Monday, December 3, 2012

I Have a Brother

I don't think I have ever talked on this blog before about my younger brother Charles.  Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 marked 26 years ago he was killed.  Not passed away because that indicates we knew it was coming from an illness, but killed.

I want to tell his story because I am forgetting so many things about him and his life and I want to be able to remember him always.  My children have so many things in common with Chucky and I want to make sure they know about their Uncle Charles.  I tried to be as accurate as possible but it was 26 years ago and my memory at 8 wasn't the best, especially with something as sad as this.

My family was living in New Hampshire in 1986.  My mom and Dad had separated and were in the process of divorce.  All us kids, three girls and a boy, lived with my mom while she worked like a dog to support us. My older sister Rebecca was 13, I was 8, Charles was 6 and Carrie was 9 months.  On November 14th, my older sister was in England with family members.  It happened to be a Friday and my mom was working late and wanted me to meet my brother at school so we could walk home together.

Concord, New Hampshire is a small town and back in 1986, it was perfectly safe for an 8 and 6 year old to walk home alone.  My brother used to walk home alone all the time since his school was only a few blocks away.  After school let out, I decided to go to my friend Erica's house instead of picking up my brother.  I can't remember if I asked my mom first or just decided to go on my own, but to this day, I will forever regret that decision.

I played at Erica's house until it started getting dark.  It had to have been around 5:00 when Erica's mom came into her room to get me.  My school principal was waiting for me in the kitchen and was going to drive me home.  This was very confusing to me and I knew something was bad.  He told me "Your brother has been in an accident".  That was all he said and I think I was so shocked that the principal was there that I didn't question him.

The drive home, even though it was mere blocks, seemed to take forever.  When we pulled into my driveway, there were cars everywhere.  Some I didn't even recognize.  I walked inside, who knows where Mr. Cogswell was (my principal) but my mom was on the phone.  Her therapist or counselor, whatever he was, was in the dining room.  Something was very wrong.

To this day I can't tell you who told me my brother had died.  Was it my mom?  Was it her counselor?  I don't know.  All I remember is running upstairs to my room and just crying and crying and crying.

My brother was walking home from school and was very excited because he had just found out that his class was going to be taking a field trip to see dinosaurs at the museum.  You see, Charles LOVED dinosaurs.  He could name every dinosaur, spell it, tell you when it lived and every single detail about it.  At 6 years old.  He was so smart.  You can imagine this field trip was going to be the highlight of his short life.

Charles went to cross the street and didn't look.  He was so excited to get home to tell my mom about his field trip.  The driver coming down the busy street at close to 60 miles per hour didn't see him.  Not only was she speeding in a school zone but she was driving a truck that had a lift kit.  She probably didn't even see the little boy in front of her.

My brother was killed right in front of our house.

The 16 year old driver had to be flagged down several blocks away because she didn't realize she had hit something.

My mother happened to come home from work and happen upon the scene in front of our house.  By that time, the ambulance had arrived and taken my brother to the hospital.  She didn't know the extent of the accident but she still drove like a maniac trying to get to the hospital.  Can you imagine what she must have felt in those 5 minutes it took for her to get there?  As a mother, my heart and stomach get sick just thinking about it.

When my mom arrived, she learned that my brother had been taken off life support, without her even being consulted.  The extent of his injuries were too great.  He had been struck in the head and there was no hope.  The nurses sobbed alongside my mother trying to comfort her as she tried to understand what had happened.

At 8 years old, life was a blur.  The next few days were certainly a blur.  The day after my brother died, I had a visit with my dad.  It was the first time I had ever seen my dad cry and it was very distressing.  I opened the door, he saw me and broke down.  I also remember arriving at my dad's house and my Memere was on the phone speaking in French.  I remember her saying that her grandson had died and sobbing.  I remember funeral plans occurring and reciting a poem that I would say at my brother's funeral.

It took several days or even weeks for the city to clean up the accident scene in front of our home.  The blood was covered up with sand but it was still a constant reminder of what happened.  The driver of the truck was not arrested or even cited for driving over the speed limit or driving a truck that had an illegal lift kit.  The driver had only had her license for a couple of weeks.

My family was not rich by any stretch of the imagination.  My mother barely could scrape together money for a funeral.  Many people from the town stepped up and helped out.  If I remember correctly, my brother's headstone was paid for by his principal, although we will never know for sure as it was supposed to be an anonymous donation.  Others donated their time, money, or other things to help our family out in the weeks after my brother's death.

I am not really sure why I remember certain details of my brother's death or life.  It's the little things that stick out in my memory that are significant for some reason:

* How his grave marker has a picture he drew of a dinosaur and himself and the poem that went along with it.

* How the cemetery he is buried at didn't allow large headstones any longer but they made an exception for my brother.

* The poem I recited at the funeral.  I remember it word for word to this day.

If I were a rocket shot high across the night, I'd rather burst in silver stars than green or purple light;
For then, perhaps, I'd fool the moon, although she's very wise, and thinking me a baby star, she'd keep me in the skies.

* I remember going to the funeral home to visit him before the funeral and thinking there was nothing strange about it but I to this day have to defend this to people.

* His injuries were massive.  He supposedly died instantly but someone mentioned to my mother that he tried to speak in the ambulance on the way to to the hospital.  I don't want to believe that because the thought of my brother being in pain makes me physically sick.  The poor child had road burn in between his toes.  How does that even happen?  He suffered endless broken bones and he had an indent in his head from the bumper of the car.  I am sorry if that is morbid to some people but it's the truth.

* My uncle did the music for the funeral but I truly can't remember who all the pallbearers were.  "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera will always be special to me because it was played at his funeral.  My brother loved anything Karate Kid and that song was in the second movie.

* What his school picture looked like that year.  He was wearing a grey and blue striped shirt with royal blue Osh Kosh overalls.  He had a scab on his chin that was very clear in the picture.  He had a bowl haircut and looked just like my mom.

* How smart he was.  You know those parents that always say "Oh my kid is soooo smart".  Honestly, I will never meet a smarter 6 year old.  Ever.  He wanted to be a paleontologist and I truly believe he would have been successful.

* How my family was treated by certain people in the city after he died.  I don't want to get into many details but the girl who killed my brother had a boyfriend who's dad was important in our town.  My mom never got closure from his death.  As an additional sucker punch, my mom ended up being sued by the girl's insurance company for damage done to the truck during the accident.

* I vividly remember packing a picnic dinner often and going up the cemetery as a family.  This might seem very strange to all of you, but it never was to us.  My mom would load us into the car with Burger King and we would sit on the ground at the cemetery, eat, and talk to my brother.  We went to the cemetery often.

I tried so hard to find a picture to post here but I didn't have one.  My mom has pictures of my brother but I don't have any.  The closest picture I could find was this one from my sister's Facebook page.  I really hope she doesn't mind me borrowing it.

This post has been cathartic for me.  It honestly feels good to write about my brother since I don't often talk about him.

We miss you Charles.  You still have so many people that think about you often and love you dearly.


  1. Wow, that is so sad Rachel - I'm so sorry! I love that you shared this. His headstone is really special, what a great glimpse of who this little boy was.

  2. I had no idea...I'm so sorry for your loss, Rachel. I pulled up my google reader to get caught up on things before starting my work for the day, and I'm thankful to be reading this in the private of my office. I have definitely shed a few tears.

    He seems to have been wonderful. I wish we all could have seen how far he could have gone.

  3. Wow, words can not say enough right now. I cannot imagine how it feels to lose a sibling, I would be crushed. But how easily things like this happen every day. This brought tears to my eyes, I'm so sorry for your loss, then, and now.

  4. My thoughts are with you and your family, Rachel, as I'm sure the anniversary of his death (and every other day) is extremely difficult. I think the fact that you I took picnics up the cemetary to "be" with him and talk to him is very special. Death is so difficult to grasp/deal with at any age, but I can't imagine how you handled it at age 8. ((hugs))

  5. Anonymous12/04/2012

    Wow, I can never imagine what it would be like if my brother died... Sorry.

  6. So sad. I'm very sorry that happened to him and your family.

  7. I had no idea about this. My heart breaks for you and your family.