Every Monday, I start my week by highlighting what makes me happy, because gratitude is the first step towards being happy. Some weeks, gratitude can seem hard to come by. It is then that it’s most important.
My little brother Jay is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence. Today, we go back to court for another sentencing hearing to find out if 20 years will be enough, or if another attorney in another county will demand more. More years, more decades, more of his life as payment for robbing banks.
I want to tell you that he didn’t use a gun. He didn’t have a gun, and I’m not even sure if he’s ever held one.
You’re not the judge, of course, but I still want you to know that.
I want you to know that when he was arrested, he told the truth. And just like many of you said at the time, just as the public defender who would eventually meet him at his first court hearing told my mom, telling the truth has caused him more harm than good, it seems. Those of us who told him that the truth would ease the burden on his soul live with our own guilt now.
I want, somehow, for you to understand why I still love my brother so much. Why I want him to spend as little time away from us as possible. Why I want him to get to be a dad to his son.
Coping with all of this has not been easy, and the passage of two and a half years since his arrest has not made it easier. I don’t know how to grieve a person that the world, or at least the law, says is not worth grieving. I don’t know how to do this right, how to let the pain live beside happiness.
My mom told me this weekend that there is no way to face this with zen, so I might as well quit trying.
I’m not sure I know how to quit trying anymore.
I’m stuck between my fear of the future and my fear of the present.
The only thing I know to do right now is grasp at gratitude.
Today, the scary unknown will give way to the new normal. With it, I am losing the hope of some unknown miracle that might make everything OK, and I think that is what has been bothering the most. But at least we will know, at last, what it is we’re supposed to be coping with. There is some small comfort in that.
Today, I will speak on behalf of my brother. I don’t know exactly what I’ll say and I’ve given up on the notion that I can somehow change his future, but it will be a matter of public record that I still love and support him. With everything else that has been said about him, it’s important to me that this is said, too.
Today, I will lean on those who love me. My husband, my mother and my brother Creed will sit beside me in support of Jay. They still love Jay, too, and it’s a comfort to be surrounded by that wordless understanding.
My girlfriends will be just a text or phone call away. They have cried with me and not judged. They have hoped for mercy on my behalf. I am incredibly lucky to count loving, wise women among my best friends.
My children will endure my extra hugs and maybe even my tears. My nephew will wrap his little arms around my neck, because I’ve earned the place of “safe person” in his life. The kids may be too young to lean on, but they hold me up just the same.
Today, my brother Jay will see his son, Jude, face to face for the first time. He may not be able to hold or even touch him, but he will see him, and not in pictures or over a video screen. Jude will see his dad for the first time and maybe sense a little bit how much he is adored.
And that is no small thing.
Update: Jay’s sentencing was postponed today due to conflict of interest with all the available judges who either knew Jay’s dad, a man with a criminal record, or my mom’s current husband, a member of the local law enforcement. The irony was not lost on us.
But Jay did get to see Jude up close, and it was at once blissful and heartbreaking. There were so many tears, both of joy and soul-level regret.
We also saw some of the victims. One women in particular was so angry, the hate practically rolled off of her. It was hard to see, as Jay’s sister and as a fellow human being. Her pain was clearly just as intense as Jay’s in that moment. I wonder if there is peace ahead for either of them.
What are you grateful for today?