This afternoon, as I took my woods bath, I grieved my disabled-autistic-deaf-nonverbal-gesturing brother's 50th birthday (April 21st). Before autism was an everyday word, some professionals may have labeled him a 'wild thing.' Every birthday of his, I look at photos that my cousins send online and feel that familiar distance. My primary knowledge of him is through photos, other than my trips to the Philippines since I was 12 years old. My last one was 15 years ago. During my anxiety-ridden twenties, my therapist supported me in acknowledging and learning how to cope with my survivor's grief. And so every birthday of Michael's, I am reminded how blessed and abled I am as well as how heartbroken, brave and strong my Mom is. I don't think my or my Mom's guilt has disappeared. It just sits there buried deep in our hearts. My Mom never speaks of her guilt, but I know it's there. Me? I like to think I have learned to deal, but the feels creep up on me, especially on his birthday, and I make every effort to just sit with my complex grief.
This year, Manong Michael's birthday happened to fall on Easter Sunday, and my Mom is there to celebrate him.