I have been sitting here trying to figure out what my first blog post will be. What should my style be? What tone should I use? All that kind of stuff is bouncing around in my mind, and starting seems very overwhelming. For weeks people have been asking me to start this thing, and so here I go…now I have to type something. As my wife, Shannon would say I have an opinion on everything, so this should be easy. Well, it is not! This blog is going to be a story about change and family, but before we get on with that, I should tell you all about Hawaii.
Shannon and I went to Hawaii last summer; it was a reward trip she earned through her sales job (I am a very lucky man). We had been there once before, liked it, thought it was beautiful but never had a strong urge to return. We travel a lot and probably take for granted some of the trips we go on. Our indifference on going back was not a slight on Hawaii but more about we like to always go to new places. Thankfully, the second chance to go to Hawaii opened up the door for us to explore places we had missed the first time, mainly Pearl Harbor. Shannon had given birth to Birdie about seven months prior, the arrival of the second child was amazing but like many couples adjusting to the second child came with some stress on our relationship. We were beyond excited to be a family of four but finding that family rhythm took us some time to find. So we were excited to have some time one on one time together.
We arrived in Hawaii, hopped in a Jeep Wrangle and spent a couple of great days in an Airbnb on the North Shore of Hawaii, driving from beach to beach, eating at the local food trucks, trading travel stories with our 67-year-old surfer-lady host. I can only speak for myself, but I felt alive and energized. Hearing how our host had hopped a freighter to the Pacific rim when she was in her early 60’s planted a seed in my mind that there was more out there than just work, home, work.
On my birthday we said good-bye to the North Shore and drove down to Honolulu and met up with some of our travel friends from Shannon’s work. We spent the day at Pearl Harbor I have always been fascinated with WWII and to be in Pearl Harbor and see it first hand was an amazing experience. I was overcome with all this emotion and curiosity, and it was much more somber than I naively thought it would be. While standing at the memorial above the USS Arizona, you can’t help but be caught up in the fact that you are standing above a sunken tomb. It is POWERFUL and MOVING, one f the best experiences of my life. After a long day of sightseeing, we spent that evening celebrating my birthday in the restaurants and bars on Waikiki Beach, telling stories, laughing, drink champagne and just having an unforgettable time. We woke up the next morning slightly hung over, put on our swimsuits and headed to the airport to hop islands. We were headed for the pool at our hotel on the Big Island.
The plane landed, and we were ready to go, excited, connected, happy. Shannon checked her phone, and there was a voicemail. You know in the movies when a bomb goes off, and there is this loud ringing noise but still quiet at the same time, that shell-shocked feeling they convey so well with excellent sound effects. Shannon’s 27-year-old brother had suddenly and without explanation passed away. In a blink, everything changed. I remember Shannon screaming, some man asking me if he could help us get our luggage and the employee at the gate asking me if everything was ok as we walked off the plane. I remember someone unknowingly putting Leis on us, and a group of people praying around us in the middle of the open-air terminal and us. The airport was very open; there was nowhere for us to go for privacy, Shannon was hiding under her baseball cap that she bought last summer in Canada as if that was a shield from all the vacationers passing us. It was still deafening and quiet at the same time, and I was struggling to hear and even actually speak.
My wife had lost her brother, and there should be a whole other book worth of pages explaining who he was and what he meant to her and the family, not sure that I can do that part of the story as much justice as his sisters would. I was supposed to go to the movies with him the day before we left. We didn’t have a lot in common, but we loved movies, and we both loved Shannon. I bailed out on the film because a lot was going on with getting ready to go on vacation, you just never know when a movie is just a movie or when it could be something more important.
Since we were on a company reward trip, there was a lot of event staff around that jumped in to help me figure out what our next steps were. I was failing to grasp what was going and how to manage the situation…Those last three words are important. It’s taking me a while to figure it out, but you can’t “manage this situation.” My intentions were always good but my execution over the next several months at times were more like a robot than a spouse. After around 6 hours I finally persuaded Shannon to go to a hotel and sleep until we could get a flight back home. We sat in a beautiful hotel room overlooking the ocean and counted the minutes until we could get away from this “awful” place. It took us nearly a full day to get back, and I am not sure we spoke all the much…there was a lot of silence. Three flights later we were home.
Shannon had lost her brother, her best friend, and a major part of herself. All of us were forever changed by that day in many different ways. My part of this story, which for the record is the only version I feel comfortable telling, is, of course, the part of a brother-n-law and a spouse, and unprepared support person. I watched grief and loss swept across our family like a dark thunderstorm rolling over one of those beautiful beaches on the North Shore. Our near perfect life felt like it was being torn to shreds beaten by an endless wave of loss that doesn’t go back out to sea when the morning comes. Those of us that were in the position of being the support people were ill-equipped with the right knowledge or tools to effectively help, and in many ways I think I made things worse. I have had to accept that this husband, who is a pretty good project manager in his work life can’t manage this monster of a storm. I didn’t have the years of friendship or blood relationship with him that the others did, they have been devastated by his passing but it’s hard not to be impacted profoundly no matter what their relationship was, I loved him like family, and I love my wife more than anything.
This post is about many things but first and most importantly is about the loss of my brother-n-law. It’s secondly about you truly only get one shot at life, and it can end in a blink. Thirdly this post is about giving a back story to the start of us shifting our lives, this post is the flashpoint that finally pushed us to change our lives, and the rest of this blog is about the life after