Commode To Joy

finding happy (even in the crappy)

One Phone Call Can Change Everything

7 years ago. 7 years ago I received a phone call that changed my life. 7 years ago I walked into a house full of him – his clothes, scent, and that obtrusive little brown bag handed to us with his personal effects – but no dad. The one thing I knew immediately that I couldn’t, wouldn’t part with? His cell phone number. I didn’t want it circulated back out into the world for someone else to claim. So I claimed it.

At the time, Mark had an old, second generation iPhone that he gave to me, and I had it activated with Dad’s number.

Sometime thereafter I purchased some ringtones for the folks in my innermost circle. I asked my brother what song he would like me to use as his ringtone. Silly, because he wouldn’t actually ever hear it, but I wanted a song that was his style, his preference. (He was also the only person whom I asked this question.) He selected “Your Love” by The Outfield.

For the past 7 years, a snippet of the song – four lines to be exact – plays every time he calls. But it wasn’t until last night when he called that one line caught my attention:

“…you know I’d do anything for you…”

My brother and I have always been close. Not in a best friends way; in a blood sort of way. Growing up, it wasn’t my parents’ approval I hoped to get when deciding who to marry. I knew I wouldn’t marry a jackass. It was my big brother’s approval I was after. I wanted to find someone who could just as easily have been one of Troy’s buddies so that we could all keep hanging out once married.

Enter Mark. A guy I wanted to meet after a couple of years of hearing my brother speak highly of him (and grabbing a few beers with him).

For a year and a half, I had three men in my life: Dad, Troy, and Mark. And then the accident…and then there were two.

Mark and I were in a flooring store picking out hardwood for our house when I got the first call, from my sister-in-law. Thanks to small town folk who listen to police scanners, my Grandma Alice (mom’s mom) had gotten a call that Jim Whitlatch was in an accident. All we knew was the possibility, and that Dad wasn’t answering his phone. We were still in the flooring store when my mom called with the official news.

“Jamie, sit down.” Her voice was unfamiliar as she forced it to stay steady.

“Okay mom,” as I trembled to the secretary’s chair.

“He’s been killed.”

As we got into Mark’s car he asked where he should take me.

“My brother’s. Take me to my brother’s house.” I wanted him. I needed him.

Troy’s always been there for me, you see. I knew that even when I was little. By the first grade I decided that someday I wanted two kids – a boy and a girl. I wanted the boy first, because I wanted my daughter to have a protector, an ally, a big brother, just as I’ve had.

I recognized that he allowed me to play with him and his friends, something uncommon for older siblings. He stuck up for me when boys called me names.

He even happened to drive by when I got pulled over the first time. I was decked out in my dance team uniform driving to my high school for a basketball game when the lights flashed in my mirror. I saw a car turn off onto a country road just ahead of me and park. It was dark, so I didn’t know who it was. I thought it was a high school turd waiting to make fun of me.

I drove 55mph the rest of the way to school cussing at the car who pulled off that country road and followed me all the way to the parking lot. It was Troy, there to coach me through my first speeding ticket. “Tell dad, not mom.” It was sage advice that I heeded.

My family – my parents and brother and I – we were never overly affectionate with each other. But we were there for each other. We showed up for one another. In hindsight, that’s how we expressed love.

Now I’ve locked into writing. And with it my sentimentality has been unleashed. Stories or words that I wouldn’t necessarily express otherwise, I can type.

I wasn’t going to write about my dad this year. I certainly had no intention of writing about my brother. But last night, Troy called me…on Dad’s old number…on the eve of the accident…

“…you know I’d do anything for you…”

It’s been playing for seven years now, yet last night I heard that line as if for the first time.

I paused and let the words sink in. “Yeah, yeah you would,” I thought as I answered.

I’ve always been fond of that ringtone, because it’s Troy’s. Now, I’m even more fond of it thanks to that line; it communicates what’s he’s never said but always shown.

A lot can change in the course of one phone call.

Celebrating my brother’s birthday. I was pregnant with my first, a boy, just like I’d always wanted.

Categories: Death & Grief, Family & Parenting

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

82 replies

  1. This one was tough to read…it takes you back. Back to the call that changed your life forever. I feel it, too.

    It makes me smile to see that your heart took you to Troy…maybe this is what time does for the heart…it allows us to recognize something learned from the experience instead of the horrific loss.
    I would like to think so.
    Love you more everyday💙

  2. Really beautiful Jamie. It’s like that line in the song was there waiting for you to really hear it when the time was right, when you were ready to process what it meant. Thanks for a heartfelt post.

  3. Its the little things which always have such an impact. I can tell this was hard for you to write, but thank you for sharing such a beautiful post with us xxx

  4. Reblogged this on Bluehosh and commented:
    Love this message

  5. Beautiful story. Sorry for your loss.

  6. Beautifully written, lovely you have such a great brother

  7. It’s lovely to keep the union and allow insignificant occurrences spark up the union

  8. Thank you for this post. I lost my dad 11 years ago and my brother and I, although always close, really had to come together for our mom. We have always been a close family, but never an emotionally expressive one. It’s times like this that bonds are tested and deepened.

    I love the ringtone, simple and beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Sad but really beautifully special!

  10. Very heartfelt and moving, my sympathy on your great loss

  11. it’s such a heart warming tale!!! Beautiful..sad yet full of love and some joy too.
    I am glad you have love of your loved ones to get you through such difficult times.

    Sending you more love!
    N

  12. Wow, this was beautifully written. Definitely hit home with the older brother being your rescue. Loved reading this!

  13. Sorry for you loss 🌹 and beautiful story

  14. Really beautiful story. Thank you for sharing your grief.

  15. Beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your loss. This makes me think of my big sister, Vicky, who is always there for me like your brother is for you.

  16. This is an amazing piece of writing. I just love the relationship between you and your brother, it reminds me of my elder brother and I. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Such a tough blog must say. So very beautiful ❤️❤️

  18. Yes, lovely & poignant. I’ll never forget the phone call from my cousin telling me my Dad had died suddenly… unfortunately my younger brother is not at all a solid shoulder to lean on in times of need… thank goodness for friends who can step up and be like ‘family’. Beautifully woven and expressed, thank you

  19. Wow, this is touching. I got shivers and teared up a bit. Thank you for sharing and I am sorry for your loss.

  20. This is so beautiful 💗 I’m so glad your first was a boy, just like you’ve always wanted. And I’m so so sorry about the loss of your father. 💗

  21. This is breathtakingly profound. Loved it.

  22. Love this story, I do not think anyone understands you like a sibling

  23. I recognize this feeling in myself…but from the other side of the spectrum. I recently wrote my own blog regarding the untimely death of my only daughter. I had to make that “one call” to my parents about their precious, only granddaughter. As you mentioned, it was a life-changing event…so traumatic. Bless you and your journey ❤️

  24. Speechless, thank you for sharing.

  25. This hits hard. My best friend died 3 hours after our last text message.

    As well, in our city, a boy died at school. I could never imagine being the parent on the other end.

  26. Thank you for letting strangers into your heart so openly that you get to experience the same feelings with you…

  27. I found this through “Discover”. It’s a lovely post.

  28. This was hard to read, because I looked into myself and thought that Troy is the ideal big brother. He’s an example to follow for all us big brothers. I thought I was good older brother until I read this. It just means I have a long way to go. Just like Troy did right by you, hope some day I do right by my sister.

    Thank you for this inspiring post 😊

  29. I have never thought about keeping the persons number so that no one else could have it. I should give this advice to someone who lost their mother earlier in the year. I love how you express emotions even 7 years after the loss. 👍👍

  30. Beautiful story. And really a phone 📱 call can change everything.

  31. Awesome blog.. You got an awesome brother, I know you don’t need me to remind you.. Really lovely… Sweet

  32. Feeling Your Every Word. I To Lost My Dad. This Year 01/04/2017. The Phone Call Plays Over And Over In My Head. In Order to feel Close to Him. I’ve Been Walking Around With His Wallet In My Purse Since he Passed Away. Some Reason It Gives Me Comfort. I Just Want to Keep It Safe. and Near Me. Have To Stop Writing Now. My Heart Just Drop. And Tears are Running. I Love Your Story. R.I.P to Our Dads.

    • Oh love, I’m so sorry for your loss. Well done keeping your dad’s wallet in your purse. If it brings you comfort, then it’s the exact right thing for you to do. I wore my dad’s picture in a locket around my neck every day for nearly the first year. It somehow calmed me with it on – knowing I was carrying him with me, as if I could keep him safe. Then one day I didn’t need to wear it anymore. I tucked it away in a drawer where it still is. Still safe. And so am I. So am I. And so are you. And, I love you. Take care.

  33. This is a good article, I couldn’t stop reading. It sounds like your brother was a great and loving person. I want my first child to be a boy too for the same reason, for my second child hopefully a girl to have a protector. I have an older brother and he has always inspired me. Thanks for sharing with us.

  34. It just happens sometimes when you see something you’ve seen before in a different light. Or hear something you heard before, but all of a sudden, you hear certain words louder. And you smile. Or shed a tear. Or both. I take these as little signs from the heavens… It’s like an angel showing us a glimmer of something out of this world.

  35. Hi Jamie, it’s Hanna from Jakarta, Indonesia.I just visited your blog and read this reminds me of my brother who’s studying far away from me. A beautifully written indeed!

  36. This was beautifully written! The connection that siblings share is special and somewhat indescribable, this reminds me of my brother and myself.

  37. It’s one piece of writing that struck me hard. I could feel everything you wrote, it is so powerful and overwhelming that it makes you shudder at a moment. You have been strong and I hope you always will be.

  38. I wish your brother should reborn in the form of your son and should say those words “…you know I’d do anything for you…”

  39. A powerful story. My sister and I have a link that sounds similar.

  40. This made my day….It is really beautiful, reminds me of my brother 🙂 We make each other cry, fight all the time, but yet when a third person brings tears to one of our eyes, the other makes sure that the third one is served right :)…..Beautiful.

  41. That sounds like a very sweet relationship you have with your brother. ❤️

  42. Oh my.. hail to your brother, and all the people that help us get through our darkest and toughest moments. Thank you for sharing such a heartwarming story, albeit gleaned from a painful memory. You are blessed…

  43. What a beautiful reflection on family, relationships, pain, and love. How connected these things are! We cannot escape pain when we love, but we do it anyway. And the best of us, like you, find ways to celebrate what the pain teaches us about love, human connection, and kindness. I loved this post, and am looking forward to reading more.

  44. I love the story. I love how you learned about the message that your brother cannot directly say just by the ringtone..

  45. Wow! I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. It’s always interesting the things and places that hold space in our hearts and minds. The little idiosyncrasies of those we hold dear. Thanks for sharing that

  46. This was so beautifully written for something that wasn’t such a beautiful moment in life. Thank you for sharing your story. It reminds me and takes me back to when I lost my grandma. My protector as your brother was/is to you. Thanks for the read.

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