I sit on the floor, watching her.
She wrings out the cloth and begins at his feet, cleaning each toe before moving to the soles and then on to the heels. She rinses the cloth and continues to move up his body, each movement deliberate and brimming with purpose.
I know it’s a ritual. I am mesmerized by her movements, drawn inside them.
When she reaches his face, she lingers over every feature, traces every line. Flashing blue eyes, tousled brown hair, goofy grin. All memories now.
I hear her breath as it hitches in her throat; feel her grief spill into the air around us. I climb to my feet and wrap my arms around her.
She and I are different creatures. We always have been. She is traditional and reserved, composed and polished. I am an outspoken trouble-maker, disheveled and rough around the edges. But in this moment, we are the same. We are creatures of grief.
As we cling to each other, I can feel her composure crumbling. I hold her tighter and stroke her back. Over her shoulder, I look at my brother’s body, so cold and so still, and I wonder how she and I will manage without him. Our peacemaker.
Frozen together in that moment of loss, I take a chance and tell my mother that I love her.
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