From the beginning, we were open with our living children about their siblings. One of the reasons that motivated me, was because I didn’t want them to find out about their brothers from someone else. A family friend found out that way. Her mother, suffering from dementia, continually cried out, “Where’s Peter? Bring me Peter!” She would get increasingly agitated and upset. Neither her brother or she knew what she was talking about. Then, while cleaning out their mother’s house, they found it. A death certificate for Peter, the older brother they never knew about.

Elderly woman holding baby

A broken heart

It didn’t just break their hearts to know their mother suffered through this in silence. It broke their hearts to know she never felt comfortable sharing Peter’s brief life with them. It broke their hearts to know that many of their mother’s strange actions growing up, in fact, made perfect sense, when you realized your older brother had died of a heart condition. No wonder, that time she fainted on the playground, her mother reacted so over-protectively. No wonder, she took you to three doctors, even though they all said the same thing: “Her heart is fine.”

Will my heart be fine? I am currently under stress as not just one, but two relatives, suffer through the indignities of dementia. The day will come when they will no longer recognize my husband and me. It has me thinking about what will happen if I should one day be the only one left who remembers my sons. Will I cry out in the night, “Where are Nate and Sam?”

In telling my children about their brothers, I am opening my heart to them. But I am also passing along the narrative that their lives had meaning. Remember them, because one day I might not be able to.

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