It was a plain Sunday, morning at church with the more than usual chat with Adrian after the eight o’clock service. In all remembrance what we had discussed during our lengthily chat had never seemed more real than it did just hours later. I was getting ready to go to bed, Monday morning would bring with it the stresses of work and the joys of a damsel. I was just about to hit the shutdown button on my computer when I heard cries coming from the lounge. I imagined my mother had tripped and fallen so I got out of my chair and rushed to the lounge to try and help her. As I walked into the lounge I did not find her lying on the ground at all but I found her with tear filled eyes emerging from the unlit dining room. She had her phone in her hand and she was struggling to breath and speak at the same time. She thrust her phone into my hands, “talk to your aunt.” I took the phone and started inquiring on what had agitated my mother and my aunt didn’t waste time telling me what had happened. “Hi Corey, Oscar was involved in a car accident an hour ago, he hit a pole and died on the spot.” I froze in an instance of time, perhaps it was a dream I could wake up from or a passive state of hypnosis. She asked if I was on the line as I had gone dead silent and all I could say was “aha I am”. She carried on, “I have to go now, police are still here so I have to go and talk to them.” She hung up and I put the cell phone down. My mom was pacing up and down the lounge in tears of disbelief. I tried to calm her down, get her to sit down and breath but it proved so hard as she was now locked in a world of her own. After much effort she sat down. I went into the dining room to get her cell phone so I could call my dad, “Can you come home now, it’s important. I can’t tell you over the phone, just drop everything and come home now.” The man didn’t argue with me, ten minutes later he would be at the gate. I speed dialed my sister in Chicago next and asked her to sit down, “Oscar was involved in a car accident, he hit a pole and died on the spot.” She erupted into tears and that forced me to an inch of tears myself as I tried to calm her down. After a few minutes she had calmed down enough for me to hang up and try my brother in Atlanta but the phone would not get through. Intuitively I knew my sister would beat me to it so I left it alone. I went back to sit with my mother who had started though I was evidently void of words myself. She continued to say “you have hit my sister where it hurts, he was the one with whom our hopes resided and now he is gone.” Dad had now parked the car and I stood to meet him as he came into the house. I took the car keys from him and told him the news, I can still remember the look of confusion on his spectacled face. He held his head in disbelief as he walked into the house and sat next to my mother. They all started crying and I became overwhelmed with two people crying as all I could do was sit and watch. I would have never imagined I would face this day at such a young age. I moved away and went to my room anticipating I would cry but tears did not come out. My sister called me back, just updating me she had managed to pass on the message to my brother in Georgia and he was not taking it at all well. Perhaps it was all a dream, but that could not be, after Belana it could not be! Life like a deck of blinding cards with a trailing Ace of spades rushed across my eyes as nothing appeared to make any sense yet the undoubted fact was that death had taken that which is dear to me again. I went back to the lounge and sat to talk to my parents, “Shall we call grandma or tell her in person tomorrow?” The question had to be asked, and I couldn’t avoid it! “We can’t tell her now, she won’t make it through the night, your father and I will go and get her tomorrow morning and explain in person.” I couldn’t object, it was not my place to tell her and I do not think I would survive her initial shock since mine had not settled in. I got the cell phone and called my cousin brother down in South Africa, “Jay, you at home? You sitting down? Ok, Oscar had a car accident, he hit a pole and died on the spot.” The eerie silence really did crumble my spine to pieces, “Jay??”. He opened his mouth but his shock was too great, “have you told my mom?”. I hadn’t, I couldn’t. How do you tell a mother she has lost her son even if you are one of her sons? “I didn’t Jay, I am not going to until tomorrow where I go and pick her up in the morning and bring her here. Don’t tell her please, she is alone right now and she won’t have a shoulder to lean on.” Jay agreed and I ended the call. Mom and dad had now retired to their room and there is nothing much I could do, at least mom was calm. Time went by and I heard my dad’s cell phone ring, he answered and it was Jay’s mother crying on the phone. I didn’t expect any different, I knew he would tell her, I just hoped she could hold it together until she was with the rest of the family. Lights switched off and dreams tried to come but I heard the deafening cries of memory lane parading down the passage and all around me. I am one who knew and was always known for not being confused but that night I felt so alone and confused. I found no sleep, Oscar was gone, how could I sleep? An hour before he died he had driven up a hill and taken a picture of the police station close to where he stayed, he posted the picture on Facebook and wrote “Quiet day on the Shore for NZs finest”. I was online when he posted the picture and part of me wanted to tell him to go home as it was late but I wasn’t too bothered, wanted him to enjoy himself so I let him be. Little did I know that was the last contact I would have with him, those micro-seconds it took to post the picture and for me to see it and smile. There was something about that picture, that reminded me of all the times we went out and sat under the moonlight thinking about all our problems and dreams. We were worlds apart but for the moment I saw that picture it felt as if he was right next to me.
Morning found me having found no sleep, I had dropped an email to work saying I would not be in for a week. My director was understanding, perhaps he understood the bond I had with Oscar, perhaps he didn’t but he allowed me time. Everyone woke up but the mood of the house was toxic, there was so much grief up and about the place one only had to light a match for it to kill us all. Mom would burst into tears without warning making comforting her a constant feat. I could feel tears creeping on me but I fought them back, gosh I fought them fiercely. I could not cry in front of mom, I had to be strong so she would cry. If both of us cried it would have finished her off. Mom and dad left to go and pick grandma and I had time to go on the internet. I found the news article and it broke me to pieces when I read it though I didn’t cry:
“A 26-year-old Glenfield man died in a crash in Milford early this morning. Oscar Griffith’s car struck a pole just after 3am at the intersection of Kitchener Rd and Shakespeare Rd. He was the sole occupant of the car. Police …………………………
I couldn’t read on as I covered my mouth, my worst fears had been confirmed, it was him. I had hoped to see a different name on the report but it was my brother. I pushed back into the chair with no words to say, just two years before I had buried Belana and now I had to bury one closer to me than Belana. “Where were you going, what were you doing, how did you die?”, I spoke to myself having my words cut off with the sound of the car pulling in. My parents where back. I left my room and made my way through the house until I got to the front door. I opened it and went out to the car to meet my grandma, she broke into a cry I could and will never forget. One over the age of 70 should never have to experience such and I felt her grief. I helped her out of the car and walked with her one step at a time. After some time she asked me to let her go as she walked into the house, I released her and attended to her bags. It became excruciating to pass by her because every time I did she would cry. Oscar and I were so alike, we dressed the same, spoke the same, looked the same and for every moment she saw me she would see him. I ended up hiding so she would not cry, what could I do really! The day went past with phones ringing as the news now spread to every relative and friend of the family. Some relatives started trickling in to pay their respects and among them was Jay’s mother. She cried like I had never seen her do, worse when I finally walked in to see her. All I could do was keep quiet, I didn’t have the words. I was a problem in the house, Oscar and I looked alike, dressed alike and acted alike so much that one only had to see one of us to know both of us. I hid in my room for a better part of the day because every time I passed by someone would start crying! People where pouring in ferociously to pay their respects and to keep everything sane I hid. Night time found more people coming, close to fifty as there was a church service starting just after dark. I got a coat and went outside to my dad who had summoned me through a text message. There were so many cars outside that my dad and I had to stand watch to make sure none are stolen. As I paced about outside in the dark my phone rang and the caller ID said it was Adrian. As I answered my father called me and I had to ask him to call me back in a few minutes which he punctually did. When he called back I had walked a considerable distance away from my dad and the household and we started talking. He asked all the questions a person would ask “What happened, You ok? e.t.c” As I spoke to him I looked up into the sky and saw the moon out but more importantly I saw three stars in the sky Oscar and I had named together. As I spoke I broke down into tears, I didn’t expect Adrian to have anything to say really, one with unending words in such a situation has never experienced grief. I tried to pull back the tears but unlike when Belana died where I cried and managed to stop the tears there was a river coming out and I could not stop it. I am sure Adrian had heard of me crying once in my life time but today perhaps he knew after all that people’s perceptions that I have no heart or emotion where wrong. The moon made every memory of Oscar race through my mind and I could not stop crying. “Have you told anyone Corey? Is there anyone I can tell?”, Adrian asked. I had not told anyone outside of him I thought and I am sure there were people who wanted to know so it only made sense if they knew so I told him to tell anyone of significance to me. Phone calls started pouring in but the most unbearable was the one from Cris, I had never wanted her to hear me in tears and when she answered I was still struggling to put a cap on the tears. I paced about outside, hearing the people singing in the house trying to imagine how all this had come to be, how my older brother had just died! Songs also take a different meaning when someone passes away and the news always seemed to catch me in the middle of a song. The song by One Republic called Missing Persons took a different meaning that day. It was the song I was listening to when I got the phone call and it was playing in my head all day and all night long, same beat and part like a broken record. It had almost become a case of repetitive association based on circumstances that were similar due to a near identical occurrence in the not so distant past. Not so long back I could not stand the Cemeteries of London track by Cold Play as it was the song I was listening to when I got the call about Belana. As I paced about outside the song was on repeat on my iPod and it had at most become a medium through which all the emotion and state of confusion I was in could be experienced at the mere pressing of a button.
I spent about 2 hours outside, cold winter night but certain things don’t matter if you look in retrospect. People started leaving the house and getting into their cars, it was late and they had families to go back to. At least for them the grief could be left at the gate but for my family we ate dinner with it, slept with it, bathed with it and tried to live day after day with it. Soon enough most guests had left and I could enter the house without too much attention coming my way. I found something to eat and then left everyone to try and get some sleep. No matter how hard I tried I could not avoid revisiting the news article to check again if indeed the person mentioned there was my brother. however no matter how many times I tried, it was certainly not changing and one truth was remaining, he was gone! I managed to dose off eventually, getting a few decent hours of sleep and in a sense trying to nurture my non acceptance of the issue. It couldn’t be true, seriously it just couldn’t. I woke up at four o’clock in the morning as sleep had near evaporated at that point. As I checked my emails I found myself trying to search for more information on Google. I was however not prepared for what Google was going to return. I found an article from a news agency in Auckland and I opened the article in the back ground of the emails popping in my face. I finally reached the article and a severe chill went through everything inside me. The article had a picture of the crash, time paused for a good three minutes as I just paused looking at the picture. I didn’t need to read the article, I knew the car, the registration plates, the color; it was the car and the car was near wrapped around the traffic light pole. The car smashed into the pole on the driver’s door and in the instance I dug deeper into my imagination as I processed the picture I could see my brother as the accident happened. I stood up and quickly rushed to the door to lock it; pressing and turning the key with one hand as I wiped my face with the other as I now had tears streaming down my face. I am not one to cry, at most people who know me seemed to think I was inhuman, incapable of feeling. However every man has a breaking point and surely mine had been found in the ones I love. I cried trying not to make noise as my mother would hear me. I looked at the picture over and over, asking “where were you going Oscar, where were you going?” I cried for a few minutes, I knew I needed it but something in the inside of me wanted this to all be a joke. Mom woke up and as she opened her door and walked into the passage I wiped the tears off and closed the picture, she could not see it! She knocked at my door and I opened for her. She came in wanting to see how I had slept, I smiled and said “I slept ok mom!”. Lying is a sin, don’t I know that all too well but I could not look at her and tell her about the crash picture. That would send her into a depression state I could not pull her out if. She left my room and I followed her to the kitchen, grabbing a bowl of cereal and just talking. It did not take Doctor Phil to see that there was so much pain flying around the house. But we had to remain sane or else we would bury more than one person. The days passed, each day we fought to process paper work to have the body repatriated home and to have my aunt come home. In just under a week we had managed to fix all the paper work for the body, my aunts papers where however taking longer. My week off ended and I found myself at work trying to get back into the rhythm of my computer programming life but I could hardly concentrate. I would find myself wandering off and at times fighting away tears. My aunt and Oscar would only arrive on the Friday and I would while up time at work. But like an unreal tournament game where you are left dazed by such a horrid onslaught, the week did not end well.