On May 13, 2015, my brother Robert was shot in his front yard by a family member. This person drove up to the sidewalk, called my brother’s name, and then shot him in the abdomen and drove away.
The coward who killed my brother never admitted to the crime. He was sentenced to life without parole, all of his appeals denied. But now he gets to sit in prison, enjoy visits from his family and call them on the phone. Meanwhile, the four boys that my brother left behind have had to grapple with what it means to have your parent die, tragically, at the hands of another person. Lives forever changed.
Despite my brother’s choices in life prior to his death, he was trying to do right by his kids, and was so proud of the progress he had made. I’m told that moments before he was shot, he told his partner how much he loved her and was so excited about their baby she was carrying. She was just weeks from her due date.
My brother laid on the sidewalk bleeding to death. He was rushed to the hospital but it was a dire situation. My brother was shot very intentionally in a place that would make surviving the incident pretty bleak.
Right before my brother took his last breath, he prayed. My brother was not a religious man, but between the moment he was shot and his final breath, he was telling those around him he loved them, that he was scared, named his murderer, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer.
For a long time, I couldn’t get the image of my mother laying over his body in the casket out of my head. She just held him, sobbing, while a room full of people watched and waited. His kids took turns standing by his side, sometimes using humor to make the situation light. With moments of breaking down scattered throughout the day. I just remember how cold he was. And how empty my insides felt, looking at him for the last time.
My brother now sits in a small urn on a shelf now. His letters kept safe in a drawer. His signature tattooed on my wrist. His mischievous eyes and big ears in his sons. His attitude toward life echoed in his friends he left behind. His smile etched into my mother’s thoughts, causing her to cry in disbelief. Still. To this day.
So while I think about how losing somebody to gun violence has affected me, my mind literally goes blank. It all started with the words “What do I do? I don’t know what to do.” And it has continued that way. Because nobody knows how to do this grief thing. We all just try our best to figure it out.