them--intact and beautiful as ever--in one of the drawers of my desk.

I look at those letters from him and I see again the way his eyes lit up when I ran down the stairs and flung my arms around him to thank him. I see his smile and his handsome face, and I remember that though he is far away from me during the rest of my mortal life, his love, his impact, his imprint, never left.


Marie Photographie said...

I don't know what to say, except that this was absolutely perfect. And it sure did get me teary.

Qait said...

Incredible that in the 17 years of his life he really filled it with so much personality and adventure.
And I don't think it's just because that's all we have of him. He was just that kind of person, and if we had all...35,36? years of him now, he'd be all the more incredible.

Is that...strange to say? It feels incomplete. But I don't really have the...energy...to say more. I'm using it all to cry, to be honest!

Bridget said...

Rachel, I never knew you had so many wonderful siblings, let alone one that you lost too soon, but I am grateful that you opened up just a little to let us know something about each and every one of them. They are all wonderful jottings of your siblings and of course, the one of Reed gives me tight feeling in my throat as I can't imagine what it was like for your family, for you, at such a young age. Thank you for opening up to us and seeing through your eyes how special your family is.

Rae said...

Thank you for being the kinds of friends (and family, Q) with whom I CAN share something like this!

Sarah said...

When I saw the "mail" my breath caught in my throat. How incredibly touching this post was. I always love hearing of your family and even of Reed when you share about him. Beautiful!

camilla said...

He seems like he was such a wonderful big brother from all that you have shared about him. What a joyous reunion it will be someday!

Christine said...

I've loved your whole series of posts about your family but this one was a tear jerker. :) Beautiful writing as always.

Lara said...

I've never forgotten the conversation we had once in which you told me a lot about Reed. This story made me cry. What a wonderful brother he was (is)!

And, don't you think your Reed looks a lot like him? Maybe it's just the picture you put up, but I sure do.

Kelly said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! Cutest big brother, ever! I llove how you can see his creativity and sensitivity in those letters. :)

Also, what is it that makes Reed look just like your Reed? I was stunned by the likeness. His lips? His eyes? I totally see it.

Rae said...

Everyone, thank you (from the bottom of my heart) for your responses! Kelly and Lara--I do think my Reed looks like my brother Reed, the lips especially and sometimes the nose.

The Leishman's said...

Rae, beautiful post! I feel like I have a peice of him too. Thank you for sharing. His letters are so precious, and made me cry. What a sweet brother to be so sensitive to your feelings!
Love you, and your family!