One More Angel in Heaven

Caitlin Lee

 

He is gone now.

“In a better place,” my Mom told us.

I hope she’s right…

 

We got the call as I walked in the door from practice,

Backpack on one shoulder, dirty basketball uniform slung over the other.

 

My Mom was crying, it stopped me in my tracks.

 

My Dad told me he passed away. My cousin, Seamus, had passed away.

 

I dropped my backpack, I slid my jersey off my shoulder, I tossed it on the ground.

My jaw loosened, my eyes glazed over, my Dad hung his head, no one spoke.

 

“Starting tonight,” my Dad told me, “there are three more people in this house. Sean, Colleen and Connor.”

Foster care. I felt the responsibility, it was too much to take in at once.

 

“Shannon, Kieran and Caitryn are with your aunt and uncle.” He said.

 

My mouth slowly closed, I looked at the floor by my Mom’s feet.

 

I began to understand, not believe, but understand.

 

My Dad walked over, put his hand on my head and told me how it happened.

Then the tears began to fall, slowly dripping off my chin, but I made no sound.

 

I heard the TV in the next room,

My brother was home first, he watched for it on the news.

I walked in the room, he gave me a hug, he handed me his water bottle, I took a sip.

I managed a smirk, an “I’m okay” sort of grin, he gave me one back.

 

My Mom gave me a hug, she told me he was in a better place.

 

We picked up my cousins from Hospital,

No one spoke on the way home, only muffled cries.

I composed myself, I didn’t cry, my cousins needed my strength.

An 18-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl, and a 3-year-old boy.

 

I slept on the couch, my cousins took my room, I was happy to oblige.

 

 

I didn’t sleep, I stared out the window,

I searched for my cousin in the stars.

 

 

He is gone now.

“In a better place,” my Mom told us.

I hope she’s right…

 

We drove to their home the next day.

My cousins went and saw their friends,

they needed a friendly face.

 

My uncle was gone, their father.

My aunt was in jail, their mother.

My cousin is gone, their brother.

 

They needed a friendly face.

 

Pulling up to the house made me cry.

I hadn’t been there since I was small, too small to remember well.

My family isn’t close anymore.

 

Three inches of garbage.

Three inches solid.

Three inches of garbage covering the floors, stairs, bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen.

I have never seen anything like it.

 

We cleaned out the house,

I had never used a shovel in the spring…

 

Baby books, pictures, toys, newspapers from 1991, Disney movies, empty cartons of cigarettes, dishes covered in mold, broken stairs, old incomplete homework, ripped up carpet, a dirty diaper in the hallway, one clean shoe, a torn pillow, a unraveled roll of toilet paper, magazines shoved in couch cushions, stained bed sheets cover the windows, broken screens, toy soldiers, puzzle pieces, spilled soda cans, a box of cereal, a weeble on the top of the stairs, no bedroom doors, towels covering the bathroom floor, a clogged toilet, torn books in a bedroom, a cradle with no bars, an empty bottle, a cup of old juice.

 

 

I was sick to my stomach.

 

 

My Dad picked up the bean bag chair.

His favorite spot, his only spot.

The only space in the entire house we saw the floor.

 

No image has ever been burned into my memory like that one.

And God forbid, no one ever will again.

 

The matted dark blue carpet, clean.

Clean from the protection of his bean bag.

 

It’s where my aunt found him. It’s where he lived. It’s where he died.

 

He is gone now.

“In a better place,” my Mom told us.

I hope she’s right…

 

The story is grueling.

How do you write an ending?

A glimpse of hope, perhaps…

this story has no ending.

This one goes on.

It goes on in the lives of the six siblings he left behind.

Two boys, four girls and the memory they have of their brother.

 

Sean, the oldest of his siblings,

a genius for his age,

a writer, a thinker,

a man of few words.

We talked nights later, we sat on my porch, we caught up on 8 years of family history. We laughed, we cried, we talked, more important than all of that, we no longer settled for being just family. We became friends.

And we talked until the crickets came out.

 

 

My cousin died. He was 15 years old. He had cerebral palsy. He died of pneumonia.

He was too small to move. He was too weak to cough. He left us too soon. We miss you.

 

Like Sean said, we will always miss him, no one will ever replace him. One more angel in heaven.

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790