In last week’s reading of Sophocles’ Antigone, I found myself in a somewhat similar universe. Within the last 10 days, I too, am having to bury my sibling.
On Monday, August 25, my oldest brother suffered a massive heart attack. He was revived twice, but never regained consciousness. He died peacefully on Sunday, August 31, providing his children and my other brother the opportunity to say their final and most unexpected good-byes. I, on the other hand, live in Arizona and therefore could not make it to see him during his final moments; my family lives in Chicago where I am originally from.
Two years ago after the death of our mother, my oldest brother and I had a severe disagreement. Sharing the type of personality that does not allow for give and take, we had not spoken since December 2012. I do not regret this. I felt then as I do now that I was right in my beliefs just as I am sure he felt he was in his. I respect him for this. I also love him for the same reasons as well. While Antigone lost both of her brothers during a quarrel they had with one another which resulted in the death of both, she felt she had a moral obligation to bury the one brother that had been denied the right to a decent burial. I too, feel this is my duty as well.
While I maintained no relationship with him, I do however have one with his children. I can honestly say that it hurts me to the depths of my soul to see them suffer and hurt as they come to terms with the demise of their father. While we all know it is never an easy process for we, the living, to accept, and definitely not the most pleasant of thoughts for sure, death is inevitable for all of us and one that must happen regardless of how we feel about it.
On the plane ride home to Chicago the other day, I re-read Antigone. I honestly could “feel” her convictions and how she knew in her heart that while she lost both brothers at the hand of the other, she firmly believed she had to do what her morality wanted her to do. I kept thinking that no matter how angry we had been with one another, I have an obligation to his children AND his mother because he was her son. This family dynamic permeates within the relationships between my surviving siblings and I—our dedication to do what would have made our mother happy. I saw this as well when Antigone was speaking to her sister Ismene about her own obligations to her exiled father, Oedipus, and her deceased mother, Jocasta. Also, it is driven by my need to do what is morally right to me.
All of my life, I have learned that ALL siblings fight and fall out with one another from time to time. This is the nature of siblings and a tremendous component of the overall family dynamic. I am positive that my family is not the first or the last to have internal feuds within it as well. Nevertheless, I am convinced that it is my job to do what is best for my nieces and nephews and that at this moment, is to help them get through this process. I love them all very much and I believe that each of them possess the best part of what made my brother the person I knew growing up. I also have to do what my mother would have wanted and that is to help his children take care of the business of getting him in his final resting place. Finally, I like Antigone, have to do what I am obligated to do and that more than anything, is “the right and moral thing.”