« Museletter Sunday | Main | One Thing or Another »

The Weather

jim'ssunset.jpg AKA: We’re All in It Together

After my brothers, Jim and Dan, died, I went through an identity crisis, which caused me to question why I lived in Virginia when the rest of my family was in Massachusetts. One factor that complicated my distress was that, besides my husband and sons, no one in my close-knit community knew my brothers. While I had 6 other siblings, five of them back in Massachusetts, grieving along with me, here in Floyd I was, for the most part, grieving alone. But I wanted everyone to know my brothers and to know how much their lives mattered. It was a desire that became the impetus that led to my writing a book about them.

We buried my older brother, Jim, who died suddenly at the age of fifty-four, in July 2001. My younger brother, Dan, died a month later at the age of forty-nine. Since their deaths, life has had a sharper focus. There are things I can see that I couldn’t see before. If I can describe what I see from inside this hole, will it help others when they are down in one? What place is this? How will I survive it? How deep does it go? I want to know. I’ve never been here before. Can I make something constructive out of the powerless feeling of loss? Am I digging my way out, word by word? I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because after living this story no other seems worth telling, because what else can I do down here, because there’s no where else to go. I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because I’m proud of their story. I want to shout from the rooftop how irreplaceable they are. ~ excerpt from “Down in the Hole” from the introduction to “The Jim and Dan Stories.”

After the book came out and many people in my community read it, the sense of alienation I felt changed, as people approached me with feedback and comments about my brothers. My brother Jim especially made an impression with readers, probably because he was such a paradox. Jim, was opinionated, pessimistic, capable, constructive, and (regardless of how much he complained) passionately engaged in life. He was also an avid weather enthusiast who published weather photos, worked at The Blue Hill Weather Observatory as a volunteer, and was well known and respected throughout his local weather community.

The Blue Hill Observatory, where Jim volunteered, is planning a dedication ceremony to honor him. They’re raising money to erect a flag with a tribute to Jim inscribed on a plaque set in its base…All this for a guy who didn’t think he accomplished much in life, a guy who, when I asked him, “Jim do you think you’d try for a liver transplant if you need it (for Hep C)?” answered, “No, give it to someone who enjoys life!” A guy who, when asked by Kathy with a video camera, “Who are you?” answered with a laugh, “A loser.” A guy whose key chain read, “Not a happy camper.” ~ From The Jim and Dan Stories

I reached a turning point in my solitary grief and knew that writing the book made a difference when, while at a community gathering just after Hurricane Isabel, a friend approached me and said, “Wouldn’t your brother Jim just love all this weather?”

More recently, another Floydian asked, “Did you get those photos I emailed you?”

“No.” I answered. “My computer was probably in the shop. What were they of?”

“A photo of my baby girl…and some weather photos. I was thinking of your brother Jim when I shot them.” he said.

Missing Jim and Dan and grieving their deaths is something I’m still involved in. I know that because I’m crying as I type this. But the sadness is mixed now with a sense of gratitude that I’ve been able to share a small part of who they were with others who wouldn’t have known them otherwise.

Photo: On the back of the above photo that Jim took, he wrote: Virga at Sunset over Boston. I looked up the word and learned that “virga” is “any form of precipitation that doesn’t reach the ground.”


What a lovely way to keep your brothers' memories alive.

a thanks for stopping so nice.......

Hello from Michele's. I am always impressed with your writing. It is very moving.

Have a great day!

As always, Colleen, I am moved by what you write...and somehow, today having just read of the deaths of two people that made a difference in so very many lives, I found this particular post deeply touching...I am glad you are in this world Colleen, and so glad to have found you out here in the big hugs Blogesphere...

I agree, your posts are always touching. Sending a big hug your way!

thanx for helping so many
in so many ways
you are a lightener
of burdens
a brightener
of cloudy weather.

Virginia would lose much if you ever left.

Earlier today I was saying exactly that - "boy oh boy would Jimmy love this."
The waves were HUGE and the tides were extra high causing flooding everywhere (ma is fine). Oz and I drove all around Hull, Cohasset, Scituate, and Marshfield (small coastal towns for those who don't know) to see it for ourselves. Many low areas were under water, cars were stuck in driveways and or public parking lots (we saw about 5 cars with water past the doors in Scituate). Small roads were blocked off because the water went right across the roads. The marshes along George Washington Blvd. Way were full to the brim. I've never seen them so high!
We had a blast driving around taking it in.
It was not what you think of when you think "storm." It was just extra high tides due to a storm in the ocean. We are just now getting light snow. Maybe it'll be a doozy tonight around midnight when the tides are high again.
Yup, Jim would have loved this day.

There were TEN of you? That's taking Irishness to the nth degree. Your next book should be about your parents, they obviously earned one.

OOps, I counted wrong...there were 6 others siblings...I should have said. Nine of us total. The book is definately about my parents too.

This is a lovely post Colleen.

When my brother died in 99.. I was due with my oldest.. I thought i'd just lay down and die with him. My whole family was grieving here with me but I still felt alone.

I understand, Ivy. In the book I tell about how I go back home looking for answers but find my family was all just as lost as I was about their deaths.

yep.. It seemed like no matter how many of us were grieving andeven though we were together.. it was very much so a personal process that we had to go through. For some it was much harder and a much longer process others found peace much sooner.. I was one of them that it seemed to last forever with.. I think my fear.. Was forgetting him.. He was 3. His smile, voice, hair.. That fear made the process much harder. Plus being due with my oldest. I had her 3 weeks later. I felt guilty for a long while for feeling joy over her when we had just lost someone so grand..

Thanks to your brother, and you, I learned something new today. I didn't know the term virga, but I have seen that type of weather. Next time I see a virga, I'll know the name, and I'll immediately think of your brother, and your obvious love for him.

Can understand only some English that came to look from Japan; is interesting♪

Post a comment