I’ll cut right to the chase: I was sad. In January 2007, my big brother died, the person with whom I had shared so much. Before he passed, I wrote to Peter about a dream I had. I think the imagery had come from something I’d read. In the dream we were still little kids, riding together on a red bike. My big brother, being 7 years older than me, was steering us while standing on the pedals, moving us along a sidewalk. I sat behind him, holding on with my hands on his hips. As we were coming close to a street crossing, Peter started peddling harder, propelling us faster and faster along. We were going to jump the crossing. Turning his head around Peter looked at me and said, “Hang on. Here we go.” Then he pulled up on the handlebars and we went flying up and over the crossing, floating in slow motion over the traffic below, while we were physically transformed so that when we landed gently on the other side we were magically older. Adults. In my note to Peter, I let him know that though the imagery may have come from something I’d read, the dream was real.
In the months after he died, in feeling his absence, I dealt with sadness and confusion. Around the middle of the year, my wife asked me if maybe it was time to seek out some counseling. She was right. I found a local Hospice organization that held meetings every Wednesday night for 6 weeks straight. I signed up just before the group filled out. I learned a lot there; that my feelings were a lot like other people’s and that it was good to talk with others who were also grieving; that in sharing the hurt some of it goes away. In the last class, the instructor said something I’ll never forget: The hardest part for someone who is grieving is creating a new world for themselves without their loved one there for them. Now I would have to recreate who I was. As the months went by, though I never stopped thinking of Peter, the realizations helped and I seemed to feel less and less sad. The clouds of sorrow started lifting.
The following March something unexpected happened. I got depressed. And I couldn’t figure out why. Certainly I’d progressed through the grieving and was feeling more accepting that Peter was gone. But then it hit me! It was time for Major League Baseball’s annual passage: Spring training. It was the time of year when Peter and I would have been calling each other to talk about the team we’d rooted for since I was 9-years old: The New York Mets. We’d get on the phone and start going over the roster, speculating on who would play what positions; the strength of the pitching staff and how they matched up against their opponents. And if we knew they weren’t going to have a good year, we’d make jokes about the players and the follies of the previous year before finishing with our predictions on what the season would bring. I realized why I was getting depressed. It was about hope. The whole process of reaching out to each other was just like spring itself, bringing us hope. When I knew I wasn’t going to be sharing that hope with Peter anymore, I started calling my other friends of baseball and struck up conversations with them about the coming season and the hopes they had for their teams. Even though Peter was gone, his love of baseball, business, good food and good jokes would live on in me; live on in his children, his family, and our friends.
The little boy who took off over the crossing had landed on the other side now, and it was my turn to steer the bike.