As I sit here and write this, it’s October 29th, 2017. Right now, there is 1 day, 11 hours, 24 minutes, and 34 seconds until the 10th anniversary of my brother’s death on October 31st. I also know that this post will take me probably 2 hours to write and I will cry the entire time. I typically cry from October 1st-November 1st every year; it’s been this way for the past 9 years, and this year has been no different.
People constantly ask me how I moved on from my Dan’s death. It happened so suddenly and without warning that anyone in the same position as me “wouldn’t be able to keep living.” You say that now, but when it happens to you, you realize that you don’t have a choice. The world keeps spinning, the sun keeps shining, and the moon still rises. You never really move on from it, but you learn to let the grief settle in, and you learn to keep living and moving.
My brother was the best person I’ve ever met. His 6’4″ lanky frame didn’t do justice to his huge heart and big personality. Everyone who knew him loved him, and he loved everyone he knew. He genuinely didn’t care what people thought of him–if he was too nerdy, too strange, too intense–he always just wanted people to laugh and be cared for.
When my mom was pregnant with me, they had a feeling that I was going to be a boy. Dan was so excited to have a little brother. He was not happy when I ended up being a girl. In fact, he stopped talking to my mom for three weeks. He was two and a half years old. It didn’t take him long to realize that I was practically a miracle baby that probably should not have lived given my medical issues at birth. Pair that with my parents telling him that I was very fragile and could get hurt easily, and you have the perfect formula for the over-protective brother. I always remember my brother being around me from a young age. We were always playing together, he was always making me cereal for breakfast (until one time when we ran out of milk, and he used egg nog instead; he never made me breakfast after that)–we were attached at the hip. Turns out, he didn’t want me to friends with bad people who could hurt me, so I had to hang out with him and his friends all the time.
As we grew up, I eventually turned out to be tougher than anyone expected, and I ended up with my own circle of friends. We were in and out of the same schools together as he was two grades ahead of me. We still spent all the time together that we could, and he was still my best friend literally from the day I was born until the day he died. We used to constantly stay up until 4am at the kitchen table talking about nothing and everything, and sometimes our parents had to come out and tell us to keep it down. We did everything together, and he was always my person. As a young teenager, we lived in Florida. During terrible thunderstorms, I would grab my blankets and go into his room and sleep on the floor. I would never ask, and he would never kick me out. I would just sleep there.
I still have things that remind me of him. I have the teddy bear that he was obsessed with as a child. It still winds up and plays music, but it’s no longer white–instead it’s a weird, worn grey color. I still have the baby blanket I stole from him when I was 2 years old. The teddy bears on it are now faded and barely have faces. The threading is starting to come out, and it’s beginning to unravel.
It’s strange how things have changed over the past 10 years since his death. Relationships and friendships have begun and ended, I have finished university twice, I’ve moved to an entirely different city and province, and I’ve officially made it to my 30th birthday. My brother was 22 when he died, and I used to think he was so old and mature. Now I wonder where he would be or what he would be like if he got this far in time. Would he have followed his plan of moving to Cincinnati for school? Would he have moved in with me in Halifax? Would he have kids like his childhood friends? Would he be married?
Make sure your loved ones know they are loved. Stop, hug, and cherish the moment. The last time I saw my brother was when he was loading up my moving truck when I moved out of my parents’ house. He was running late for work, and he was rushing out of the door. I said, “NO. Stop. Talk to me. How are you?” We talked for 10 minutes, and he told me it was weird with me not living with them anymore, and he gave me a huge Dan-type of hug, told me he loved me and left. I will always be grateful for telling him to stop and talk to me. That hug means everything in the world to me.
I miss my brother every day. Even 10 years later, I want to call him and tell him a funny joke that I heard or ask him for advice. Reminding myself that I can’t do that anymore hurts my heart. I know that he would be happy for me and proud of me, and I know that I’ve always been very hard on myself for not working enough, not succeeding enough, and not being rich enough. But he would be proud of the person that I am, and the person that I let his death turn me into. I live my life and treat people that way that he would’ve wanted to, and I always ask myself how he would handle certain situations. I sleep at night knowing that he’s always in my mind and in my heart. It never gets easier, but my love for him and our relationship allows me to be OK.