Sibling Column – December 2020

Nov 23, 2020 | Sibling Column

I’ve had conflicting thoughts throughout my life about what happens when we die.  After my brother, LB, died, a friend told me about a recent experience she had with a medium. Since then, I’ve had two readings from different mediums; but really, I’ve had two hour-long conversations with my big brother.

During one reading, my brother said something which the medium responded to aloud. I reacted to the medium’s response by muttering to myself and rolling my eyes (both trademarks of my dry sense of humor).  At the same moment, the medium laughed out loud and told me the last thing my brother said which caused him to laugh.  In that moment, I thought of all the other times my brother and I shared the same quick-witted response to situations- those were times I laughed to myself while he caused an entire room of people to crack up. Even in his death he can make people laugh more than I can.

My brother talks to me about things most people wouldn’t know. I drink too much coffee; the hazelnut flavor I enjoy is too sweet for him, but he appreciates my routine. He knows I always use the same mug and that I don’t need to look when I pour or add things to my coffee. I fill the Keurig with water after every time I use it even though it’s always empty when I go to make my coffee.  He can’t believe how long I drink coffee when I am at work, but he wants me to know that he sits with me every time I “power it up” at the office.  An “interesting choice of words to describe making coffee”, the medium tells me, but the words made perfect sense to me. I don’t make coffee at work, I only reheat it in the microwave; the medium didn’t know that but my brother did. 

LB talks to me about things I don’t even know. He told me he spent Halloween with one of his nieces who did something “gothic”. That meant nothing to me. A week later in a video text from my daughter, I noticed something on the inside of her wrist. I asked her about it and she told me she treated herself to a new tattoo, on Halloween: a symbol representing Freemasons, a secret-society whose roots trace back to the Gothic Period and whose symbols are prominent in gothic cathedrals.

My brother told me I live a good life; he knows I can laugh, and often do, with my family. He knows because he sees it every day; he also sees me when I am driving in my car listening to “that” song and sobbing uncontrollably- and he’s sitting there next to me.

Is my brother really standing next to me in my kitchen when I make my coffee or watching me at work when I heat it up?  Did he really go with my daughter on Halloween when she got a tattoo?  Does he really sit shotgun when I go for my crying drives to nowhere? I’ve started listening to podcasts while I drive and I use different coffee mugs every day; in case he’s here, I want him to see I’m trying new things again.

What happens when we die? Is there an afterlife?  How much can we believe in or trust an idea- something we can’t see or touch?  There’s no good answer to those questions because there’s no way to prove if a concept exists or doesn’t. It isn’t lost on me that my brother, or perhaps just the mere thought of my brother, in his afterlife, which I know may only exist in my imagination, is helping me relearn the concept of living my life- one cup of coffee at a time. 

– Jen Schwartz, COPE Ambassador