I was wrong. I am still randomly crying the earth-shattering-look-to-the-sky-and-hold-your-heart kind of crying. Lately, I have felt so low and distanced from those around me. Maybe this is because I can’t feel or even fake a humane level of happiness. I find no joy in my schoolwork. I just want to be writing, collaging, or exercising. I prefer doing anything I can do with half a brain because the less alert I feel the more I am distanced from the thought that you’re gone. You feel so far away, nowadays.
When I am feeling happiness it is brief and often met with a painful reminder that whatever is making me happy in the moment can never mask the pain of losing you. You played so many roles in my life. You were my brother, my best friend, my teacher, my life coach, my personal comedian, and more. So much more. I’m a different person, now that these positions are open. I’ve been marked by loss. My sense of self has been destroyed. I try to remember that you are with me but the world is dull without your physicality. Nothing will ever compare to being able to send you a voice memo and get an instant reply. Nothing will ever compare to being able to FaceTime you and see your balding head and snaggle tooth smile looking, grinning widely, back at me. Nothing will ever be able to compare to being able to hug you, touch your spiky hair, and hear your voice, in person, telling me what to do. Even though your advice and compliments were always met with an insult, I prefer your voice to radio silence.
Uncharacteristic of the tiny Scottish town I call home, the week has been extremely sunny. The weather has been absolutely beautiful and you can feel the positive effect the weather has on everyone’s mood. Where there is typically a bluish-greyness covering the town, there’s been warm hue of orangish-red on everything the sun can reach. The weather has positively affected my energy as well but dually presents problems that most others don’t face. I feel the beautiful weather makes it all the more difficult to hide my pain.
People are more energized by the nice weather and want to drink more, hang out more, and socialize more. I am still not comfortable drinking. I don’t want to be social all the time but also don’t want to isolate myself to a point of no repair.
Without the wind and rain, there is no more excuse for my face being wet and red. Now, people will know I have been crying. And, worst of all, I can no longer blame being tired or reclusive on “the weather is such shit.” Kenny Chesney couldn’t have been more accurate when he sang, “Sunny days seem to hurt the most. I wear the pain like a heavy coat. I see you everywhere I go.” The more I see and feel the sunshine the less I can mask my pain and the more I am thinking of you.
Like the sunshine, I can feel you peeking through the clouds and landing on me wrapping me in love. I can hear you through the songs that play on your IPod. I can smell you in the clothes of yours I stole from your apartment, even though they’ve been drowned in perfume. I can see you in the pictures all around my wall. I was so excited for you to see my apartment yourself. When I lay in bed, you are constantly around me. Your Team Texas sweatshirt hangs on my closet door to the right of my bed. Your favorite Beatles photo looks back at me from the collage across the room. You are the peak of my photo pyramid on the wall next to the collage. Your face decorates the corkboard above my door in the Polaroid photos we took in Indiana last summer. My bag of ‘I Like Ike’ pins stare at me from the chest on the floor. You are seemingly everywhere and nowhere, at once.
Tuesday, I was sitting in the King James library trying to study for a Visual Analysis test on Thursday. I’m typically quite good at these kinds of tests. This time around, the information just wouldn’t stick. I was procrastinating on Facebook when Julian sent me a movie trailer for a movie called Yesterday. The soundtrack and plot instantly made me think of you. It broke my heart thinking how badly I wanted to send the link your way. If you were still alive, I would have sent it to you immediately and asked if we could see it together. Sitting in the library, I felt the tears begin to swell behind my eyes.
I quickly grabbed your iPod and my sunglasses and bolted out the door. Immediately outside, I saw two friends. Thank God I had the protection of my sunglasses so they couldn’t see the chemical reaction I was having to this random burst of grief. I flashed a smile and mumbled a simple “Hey, how are ya” before pacing for privacy. I found a nice bench to sit on. Secluded, surrounded by trees, all within direct view of the sun. I cried as hard as I could without muttering a sound. Like a fool, I forgot to bring tissues. I kept having to wipe my nose on the sleeve of Mom’s Valentino jacket. I’m not sorry. I looked up at the sun and could feel you wrap me in warmth but the pain continued as did the tears. I put my headphones in and shuffled your “Spring” playlist. The song landed on “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac. The lyrics made me sob even harder. I knew you had played this song for me. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I listened to it three more times over. I’m pretty sure the people walking past me were rattled at the sight of a young girl sitting alone crying though a smile, staring at the sun, and blowing her nose into her sleeve. I couldn’t care less. After about twenty minutes, I decided I had to pull myself together. I shuffled one more time before walking back to the library. I instantly smiled when “Seasons of Love” came on. If we measured your life in love, you’d be ancient.
Dad informs me that your autopsy results are still not in. This news makes me the kind of irrationally angry you always made fun of. I wish you were here to turn this frustration into humor. I can’t do it on my own. So, here I go.
HOW can this be? HOW can it take so fucking long for the state of Texas to tell me how my goddamn brother died? WHY is no one rushing this? Fuck you, Kerrville County. It’s infuriating to think that there is still information about your death that I don’t know. The cause of death is one of my many questions that can be answered. It is one of the questions that gets to be answered, all while there are thousands more that never get that opportunity in this lifetime. We are all grieving so intensely. We need the closure of your autopsy. I pray to God, often, and beg him to tell me the earthly explanation to your death. When he doesn’t get back to me, I turn to the almighty and all knowing power that always responds: Google. The search engine says autopsies can take as long as 6 weeks. Well, newsflash Google, IT’S BEEN 8. It’s been 8 weeks and I still don’t know the scientific explanation to why your life ended. WHY can’t someone tell me how you died, so I can try to make it to the next level of grief? Will these results even take me to another level of grief?
I’ve come to understand grief as a pain unlike any other. It is a silent battle that is as unique as the person experiencing it. Everyone understands that having someone you love die is one of the worst pains anyone has to endure but they can’t fathom how the pain feels and how deeply it hurts. It is impossible to understand what someone is truly feeling. Those mourning the same loss can understand it best, but never the exact same way. For example, I empathize with how Dad and Carter are feeling but their pain is personalized, as was your relationship with them.
As I’ve gotten to know grief, personally, I’ve found that it has numerous traits that are present in everyone’s experience: Grief is irrational. It does not care if you have plans or a paper to do. If it wants to come and bother you for an afternoon it will. Grief is crooked. Sometimes I feel genuine joy in my heart and can laugh and dance like you never left but the next day, or maybe the following hour, I may not be able to smile or leave the safety of my bedroom. Grief is physically painful. For me, grief often feels like a blow right to the chest. It takes my breath away and forces me to bend over and succumb to the pain until it decides to fade away.
The most disorienting aspect of grief is that it is not always pain. Sometimes, grief is gratitude. I am genuinely thankful to have had someone that is so excruciatingly painful to lose. The pain means that I had someone I once loved with my whole heart. Some people are not that lucky. I would choose the pain of losing you over never having you at all, any day. Because of this, I know that grief isn’t the loss of love. Grief is mourning the loss of an earthly place for all your love to rest. I no longer have a love for you that I can actively engage with. I no longer have a big brother to verbally tell me what to do or to physically embrace. That is not to say I need to find some sort of replacement for you. We both know that will never happen. Over time, I will simply have to come to understand that my love for you will always exist and, even though you can’t interact back anymore, it is still real. Grief is love. I’m lucky to have it because it means that I had you. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.