Tonight I'm presenting my 'story' at my grief group therapy. This is our opportunity to tell the group about the life of the person who died, not just as defined by their death. After going through photos, letters, a DVD, and websites to decided how to piece together my presentation I get that this is a bigger exercise than just talking to 8 other people for half an hour (which I could do without any preparation.)
I was nervous about doing the presentation this week because I was in Kansas City last Thursday through Monday to be at an opening of an art show in honor of Brendan. My aunt, an artist, wife, and mother of two young children, put together a show that spans two galleries, includes artists from multiple cities and genres, and whose opening included several live music performers, fire jugglers, mimes, tightrope walkers, acrobats, live art, and one hell of an after-party. There was something around 30 of our family around for this opening (I'm including a horde of artists from Chicago that made the trip in this number), and most of us were sleeping at various spots in my aunt and uncles home.
(**Note: this trip also includes stories of father wearing a feather boa, happy meals in a minivan full of adults, waking up in an art studio, having a hand catch my head before it hit the pillow, whiskey tasting, going public art spotting with a 4-year-old, a man in a striped spandex body suit, and a dog on valium, but more on all that later.)
The show included an installation of Brendan. It was a life-size figure of him, made from his clothing, with arms upstreched, and art and possesions surrounding him. I have yet to find the right words to describe the power of this piece. And it had tangible power, presence... the artist who created it had never met my brother but says he feels like he's gotten to know him. He spent time with him, he drank with him, he talked to him. Maybe all this energy, the power, some how took residence in this beautiful corner where Brendan is on display, because it is undeniable. Everyone who knew him was speechless (for a moment; my family doesn't stay quiet for long) and even those who didn't remarked upon the power of this piece.
Contrary to what I had worried, this week is actually ideal for me to give my presentation on Brendan to my grief group. All weekend was literally a celebration of him and what he loved, and it was fun. I am incredibly lucky to have the family that I do, and every time there is a gathering it is reinforced. I cannot think of one thing that I would have changed, other than having it last longer and having a couple family members that couldn't make it be able to. There was lots and lots of art, beer, conversation, meeting other artists, food. And Brendan was there. At moments I felt the incredible pain of his physical absence, but I was able to look around me and see an amazing legacy. This doesn't make it better, but it means that I will survive and that people will not forget, and that is everything.
As I talk to eight other people in grief tonight about my huge little brother, the most important thing I can say is that he continues to inspire people. When I talk about the blonde troublesome loud baby who I loved more than anything, it is one and the same with the 6'7" loud artist who became a legend for his style, talent, and persistence.