is not lost, though we have been” –from poem “Word Has Reached Me” by Alice Walker
My brother, Wayne Scott Williams, age 61, died last Thursday, November 18. His death was shockingly sudden and unexpected. Here we are in a favorite photo of mine, taken when I was 8 1/2 months and he, 3 1/2. We played a lot together as kids and were perhaps closest during these years. As teens, he went his way and I mine, but there was still fondness. As adults, our relationship was distant, sometimes antagonistic. Years sometimes passed with absolutely no contact; I would hear about his life through my mother.
A breach early on set the stage, in my opinion, which had to do with my early surgery. I have always felt, until recently, responsible for bringing so much stress and strain to our family with my early childhood illness. My mother’s stories were the source of my anxiety, for she talked endlessly about those difficult times. So busy caring for me after the surgery, my parents decided to ship my brother off to my aunt and uncle’s house for many weeks. This decision was a defining one for our family in several ways, one of which was as a source of my guilt, for I knew that my brother was unhappy in his life then.
Dr. Constad, our pediatrician, had driven to our home on a house call to see me. On the way, he passed three-year-old Wayne, kicking the curb at the end of the block. When Dr. Constad brought this situation to my mother’s attention, she said that she and my father had little time to spend with him. His response is burned onto my brain. He said, “If you don’t do something with that little boy, he will grow up to have a huge hatred.” Their version of “do something” was to send him away. Best solution? Don’t think so! Later, Wayne claimed how great these weeks were because he became close with Uncle Harold. But as a child, I sensed and felt and experienced his anger toward me. A wall separated us in some primal way, and this early banishment from the family, due to my early illness, was its origin to my mind.
Despite the early difficulty, we did the best we could loving one another. We transcended the early breach in order to help each other at different times in our lives, most significantly when my mother needed us. Wayne and I found our way back to closeness after taking care of my mother who had dementia in her nineties. In fact, we called ourselves–me, Wayne and Griffin, my life companion–Team Edith (my mother’s first name). We worked beautifully together, getting over small skirmishes, to help my mother in her final years and in her final years, my mother brought me, Wayne and Griffin together. I am also happy about the harmonious way in which we settled my mother’s estate after her death. These last years, Wayne and I have even been able to tell each other how much we loved each other, which we had never been able to do. Isn’t that great?
His death is hard to reconcile, especially since no one saw it coming. He loved life and enjoyed so many aspects of it. He loved trains, anything New Jersey, sports, especially Pitt football, and California. He had a great heart and a great bear love for his daughter and a devotion to his family. Lately, his job was stressful and money hard to come by. I am glad he is free from all struggle now. “Pure positive energy” is how beloved Abraham (of Esther and Jerry Hicks) would put it. He is without bounds, happy with newfound freedom and possibility. Go Wayne, dear brother, go!