Movies and music are pretty powerful in that they can evoke memories. Sometimes it’s a lot like a magic spell. They take you traveling to the past, your past. And sometimes it’s a good past with warm memories and loving thoughts. Sometimes it’s a dark past with unpleasant events. But the good thing is you can control it by either turning off the tv or the radio. Sometimes I like to go to those dark places, either because I feel like being sad (I know sometimes you just need to mope though) or just to have a good cry. Crying can be incredibly cathartic.
One of those powerful magical spells for me (among a sea of them) is a movie called The Crow. Now, this sounds weird, but stay with me. If you haven’t seen it, spoilers for a 20+ year old movie ahead. it’s a movie about a man who comes back from the dead to avenge his fiance’s (and his) murder. It seems like a pretty standard plot but like most stories, it isn’t the plot but the telling of it that makes the difference. The hero, Eric Draven, is brought back from the spirit world by a crow. He exacts bloody revenge. He helps to heal those he left behind. It’s 90’s goth-tastic and the inspiration for every skinny Trent Reznor heroine-chic-wanna-be Halloween costume you’ve seen after. It is glorious and weird. It is sad and gloomy. It is heartfelt. It’s also known as the movie where Brandon Lee died but I hope it is mostly known for all those other things.
It is also the movie we watched the day we buried my brother. Or at least I think it was that day. The days after he died sort of blend together in this fog of sadness that covered the entire summer. I don’t even remember if I actually watched the whole movie. I just remember bits and pieces – a group of people being in the big basement living room in our house in Liberal, Kansas. It was dark, no lights and no windows. There were a bunch of older kids there who were all T.J.’s friends. My brother, T.J., was a popular kid (or at least that’s how I remember him). And in the aftermath of his death, his friends gathered together. And they watched The Crow and tried to forget for a little bit that they had just buried a friend. He was 17 years old and most of them were around the same age. It had to have been so scary to think about how fragile life could really be at that age when you’re supposed to think that life goes on forever.
The main character of the movie interacts with a young girl named Sarah. She’s somewhat of a little sister to him. It hit close to home for me. It still does. Sarah talks to Eric. She gets angry that he’s left her. She gets sad that he has to leave again. She talks to him even after he’s gone. When I watch this movie, those are the parts I tend to rewind and rewatch. Sarah can be annoying but I’ve been told little sisters often are (I am guilty, of this there is no doubt). And while the scenes of revenge and general bad-assery are quite fun, it’s the scenes with Sarah I connect with. At the end, Sarah visits Eric’s gravesite. The movie closes with her saying these lines, “If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.” This is why, I feel like in an odd way, I was meant to watch this movie when I did. I don’t really believe in mystical things. I think the universe can be odd and random and sometimes we assign meaning to things because we want there to be meaning. I don’t think this is a bad thing; it’s human nature. We need to have things fit, to make sense, to align. I am no different. I still believe this movie, that came out a whole year before my brother died, ended up in front of me when it did for a reason. I think about the lessons of that movie; the big lesson being that the power of love is stronger than death.; that the people you love stay with you.
T.J. was such a different person from me. He wasn’t afraid of anything as far as I could tell. He took risks and he lived such a full life even if it was cut so short. I tell people now that he’s kind of like the sun because he just radiated something that drew people to him. He had a warmth about him and loyalty for his friends and family. He had a brilliant smile and an insurmountable ego. He had a hard time in school but he loved basketball and read about fighter jets. He was the lone Denver Bronco fan in a house (and a neighborhood) full of Kansas City Chief fans. I like to think T.J. would have done so much with the life beyond what he was given but I hate where this thought takes me. Madness lies down the road paved with what-ifs.
I always feel jealous when I see people interacting with their brother or sister. I don’t get to have that anymore but I want it. I want it so desperately that it is hard to vocalize. I miss my brother more than I ever thought I would. When you’re a snotty kid sister, you never realize how much you’ll need that annoying jerk to be around even when you’re all grown up (especially when you’re all grown up). I wonder if it’s weird, if I’m weird for still feeling his loss in such a profound way? Or maybe we just never talk about the people we’ve lost because it becomes too real and it reopens old wounds? Maybe there are people out there waiting for someone to ask them about that person they lost, just as desperate to talk about them in the hopes of keeping that person alive in their memory. I tell stories about my brother but I don’t always tell people that he’s gone. I have a plethora of T.J. stories and I hate to step on the wonderfulness of them by starting with, “let me tell you about my brother, who is dead.” He’s more than just dead. I still hesitate when people ask me if I’m an only child because I don’t feel honest saying yes and I hate having to explain to someone that my brother is gone. I guess he’s not really gone though. I carry him with me. I tell stories about him whenever I can. I think of him often.
Buildings do burn. People do die. Love . . . well, I still love my brother. 20 years later and it never goes away. Thinking of him usually makes me more happy than sad even if I do have my “ugly cry while watching a movie” moments. And I will carry my brother with me and the love and happiness he gives me until I can pass that along to someone else. And I guess, in that way, love is forever. We pass it from person to person in feelings or gestures or even in memories.