What Today Brings
“Grief never goes away. It changes shape, but it always has its teeth in you.” - Allison Moorer Nothing else matters when I remember the pain my dear brother felt, when I feel the pain my brother felt and can’t take it away from him. 1990 becomes yesterday, 1993 is this morning. Time stands still when the person most a part of you is in deep emotional pain. When the one with whom you share blood, cells, experiences and heartaches hurts, you too feel it physically. Remembering him smile and laugh from the bottom of his guts, knowing how much he loved to give to others and make them happy makes it all more tragic. I can’t go back in time and change Chan’s life of ups and downs, of extreme highs and devastating lows. I can only acknowledge what I believe is the truth. I can say with a modicum of authority that if he had gotten the right therapy, if he had been willing to let go of the disappointments of a broken home and dashed dreams of unbroken parents, and finally, finally come to terms with the cold hard fact that alcohol and drugs made everything 100 times worse and indeed emotionally unbearable, he would have survived. Maybe it can be a cautionary tale. Still, that sounds trite and disingenuous because in the end, he is my tale. While I can warn others, in my heart of hearts it is only skin deep. I will go to my grave with a part of me missing because Chan is who I wanted to caution, no one else. When I think of Chan, which is every day, I remember him smiling, huge and from his center. I shudder to remember the opposite and equally prevalent, raging and sobbing, the pain and destruction against himself and anything he could get his hands on. I push that away as far as I can, but it will creep up and wake me from a dead sleep. It rocks me to my core and nothing else matters. All ambitions and pursuits, books and events, people and plans mean nothing. My story for the rest of my life, will be I had a brother I loved deeply and could not save from his own pain. I could not save his life. Cancer, divorce, broken bones and probably the one that hit the hardest, an auto-immune condition that sidelined me from my beloved acting career, were wounds that healed. They were challenges that I made peace with, even feel blessed because of the changes that transpired in their wake. The experience of my brother’s pure joy of life, his sensitivity and warmth coinciding with unfathomable years of emotional suffering and ultimate early death stay with me. It will always have its teeth in me. “June Bug Versus Hurricane” is my gift to Joseph Daniel Chandler Jr., a retelling of our childhood, our family and an exploration of our experiences in an attempt to understand when and why everything went haywire. It was freeing and transformative even if it was just the tip of an iceberg that still burns inside. I am fortunate to have a partner. Together we grow and learn and build for future happiness, but he will never understand that part of me, as I will never understand the deepest challenges he has been made to endure in this lifetime. Each and every one of us has something that gnaws at the center of our being that must be tolerated at best. Honoring my brother’s life by living mine to the fullest is the best I can do. Deep empathy for animals and the fragile will always cut to the core. The only defense against an often-cruel world is the fact that one day, every being will be in a more peaceful place. Holding on to the belief there is a heaven after this is paramount to standing the injustice of walking side by side with those who lack empathy. Love is important. Appreciation, love and sharing what we learn as we go along is important. I never thought I would get so much joy showing others how to write their own stories. Teaching has given me purpose beyond ego driven pursuits that pepper my existence to the point of choking. Realizing what will remain important when we die is how I want to live.