Today would have been my brother’s birthday. He died six years ago, and that seems like forever and yesterday at the same time. The memories of the day he died and the following week are still vivid. I think about him all the time, but especially on his birthday and the anniversary of his death. Grief is a funny thing. Sometimes I’ll remember him and be happy for the time we shared. Other times I would do anything to hug him, and the loss hits me all over again.
A year ago today I was in Hawaii with my sister, and we raised a glass in his memory. The vacation helped distract me from brooding too much. I don’t think he would want that for any of his family and friends. He lived life large, and he would want us to do the same.
I’m re-posting something I wrote on Facebook on the fifth anniversary of his death because it still holds true:
My brother died five years ago today. He had an amazing smile and made a mean cheesecake and had an encyclopedic knowledge of planes and wasn’t ashamed to see “Star Wars” or watch fireworks with his sisters. He was a great photographer and had a strong work ethic and loyalty to his friends and family and did a dead-on Yoda impression and loved fast cars. He wasn’t necessarily the best influence; as I said at his funeral, he taught me how to swear and how to drink.
I still miss him more than I can say. I think about him whenever I see a sporty yellow car (he had three) or watch certain movies (“Top Gun”) or see Cherry Garcia ice cream (his favorite) in a store, among other things. I would give anything to have him back for five minutes, to give him a hug and hear his voice and tell him everything I never got a chance to.
My life changed the day he died in so many ways, a few of them good. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore; it just doesn’t matter. I take fewer risks because my family couldn’t handle another loss. I’m more sensitive to other people’s grief because I know how much the smallest gestures mean so much when you’ve lost someone you love.
One of the things I realized when Chuck died was what a great extended family I have, because I wouldn’t have been able to get through those first few horrible days without them. My aunts and uncles and cousins dropped everything to be with us when we needed them. Relatives came from as far away as Kansas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan; they missed work and school to be at the visitation and funeral. That meant the world to me, and to my parents and sister. Thank you again to everyone who did that, because a lot of you are on my friends list.
This is always a tough time of year for me, so tomorrow I’m taking a few mental health days from work. I’m going to spend time at the farm and see some of my favorite people.
If you made it this far, thanks for listening to my ramblings. In closing, the three things I would tell Chuck if I could:
I miss you. I love you. I’m proud of you.