I had been forewarned, by whom I still do not know, but they were kind enough to give me the chance to do things differently. My youngest brother Cody, aka, The Codeman, spent the better part of his life struggling to overcome drug addiction. He and I were always close. More so than I actually realized, after he died.
There was distance between us. I would like to say that it was because his repeated jackpots in the way of car crashes, overdoses, institutions and the like, had tired me to such a point I cut him loose; but that would be a lie. You see I too was struggling with addiction and had cut myself loose from any and all things that got in the way of my using. My brother was one of those things.
Until he was five years old he called me mommy. I’m not sure why, perhaps I had encouraged him to do so. I was always playing house and many times he was there too; playing at being one of my children. I can still see his wide, sky blue eyes, thickest curliest eyelashes I have ever seen. He even endured my putting mascara on him. Oh how I loved those beautiful bewildered eyes. Born three months early it took him years to grow into his age. He was tiny and somewhat frail. Even when I wasn’t playing house, in many of the photographs from that time, he is on my lap. My arm wrapped around him protectively.
I was riding my bike when I heard the voice whisper into my minds ear. Clear as someone standing right next to me I heard, Cody is going to die soon. Stunned, by the messenger, the message, the mystery of what was happening, I burst into tears. In my heart, it was if I had just been told he was already dead. I knew what I’d heard was truth.
At that time in my life, real and intense feeling broke through the everyday gray haze, like a sudden and unexpected lightning storm. Always acute and moving through very quickly. After the storm of emotional electricity passed, I rode my bike back to my car to head home. When I started up the engine the radio was blaring and the first song that played was Sara McLaughlin, Angel. Again came the voice, whispering into the ear of my heart, Play this song at Cody’s funeral.
Sadly I did not call my brother to say I love you. To plead with him not to die. I made no effort what so ever to spend precious time with him. Almost unbelievably, what happened that day vanished from my memory.
When the phone rang that News Years morning though, it all came back. Before I picked up the receiver I knew that my brother was dead. A bolt of grief melted me on the spot.
The next year was heavy with regret. Our [mine and Cody's], life came back like flash floods. Our broken childhood, the pain, the loneliness of it all. I couldn’t remember what his face looked like. Could not recall the sound of his voice. Secretly I begged for his forgiveness everyday. Still I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was responsible for his death. That I could have prevented it.
The following New Years Eve when I went to bed I said, out-loud, “Cody, where are you? Where did you go when you died?” I fell asleep crying.
The next morning when I got up to take my dogs for their walk I couldn’t take our usual route. We were having a January thaw and there was no way to cross the brook behind my house. We’d gotten a skiff of snow in the night. As I plodded through the neighborhood to get to the next cutoff into the woods where we normally walked, I noticed that someone had stomped out a picture of a spaceship on the road. It looked like something drawn on an etch-a-sketch. The feet were small like a child’s. Not wanting to mess up their art I steered my dogs around the six-foot skyship. Something prompted me to look back after I’d already passed and suddenly I saw it! His name, C-O-D-Y written with the same small feet, like a signature on a piece of fine art.
I was so shocked, scared even, that I gasped. Fearing no one would believe me, I abandoned the idea of a walk and dragged my anxious dogs back to the house; hollering for my husband. ” Come quick! You’re not gunna believe this. Hurry!
I don’t know if there was a boy named Cody living in our neighborhood. And if there was, I have no idea what or who inspired him to create that starship, on that corner, on that day. What I do know is that my brother loves me. That he knows and understands all the things I do not, about why it had to be the way it was between us in the end.
The question of whether there is Life beyond death has always haunted me. Like something I remember, even though I have forgotten it. Because of my beloved brothers death, I now know, in the deepest fibers of my being, that Life does go on.