You can hear me read this by clicking below, or subscribing to the podcast at the end of this post.
September 2nd, 2016
I went through the windshield of a car when I was 4 years old. An event of great magnitude, it shaped my life and yet it was one of silence.
It was peaceful.
I am sure that in the moment, at the time, it was a tornado of twists and energy, but the thing that I have learned about events that fundamentally change your life is that they do not come with fanfare. The suspenseful music that movies have with them is absent. We do not have warning that our lives will never, ever be the same again.
It is quiet.
Dana was quiet.
There was something in the space of quiet around his eyes and his face that seemed to transcend this world.
I didn’t know if I was taking these photos for him or for me at that point.
I looked at my brother. I held his hand. I knew he was in some space that I couldn’t reach, I knew that is why I couldn’t feel him.
I remember checking under his pillow that the music was still playing (it wasn’t; I turned it back on), and I remember telling Dana that if he needed to go, he could, we would be okay.
I was blatantly lying.
But at the time, looking at my golden brother’s face, so familiar and yet so distant in that there and then, I meant it. I swear, I truly meant it.
In that moment, I only cared about Dana. I didn’t want him to be bound and tethered in a world that he had perhaps moved beyond. I didn’t want him to stay because he felt he had to take care of us.
We had been told that Dana had no brain activity, that his life was being completely held together by life support.
Dana’s daughter Yu Han and my mom were calling everyone. Dana’s sons were coming to Redding with their families. Jeanie, Dana’s first wife was there, and Toni, Dana’s second wife and her family were driving up from San Diego.
Toni and Dana had been living separately for a couple of years at that point. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after their marriage and had been admitted into a mental institution. It was the combination of her madness and the delicate balance that allowed her to live outside of the institution that kept Dana from outright saying he wanted a divorce.
He didn’t want to hurt her.
Ayana, Jrin-Long’s wife, watched my kids, allowing me to spend more time with Dana.
Later that night, my husband finally came. He stayed in the hotel room with the kids so that I could be with Dana all I wanted.
That night I got to go back to the hospital and sit with my brother. Through the sounds of the ICU, the beeps and light flashes, the comings and goings of staff, the constant physical administrations they gave to him, I felt that silence. I felt that stillness that harkens to something much bigger than myself. A part of me wondered if he had gone already, quietly, softly, without any of us noticing.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.