‘Look again in your heart’

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“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”   — Kahlil Gibran

I remember it so clearly.

Storm cells were darkening the skies over my hometown in Ohio, the cornfields were swamped with rain, and the country home where I grew up fell eerily quiet. It was all that was left, after a crash took the lives of my parents and young twin brothers on a sunny Easter day.

In the three years since that fateful week in April, the grief has been hard to contain. But so has the love.

Teenagers at last
Before my twin brothers died, I had been missing them fiercely and reflecting on their lives. Strapped for cash and unable to make the trip across five states to see them, I had to be content just to call on their 13th birthday. But I remember how much they enjoyed their gift from me.

I had sent episodes of the witty and futuristic animation “Batman Beyond” through the mail. When I called to wish the new teens a happy birthday, they said they opened my presents early. They were thrilled! They had already watched all the episodes in a two-day TV marathon, and were pining for the next season.

That night as I wrote in my journal, I thought about how grown-up they sounded.

Peach fuzz had revealed itself on their baby-soft faces the last time I’d visited, and now their high-pitched voices were starting to crack. Lawrence was growing more shy and soft-spoken, and Tommy practically sounded like an old man when he let out his favorite brag: “I’m so awesome!”

Thomas, as he insisted on being called, was awesome. And so was his brother Lawrence.

Tall on character
Mirror images of each other — except for the extra inches on the older and the nose freckle on the younger — the twins were everything you might hope two young boys would be.

My sister had kept them open and honest throughout the years, and I had demanded adventurous weekends of gadget-less fun on visits.

They turned years of listening to my bedtime stories as toddlers into a voracious love of books. They used their tot days chasing a soccer ball with their sisters, to become repeat soccer champions.

They acquired a green thumb from my beautiful mother, they picked up a love of cats from their older brother, and they inherited a keen card shark gene from their ornery father. My sister’s husband instilled them with an explosive fondness for firing rockets, and my husband challenged them to master their strategy for chess. Our years of scooping the twins up to whisk them away to Hocking Hills State Park even gave the boys a profound love of nature.

The twins were tall on character, adding their own infectious humor, unique strength of will, and wicked smarts to a perfect mix. On top of it all, they were openly loving and oh-so-cute. It was the kind of cute that grows up after the preschool years to become a high school sensation.

“They are the sweetest unknowing future knockouts that I’ve ever seen,” I wrote fondly in my journal.

In the months before the tragedy, I thought of them often. I wrote of them often too, asking myself important questions that I still ponder to this day. Did we teach them everything they needed to know? Did we spend enough time with them? Were the twins truly happy?

I even pondered the future, and I was anxious to find out who the little guys would become as they got older. Would they be lettered athletes or band geeks? Would they gravitate toward art and writing or science and math? Would they move away in college or stay close to home? The possibilities were exciting — and they were endless.

I loved them so much. What I wouldn’t have given to see my twin brothers grow older.

Bittersweet sixteen
Thomas and Lawrence would have turned 16 this year.

They would be taking their driving test and trying the wheel for the first time — something they would likely be doing in a very old car, like one of my stepfather’s Ramblers or an AMC Gremlin. I can just see their long arms hunched over the manual steering, cruising up to our rural high school in a hot orange Pacer or a black AMX.

What a sight those two would have been!

I wish the rest of the family and all of their friends and mentors could see them now, too. No doubt, they would have made us proud.

Looking back in my journal now, I’m encouraged by the notes I took in the days after their death.

That week, a candlelight vigil was held in the middle school gym. Amidst the warm glow of dozens of tiny dancing flames, I remember hearing an entire community speak of the wonder my twin brothers brought to the world. I met people who adored my mother and people who admired my stepfather, and I heard incredible stories about the twins — those wiggly toddlers who I used to rock to sleep at night.

Although I will never have the chance to watch the twins grow older, the vigil will forever be a comfort in my mind. It celebrated the young men Thomas and Lawrence had become. And it was overflowing with warmth and love.

As we face another year without them, that’s the part we should hold on to: Love.

Our love for one another never dies.

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4 responses to “‘Look again in your heart’

  1. I love seeing your artwork, and I also love that this is how you chose to honor your brothers. Thomas and Lawrence loved and idolized you.
    I can not even imagine the pain and grief that you have endured. Scarcely a day goes by that I don’t think of them at least once. I know how much I miss them; I can only imagine how much you miss your family members.
    I don’t know if you remember me, but I was a teacher at Madison-Plains. Thomas and Lawrence were in my gifted class from Grade 4 – Grade 7. I have so many, many stories that I could share with you if you would like.
    I want to share with you how the accident changed my life permanently. Nine days after the accident, after a week of grieving, I got up thinking I was going to get ready to go to school. I totally wrecked my bedroom trying to put on socks and apparently was completely incoherent. Luckily, my younger daughter was home and called 9-1-1. I was taken to the hospital and 3 1/2 days later, the doctors finally came to the conclusion that I had meningitis. The doctors had asked my parents if I had been under a lot of stress lately. When my parents told them about the accident, they said that explained a lot. I was able to recover, but my doctor urged me to retire. He said that I had survived two critical emergencies and so now I should retire. I did not teach the year following the deaths of your brothers.
    During the summer of 2012, a friend told me that St. Patrick school was looking for someone to tutor students in reading and math. Long story short, I have been working at St. Pat’s for two years, and I absolutely love it! Of course, this is a constant reminder of Thomas and Lawrence, but I tell everyone how wonderful and special they were every chance I get!
    I really look forward to reading your blogs, both past blogs and those yet to come, along with viewing your artwork. Take care of yourself and I will continue to pray for you and your family.

    Sincerely,
    Diane Self

    • Diane,
      What a thoughtful note! Of course I remember you! Many of the teachers at Madison-Plains made a lasting impression on me.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m sure it must have been difficult to experience grief so deeply, but I am always touched by how many people cared so much for Thomas and Lawrence. I’m biased of course, but I think there was something special about the twins that just can’t be put into words.

      It has definitely been difficult to lose them, and my parents as well. The accident sent ripples through my whole extended family. For myself, I think I spent about a year just in shock, working overtime instead of facing the pain.

      Finally all the emotions from the accident launched me onto a new path as well. And I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to reach out to others who are grieving, and maybe provide some comfort — or at least an ear to listen.

      I would love to hear your stories! Feel free to contact me anytime at: mf.kaelin@gmail.com

      Part of my goal with this blog and my art has been to create something beautiful out of the loss. I hope you continue to find healing from the grief — a path many of us are on, no doubt.

      Take care and keep in touch!

      Melissa

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