Today would have been my older brother’s 43rd birthday.  Just 1 day shy of a month has passed since he transitioned.  He went home on the morning of October 28th, in his bed, at home with his family. I don’t like using the word “died” because it evokes a feeling of permanency and I don’t believe people are gone forever like that.

Grief Is Never One Size Fits All

My brother Nonnie holding my nephew Noah. Grandchild #9

It was about 10 years ago when we found out that Nonnie had a congenital defect with his heart.  It’s something he was born with, but none of his doctor’s ever caught it.  So, in his thirties, he went through open heart surgery to correct the problem.

After that he still went through ongoing issues with high blood pressure and having to take medications.

Then about a year and a half ago, he suffered a mini-stroke which left him with some difficulties with his vision and some minor issues like remembering number combinations, at times.  Since calculations were a big part of his position, he was unable to continue working.  So he had to leave the job and was home on disability “chillin'”, as he would say.

Like Being In A Bad Dream

The morning he left us, was like the world stopped.  Everything seemed like stop motion to me.  I was in a bad dream the moment my mom said that his heart stopped. The next news was that they were working on him and doing all that they can to save him.  Then came my desperate prayers. Followed by reassuring my mom, over the phone, that everything was gonna be all right. Then screaming. Then crying some more. Praying some more. Finally, a call back from my mom that he was gone.  My heart sank. 

Let’s throw a little more stress on top, shall we?

Just 1 week before, our only car died and so I now had to make arrangements to travel to my brother’s funeral in NY with no transportation. We were driving a rental at the time and it needed to be returned soon.  So a decision had to be made. My hubby and I quickly threw the kids into the rental car. We rushed to the car dealership and bought a car that very day, so we could drive to Alabama to link up with my parents and figure out our next move as a family.

7 days before, we had no clue what we were gonna do about a car and this day of all days, we and got approved for a new one.

But wait there’s more!  Because life just isn’t complete without compounding stress.  Then, we got word back that my hubby’s job wouldn’t let him switch out his scheduled vacation days to travel to NY with me.  So that meant the new car we just bought would be needed to get him back and forth to work during the week.  While we hurried over to the airport, at almost 10pm to rent an SUV to get me, my kids and my parents on the road to NY the next day.

It was a crazy whirlwind of a Saturday. All the while, I’m feeling guilty that I wasn’t there to be with my niece, nephews and sister-in-law.

Grief Is Never One Size Fits All | Naturally Stellar

Fall 2016, a day before my brother and his fam headed to Alabama to visit my parents. Me and my kids showed up a few days later so it was a full house.

Back Home

The day before my brother’s wake, I went to the funeral home to see him.  It had been 5 days since he passed and I just needed to lay my eyes on him for it to be real.  I needed to be alone with him and to make sure they had him looking “right”.

My dad decided to come in with me because he was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it on my own. I assured him I’d be all right, but he insisted.

Just a little back story.  My brother was always meticulous about the way he looked.  Ever since puberty came along, his hair was always braided just right or cut with the utmost precision. Most recently, he was growing a beard, so it was important that it be groomed just right to preserve his “sexy”.

Nonnie’s highschool days. This was the crew. His partners and best friends. Dave Jordan and James Pollard.

On a normal day, he couldn’t walk past a mirror without looking at himself and he NEVER had a problem with confidence and expressing just how good he looked.  He was God’s gift to everyone and no one lol.   I wouldn’t dare tell him how handsome he looked out of fear of his head actually inflating right there on the spot.

I was there when we made arrangements for his services.  Everything from the flowers to cremation was decided upon.  Nonnie was particular about what he wanted.  One of his childhood best friends passed away a year earlier. I remember him saying how much he loved the services his family had for him and he wanted something similar when he died.  We all made sure he got everything he wanted and done in a way that was unique to his personality.

My brother with my cousins “The Twins”, Ronnie and Don.

So when I went into the viewing room that day at the funeral home and saw my brother laid out, I couldn’t even cry.  I thought I would break down, but I didn’t.  They presented him so perfectly. His skin, clothes, his beard, everything was just like looking at him peacefully sleeping.  It was an unexplainable moment.  The closest word to describe it is…peace.

We didn’t have a traditional wake and we didn’t even have a funeral.   We decided to have a private family party the next day.  There was plenty of reminiscing, music and food. It was so nice to see all of my nieces, nephews and little cousins having a good time out on the dance floor too.  Later on that night the kids all schooled me in a dance off with Michael Jackson’s Dance Experience and I had the best plate of Chicken Riggies I’ve had in years.

Being all together felt like home.  My brother may have been missing from the picture but it felt like he was right there with us.

My brother and his family. My son always manages to find his way into a pic.

Life After Death

Life on the other side of things has been difficult but I’ve learned a lot about myself and others.  I’ve learned that I can be strong when it comes down to it. After all, pressure creates diamonds.  I can also be a rock for other people to lean on when they’re weary. I’m so glad that I could be a help to my parents. 

I now realize that I have to stop talking about my brother with certain people because some of the responses I get give off vibes of pity or an expectancy of brokenness, that I’m just not cool with.   I know that people mean well and that’s not their intention. But when I express gratitude or happiness for the time I was blessed to have with my brother, on this earth, all I get back are responses of “I’m praying for you”.  As if all of the blessing I just spoke of doesn’t deserve praise.  Only the loss and sadness seem to trigger an emotional response.

It’s like some people expect you to stop living and grieve the way they see people do it on tv. They don’t know how to handle grief that isn’t cookie cutter.  Like I’m supposed to be walking around with my head hanging low or a cloud cast over me wherever I go. I should be wearing sackcloth with ashes smeared across my forehead. But that’s not me.

I can’t even explain how I feel right now.  But doom and gloom are not it. 

Yes, I’m sad. So sad sometimes that I can’t even sleep or eat or even cry. There have been days when I couldn’t bear to look at my brother’s pictures or see his txt messages in my phone.  I’d be totally fine until I saw his face or a message of “Hey Candy”. Then sorrow would grab hold of me.

Or there’d be times when I’d hear one of his tracks and just start bawling, because I knew how much his music meant to him and how happy it made him, to create.

Grief Is Never One Size Fits All | Naturally Stellar

Clyde Jones Jr. and Clyde III (Naree). He’s the firstborn of my parents 10 grandchildren.

 

Yes, I’m angry. Angry that I didn’t have more time with him. I’m Angry that we didn’t make up quicker after every argument.  Angry that my brother was so stubborn. Angry that I couldn’t afford to see him as often as I would have liked to. So angry that we didn’t stay in touch sometimes.  I’m also angry that we didn’t get to make more music together. There’s plenty to be angry about.

In fact, Nonnie and I were supposed to meet up the 2nd week of November, in Rochester, NY.  We already had a family trip planned to go visit my hubby’s family that week and I didn’t want to drive the extra 3.5 hours to my hometown of Utica, NY after being on the road for 13+ hours from Nashville. So, my brother was going to drive to Rochester to see me.

I never got to see him that last time. Instead of a vacation, I was coming home 2 weeks early to make arrangements for his home going.  So yeah, there’s plenty to be angry and regretful about.

But I can’t live in anger and drown myself in sadness.  I have to keep moving.

Grief Is Never One Size Fits All | Naturally Stellar

My dad and my brother at the house we grew up in. Utica, NY.

My Grief Is Mine Alone

I’m still grieving.  Of course, I’m grieving. But my grief is mine alone.  I don’t expect people to understand why I’m smiling when they see me or why I don’t sound down.

I’m smiling because I know that I’ll see him again and I have to keep living. There’s a lot of hope behind that smile. A lot of faith and trust in God.  Everyday I talk to Him I’m reassured that this ain’t it.  This thing that we call life is not the end all and be all.  There’s still an eternity to be lived.

If you see me laughing, it’s because I’m remembering all of the crazy and stupid things my brother has done over the years. Many of them were funny as hell, so I can’t help but laugh at his foolishness.  My brother has had me laughing for as far back as I can remember.  It’s also because laughter is what has always helped us to make it through as a family.  We’ve laughed through all kinds of adversity.  This situation may hurt more. But it’s still a trial we can laugh our way through.

Grief Is Never One Size Fits All | Naturally Stellar

Thanksgiving weekend 2016. Right after saying goodbye to us and my nephew, who would be staying with his grandparents. My brother loved taking home cases of peach soda whenever he visited Alabama.

I wear a grin because my brother made sure to provide for his fiance and kids while he was alive and after he passed.  As crazy and foolish as he could be, he took caring for his family very seriously.  I still remember our conversations about life insurance and he would tell me “I got all of that stuff taken care of”. Then I’d say “Yeah right. You sure?” and his response would be “Nah, for real. I got savings and stuff set up for them”.   And he did.  He took care of his family so they wouldn’t have to worry about how they’re gonna pay the bills or how the kids would have what they need.  He handled his business responsibly and I’m proud of him for that.

So that grin you see me with is that of a proud sister.  As much as society and media would like to paint all black men with a brush of irresponsibility, my brother was far from that.

My parents and my 2 brothers. June 2014. I cropped myself out because I looked like a hot mess that day. The Jones Family

Who He Was

My brother, Clyde “Nonnie” Jones Jr. was bright, educated, loving, stubborn and funny to the point of jackassness. He loved kids, the outdoors, spending time with his family and friends and producing music. He was my grandma’s favorite grandson (even though she wouldn’t admit that) and fishing buddy.

Not too many young people can earn a good pension nowadays, but my brother did.  He was a family man who worked 19 years for the NY Power Authority.  He was our neighborhood pyrotechnician on the 4th of July, traveling across state borders, to the nearest fireworks store to stock up for the holiday.  This guy put on a display, in the hood, for the kids that rivaled our city’s festivities and he did this almost every year since his early twenties.

My brother was the life of the party. At get together’s, an iced cold Heineken was his drink of choice.

Well, you know I don’t like the taste of beer Nonnie, but I’ll be thinking of you tonight with my tall glass of Simply Lemonade. Oh, and next time I go to Texas de Brazil, I’ll load up my plate with the good stuff, just for you.  I love you forever and ever.  Happy Birthday.

 

Moody Manicure, Manicure Mondays, Life Death and Lilacs

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Founder, Editor-in-Chief of Women's Lifestyle Blog, Naturally Stellar | Beauty Contributor for Hype Hair Magazine | Freelance Writer and Content Creator| Candice is a passionate Nashville-based writer with a love for beauty, urban lifestyle, songwriting, travel, food and business. When she's not busy being Wonder Woman to her family, out exploring or catching up on her British dramas, you can find her sharing something interesting on her blog. Which more than likely she probably wrote at Noon, while eating a bowl of Captain Crunch.

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One Response

  1. Alicia Henry

    Hey sis! Your brother was the foundation of our family. We miss him so much. Every morning he would Crack a joke to the first person he would see. Especially me ( morning breath ). But you we still hear him even though we can’t physically see him. You are right. Nonnie would not us looking down ,depressed or sad. Keeping all the good times that we had together will get us through this tough time. We will see our Nonnie again. We better get our fishing poles ready, I know that is the first thing he would want to do. Lol.

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