How I Honored The Brother I Lost By 'Closing The Loop'

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woman standing in front of the ocean

As a professional organizer, one of the things my clients will often hear me say is, "Remember to close the loop." What does this mean?

Well, it means to finish the task. There's a natural cycle to tasks and they are not finished until all the steps involved in doing the task are completed.

If we're talking about laundry, that task is not done until the laundry is put away.

My siblings and I closed the loop and honored my brother

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How my family closed the loop after tragedy struck. 

Like many families, we lost my brother during the pandemic lockdown.

He didn't have the disease but died suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was too young.

At 61, he had a lot of life yet to live. Charles was a social guy. In fact, he thrived on being in a crowd and entertaining anyone who would listen.

I know that like many others who live alone, the circumstances of the lockdown made him sad and lonely.

Of course, we shared text messages and occasional phone calls, but those didn’t really help Charles since he longed to be in the presence of people. He had just moved to Stonington from Madison, Connecticut.

He and I had a few calls about organizing his new home. I let him know he would feel more settled when he finished unpacking boxes. Once again, close the loop. This was not to be.

It was November 1st, All Saints Day, when I got the news that my brother had passed.

My two sisters and my other brother, along with Charles’s son and a few of the cousins, decided to meet at a small chapel in the funeral parlor in Connecticut a few days later.

Even though we're a close family, we were all a little fearful. We met outside the chapel and gave each other quick little hugs.

Of course, we were all masked and staying a respectful 6 feet apart. We didn’t want to get too near each other.

There we were, in this chapel to which we had no connection, listening to a priest we didn’t know, while he rushed through some hasty prayers.

Once back outside, we got into our respective cars and drove to a local restaurant that had somehow managed to stay open. We shared a meal and then parted ways.

This gathering of my family in a time of loss felt very wrong.

Yes, we were able to be together but I was not satisfied, nor did I feel at peace. This was not the send-off my brother would have wanted.

So we decided to plan another celebration of Charles’s life. This time, we met at a chapel just outside of Tannersville, N.Y.

Our parents had a summer home there. We spent many wonderful fun-filled summers in this community. Every Sunday, we sang in the choir alongside our peers.

It was a perfectly beautiful summer day.

We, and some of the friends we knew (and who knew our brother), gathered at this lovely little chapel nestled in the Catskill mountains.

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We stood around the headstone placed next to that of our father and remembered Charles.

The pastor had been in touch with my other brother, Chris, and put together a meaningful tribute. Chis also shared some of his thoughts. Charles's son also shared a few heartfelt words. 

Following this service, we met at the clubhouse (a few of the cousins remarked that it looked like the dining room from Dirty Dancing) for lunch.

I had to chuckle at that comment because there's a small theatre where the community puts on a show every summer and there's even a lake!

This gathering closed the loop for me and for the rest of the family.

We came together in a place that meant something to us and to Charles. We buried his ashes and said our goodbyes.

I know that there are thousands of families who lost a loved one unexpectedly in the extreme circumstances of the last two years. We were not alone in having a quick service, or maybe even no service at all, to honor a family member.

It was important for our family to do something else, to gather when it became possible to share warm and meaningful hugs. We always knew that Charles’s final resting place was going to be here in this graveyard.

We waited to schedule this service when most of us could be there. Yes, we missed three cousins because traveling to upstate New York wasn’t possible for them. But, we know they were thinking of us and of their Uncle Charles.

Maybe this all feels very familiar to you.

Did your family miss out on gathering together to honor a loved one?

My suggestion is to close the loop. Try to schedule a time to be together to remember your loved one. Share those long-awaited, meaningful hugs and tears. It has helped me and my siblings and brought us peace.

I hope it will help you, too.

RELATED: I Avoid Grieving My Dad's Death So I Can Pretend He's Still Alive

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.

This article was originally published at DNQ Solutions. Reprinted with permission from the author.