My first sip of coffee catches in my throat when my eyes see the date in the corner of my computer screen. July 22nd. I feel a tight pull in my stomach and I try to keep the rewind button of my mind from pressing, but I am zooming backward to that surreal moment. I can see and hear and smell that moment, when everything went still. “Michael’s dead.” It was as if a huge pause button had been pressed and my mind could not allow the words in.
I remember as child losing a tooth; in spite of the bitter sting of the empty hole in my gums, I could not keep from sticking my tongue into the void. There was nothing to gain from this but pain, but somehow I could not hold back from confirming the empty space over and over. July 22nd always finds me poking around in the bitter sting of the empty void.
Stepping outside into the morning, the heat of the day already blazing, I look at Michael’s tree. We planted this beautiful Weeping Cherry in my brother’s memory that summer in 1997. It was a trunk with a few wispy twigs adorning the top, planted with laughter and tears. It blooms in April, right around Michael’s birthday every spring and now holds the memory of beloved family pets in its roots.
I stand beneath its canopy, looking up through its tangle of strong branches, now towering above the roof top, sheltering me in the shade. Peeks of sun shimmer through the heavy foliage. The remnants of last spring’s Robins nest are wedged tightly between a cradle of branches. The breeze sweeps the weeping branches out and back like breath. There is peace here.
Michael would have loved this tree.