“What’s your date of birth?” the ER nurse asked.
“December 6, 1966. Anti-Christ,” John replied, psychotic.
December 6, 2013, John would have turned forty-seven if he were still here.
I plan to spend my morning listening to his favourite records: Pink Floyd and Bruce Springsteen to start. Joey recommends The Clash, but I don’t make it past side one of Born in the USA. The nostalgia in the music is too much; it hurts.
I send Kristin a message.
“Being his sister was a hard gig,” she replies.
A hard gig, but I miss it. I miss him.
I call Mum on her cell phone to see how she’s holding up today. Mum is driving, so Dad answers. They’re on their way back from ordering a tombstone for John.
“On his birthday?” I laugh.
“It’s his birthday today?” asks Dad, “I didn’t know that.”
“I told you earlier,” I hear Mum say in the background.
“Too many wardens barking at me. I can’t hear you,” says Dad.
“Yeah,” I laugh, “It’s the hearing that’s the problem.”
A tombstone birthday gift.
SON, BROTHER & FRIEND
“GIVE PEACE A CHANCE”
The John Lennon quote is my sister’s idea.
“She sure does get around,” Dad said when I told him Mum was coming home, “Where’s she going next?”
“Well, I was thinking India,” Mum said before her suitcase reached her apartment.
“Don’t you dare cremate me,” says Dad stopping to turn and wag his finger at me while walking away from John’s grave.
“And make sure to spread your mother’s ashes. Don’t bury them,” he says, “She never stays in one place.”
He walks a few paces with his cane helping him along.
“Good thing she’s getting cremated,’ Dad says, “Otherwise, we’d have to put wheels on her coffin.”
Christmas approaches, someone else’s birthday; it’s our first without John, our fourth without Ian.
Delean, Seth and Taeja are in charge of helping Granny in the kitchen this year while Lynn and I go for Chinese with his children on Christmas Eve and take the ferry over to the island on Christmas Day. My youngest nephew now living in Alberta with his father, Kristin in Japan, our numbers have grown fewer.
The death of loved ones has changed my idea of Christmas for good. I know now that the one true gift, too holy to fit under a tree, is my Mum and Dad, sister and brother, stepfather, step-children, in-laws, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins and dearest of friends, both here and gone. My gift is the love we share, and the blessing of knowing and having known them all.