The bubble began to dissolve as people went back to their lives. Holli decided she would go back to college. Debbie and Nolan found a temporary house while they decided what to do next but living at the house was just too much right away. People went back to work and life picked up right where it left off.
It was time for me to leave and come back to my life as well.
I don't remember much about the days after the funeral and I am not even clear on what day it was that I came back. All I know is that the flight home was the cherry on top of the worst week of my life and I have never been in so much pain ever in my life.
My Dad and stepmom gave me a ride to the airport and the kids came along- Sierra, Nolan and Holli. The thought of leaving them, leaving home, leaving the bubble was overwhelming. I was sick with it. I was tired beyond belief. The emotional roller coaster took its toll mentally as well as physically and I felt my grief in every fiber of my body. I had said goodbye to my Grandma who, was beyond even being able to come close to understanding what happened. I said goodbye to Debbie and my sister and Dave. My mother is said goodbye to on the phone the night before.
I left for AZ again, only days later than I had left the last time. It was only a few short days yet everything about my life was now different and would be forever. Every day since has been colored with our loss and I don't expect that to change.
What made this flight so different from the one before is I wasn't rushing back to anyone. I have a very full life which I love in AZ but I am alone. I have no family here and there is only so much you can ask of even your closest of friends.I had been in this warm safe cocoon where everyone knew what happened, and more importantly knew my brother. In AZ no one knew him, I would not turn a corner or look up or down and see and feel him there. Feel his memory all around me which while painful, was a comfort. All I was coming home to was an empty world and one I was going to have to face alone.
Not to mention the guilt. How could I leave when everyone was in such pain? How could I leave when they still needed me. It was the first time since I packed my stuff and moved to Chicago (then moved to Phoenix) that I ever regretted leaving Iowa.
I hugged everyone goodbye at the airport and as soon as I touched the kids- the last living reminders of my brother- they are all I have left of him now- I started to cry. I walked in, checked my bags and walked up to my terminal. I never felt so alone.
The tears and sobs that I had shed before were nothing compared to the damn that burst inside me now. I was shaking as I clicked my seat belt and every mile was salt on a very raw wound. I changed planes twice and on one of the legs I remember being so dehydrated and hungry and some water and a box with crackers, peppercorn cream cheese and a bit of sausage was in it and in the slow, underwater type reaction I recall thinking "oh, this makes me happy." I was so damn grateful for that stupid box it might as well been made of gold. I landed in TX and shuffled to my gate. Looking back I am literally stunned that I made it at all I was so lost and dazed. By then it was getting late and it hurt to move- literally hurt. My friend Stephanie had offered to come pick me up and in my usual "I can do it on my own" fashion I turned her down. Well that was a far stronger version of the me that was sitting in Houston aching and throbbing with each breathe. I sent her a text but I got no reception in the airport and I couldn't tell if she got it or not. I prayed that she did cuz I couldn't bear the thought of no one meeting me when I got back. I was able to get a text through to my sister I don't recall what it said but I am sure she knew what I meant.
I don't have the words to describe how awful that flight home was, if I lived a thousand years and was tortured everyday I can't imagine it would even compare.
I got home and there was no one there, my text hadn't gone through so I caught a cab home. It was silent and dark and so utterly lonely in my house. It hurt to be there and not be in Iowa even though I know my life is here now but in that moment I would have gladly moved back in a heartbeat. Everyone I loved was hundreds of miles away and there was no one there for me.
I was exhausted but couldn't sleep so I logged onto myspace and the first thing I saw was Holli had changed her picture to her tattoo of her dad's brand and she had changed her name to Imissudaddy. That killed me and I broke down all over again.
I went back to work and somehow made it through those first few days. I lived for the weekends when I could just lie in bed or on my couch and cry shamelessly. The fog of sadness hung low and heavy for the first 2 months at least and that is when I wrote this and welcomed you all into my world....
Troy Harold Herrick 7/13/65-12/31/2007.
I love and miss you forever. You were the best big brother I could ever want. Thanks for teaching me to drive a car and for giving me great life advice (like "don't drink,cuz throwing up...is not that much fun!") Thank you for giving me a beautiful niece and the coolest nephew ever who I will love fiercely with all my heart (especially the part you live in) for the rest of my life. Thank you for all the laughs we shared- and there were so so many. Thanks for your art- I don't think I ever told you how much I loved that you were an artist and how proud of you I was for that. Thanks for taking up archery and giving the animals a fighting chance when you went hunting. Thanks for all the torture you and Toni put me through- you were very mean but I have to admit you probably did teach me how to be tough for later in life when I'd need it.
Thanks for being part of our book club- I always was proud that a love of reading was something we all shared. Thanks for your random phone calls. As few and far between they may have been, I will treasure each one cuz I was so happy to get them and know you were thinking of me.Thank you for coming to AZ to see me- those are great memories and they bring you to my life here so I don't feel so bad not being back home in Iowa cuz you are here with me too. I am so proud of you for becoming a firefighter. I wonder if you ever even knew how that made you a hero- thanks for being my hero.
Thank you for letting me grow up in your eyes and not just be your little sister but to see me as an adult. Thanks for being my friend as an adult and for loving me as your sister and I know you did.
I will never be ok with loosing you just when it felt like we were making progress. You tried so hard to open up and reach out and you did really well and you have to know I am so proud of you and I know it wasn't easy and you were hurting so much. It was a bad choice and you were wrong but I understand why and all I can do is hope your mind and heart and quiet and at peace. You deserve peace.
Someone asked me if I feel you with me and I don't (I hope I do someday soon) but I know you are with your kids and I will never be far away from them. I swear that. They will always have me in their lives so don't worry about them too much. I can't replace you but I'll love them twice as much in your honor. I'll take care of Toni too, you know she is missing you too. I'll be sister enough for both of us to her and Cory.
I hope you knew most of this before. I think you did.
My last words to you in life were love you bye and I guess I need to say that again now. I love you so much, I miss you so much. Goodbye Troy...
From The Little Prince:
"All men have the stars but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You–you alone–will have the stars as no one else has them–"
"In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… You–only you–will have stars that can laugh!""And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, 'Yes, the stars always make me laugh!'"