This morning, I am searching my brain for the right words, which is quite frustrating to me, as my fingers should be flying across the keyboard.  For the first time in months, we have both taken a day off to do nothing, and Honeydew lies contentedly on the couch with our baby, watching Saturday morning cartoons.  In my office, I am surrounded by reminders of bills to pay and checkbooks to balance and Quickbooks accounts to analyze, but we have agreed that I will take a much needed hour and write.

Today marks seven years – seven – since my youngest brother, Howard, died in a fraternity house fire, along with two of his friends.

I am sitting here, sipping my coffee half-n-half, wishing I had an archaeology degree – like Brother Dear.

Looking at the last photo taken of my intact pre-Honeydew family, I think that such a degree might help me to write about what I have decided are the eras of my lives.  The word Paleozoic comes to mind, but then again, I am only thirty-one.

There is certainly the pre-Howard’s-death era, a gloriously innocent and privileged time in my life that lasted 24 years, as I was 24 when he died.

And there is obviously the post-Howard era.  Not so glorious.

But this morning, after Maggie had her breakfast, the three of us curled up on our bed, under our sunny, western facing window, and Maggie Rose commenced her morning routine: cooing, smiling, and laughing delightedly with her whole heart.

And I realized that for me, the immediate-post-Howard era is over.

I am not saying that Maggie’s birth filled in all the potholes in my soul that Howard’s death left behind.  Until the day that I die, I will keep the memories of the black grief that defined the immediate-post-Howard era, and the hard lessons learned.

But I can say that Maggie’s arrival has gifted me with a new set of tires with which to navigate said potholes.

Her birth does not make Howard’s death, and gaping presence in our lives, easier or better or different in its effect on my ability to handle screaming smoke detectors or gorgeous young men bursting with potential – dead or alive.

But from the moment Honeydew said, slowly, in a wondrous tone I’d never hear him use before, “It’s a … it’s a … girl!” I have known that I am in a new era in my life.

Go on, Mama said.

And I am glad that I listened to my Mama, that I did not let paralyzing grief turn into paralyzing fear, or rejection of joy.

Howard, how I wish you could hold Maggie on my couch this fine morning.  Love you so, Littlest Brother.

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