Forty eight years ago today my brother Rodney died. He was born premature and lived for 2 days. I've told his story before on these pages. I think of him every year on this day.
It wasn't always that way.
My mom was in a drunken, teary state when she told me she had no idea when he was born or when he died. She knew the month and the year but that's all. At that time he would have been 28 years old. What a long time for her to carry that alone. She didn't know where he was buried either. I had to go to my dad to find that out and then later I called the cemetery to find out his date of birth and death. And where exactly his grave was.
I promised my Mom a long time ago that I would buy a tombstone for his grave. This coming Spring I will be doing just that. I mentioned this to my mom when I saw her last month. A lone tear coursed down her cheek at the mention of his name.
The doctors told my mom the best thing she could do to cope with his death was to get pregnant. She did and then miscarried. Then she got pregnant with me. I was born at the same gestation as Rodney. We were 3 ounces different in birth weight. My mom said the nurses used to massage my chest with their thumbs to get my heart going again.
Especially because of Rodney's death I try not to take life for granted. On my birthday I thank God for another year, another breath, another step forward on the journey. Sometimes I feel guilty that I lived and he died. I know that's irrational thought but it still crops up from time to time. Other times I wonder if he would have been a protective older brother or another perpetrator.
There were many little silver numbered discs surrounding the area in the graveyard where Rodney is buried. Other little babies who only have a number to mark their life and death. Sometimes I wonder what their collective stories are and who remembers them still.