The past week I have felt like a new person. It’s my first week back in St. Andrews since spring break. I finally feel like I am strong enough within myself to take this life, without you, head on. Two weeks ago, I was in Hawaii with my best friend in the entire world and a group of people I believe were brought together by fate. Quit your snarking, I’m really into spiritual awareness at the moment. It helps.

I entered the vacation broken. I flew home medicated by Pearl’s anti-anxiety meds because I couldn’t stand the sober pain of my shattered heart. I can, finally, clearly acknowledge how I spent the week after finding out about Nico in a vegetative state playing Mario Kart and constantly composing paragraphs of emotion that I’m thankful I didn’t ever show to anyone except my journal. The ones I did send were only a fraction as cruel. Words are powerful and not to be wasted on people I’ll soon let go. I had suddenly lost the two closest people to me just weeks apart. Brokenhearted doesn’t begin to explain the pain I was experiencing at the peak of it all. Mom put it best when she questioned “God Cams, how much pain can one heart take?” A lot, I now know. But I grew while I was away on spring break. I became stronger and more independent in those two weeks I was out of, sometimes toxic, St. Andrews. I am finally ready to embrace this place post losing you. 

My newfound confidence and personal strength have finally taken off and this week and I have been out of my comfort zone contently. I submitted some of my poems to a school club and they were selected for their poetry night. I stood in front of a crowded room and read the words I’d written for you, my new favorite muse:

This past December my older brother, my rock and best friend, unexpectedly passed away. I wrote this poem one afternoon when I realized that the death of a loved one doesn’t occur once. Derailed by slivers of recollection, they die in pieces, breaking away a little bit more each time you realize the little quirks or the different roles they played in your life are now gone too.

No more you 

No more mid day phone calls

No more funny texts

No more inspiring mentorship

No more opinions on what happens next

No more editing my papers

No more judgment on my clothes

No more trivia battles

No more scrapbooks to compose

No more snaggle tooth smile

No more booming laugh in my ears

No more favorite face in a crowd

No more resting place for my fears

No more philosophical conversations

No more letters, comics, or jokes

No more hugs and no more high fives

No more burgers for you to poke

No more freshly shaved head to touch

No more matching hands to admire

No more early morning fitness

No more dreams for you to aspire

No more funny t-shirts

No more crazy socks

No more see you tomorrows

No more “I love you, you’re my rock”

No more of my advocate

In your place, there’s now a hole

No more of all of this,

Because no more brother to fill the role.

It hurt to read these words aloud. It was terrifying to be so vulnerable in front of a crowd filled with familiar strangers and the family I’ve chosen overseas but I knew you would have been proud to see me take part. I read another poem, the one about secrets spreading like wildfire in a small town, and ended on a much more lighthearted note than I began with. People afterwards came up to praise me for my ability to make them cry and laugh in one evening. I could feel my heart being topped off with love. I’ve finally patched up most of the holes that kept letting love spill out.

The week went on with events and I was finally strong enough to join in without hesitation. I was a guest on Victoria’s radio show, discussing heartbreak and poetry amid other fun conversations. You would have loved it. I wish you could have tuned in. I attended the school hockey game with my friends and a group of people I’ve recently gotten to know. We had so much fun. We drank, we laughed, and we cheered on our team with the enthusiasm of an American crowd. I found joy knowing my strength and confidence were growing. I loved taking part in the kind of wholesome fun I know you would appreciate. 

The weekend came and I flew down to London to stay with Hannah. Traveling hungover constantly proves torture. My disheveled state resulted in me, idiotically, forgetting my wallet in Heathrow. Taking your advice from when my car battery died a couple months ago, I remained calm. You would have been proud after you made fun of my idiocy. “Well, what can I do now?” I thought as I laughed at myself for being such a fool. A disheveled mess, I arrived to the Gruy’s and asked them to help me pay for my cab. Hannah laughed and related to my hangover while looking fabulous and maternal with her precious baby girl on her hip.

I now understand why you had chosen the Gruy’s as your second family. They are amazing people. I could write a book on their value to humanity. Kind, interesting, accepting, and relentlessly loving. Hannah and her family welcomed me into their beautiful home with open arms and made me feel like I mattered to them, even though we barely knew each other. I hope this relationship grows in the future. Thank you for bringing these people into my life. 

Hannah and I sipped prosecco the night I arrived, discussed life since we’d seen each other after your service, then left to go see Conner play his show in the East End. It was refreshing and awe-inspiring standing in the crowd watching him perform like a real celebrity. The last time I’d seen him play was after your service when he sang “In Your Life” to a melancholy audience. Less distraught this time around, he looked great. His exterior rugged, but his shy-boy persona proved endearing and charming. The ladies went wild. You would have loved it. He brought the guitar we had given him, the one that used to belong to you, and he gave me a shout out before playing it for the first time in front of an audience. I swallowed back tears while enjoying the music and wishing you were swaying next to us. 

I know I keep telling you, but I can really feel myself growing through the pain I’ve recently endured. I can tell I am different. I like the person I am becoming. I’ve felt immense pain in the last few weeks but these dark times have made me all the more grateful for the good. Losing Nico cleared space in my heart for new beautiful relationships to grow. Nico’s end in my story has brought new people into my life and reinforced those who were there all along, a lot like losing you. Finality of death is a lot like the finality of a broken relationship. Cemented in the past, that person is gone from your life and you have to grow to fill the holes they leave behind. I can no longer communicate with either of you the way I used to and I have had to find other things to occupy my heart and mind.

Despite all the absolute bullshit the universe has thrown my way, I am no longer hiding from the world but am ready to move forward. I am ready to go out and socialize. I am ready to be outside my comfort zone. I am ready to talk about you to anyone who will listen. Screw whoever gets uncomfortable when I bring you up. I like to discuss you because you were amazing. You were fascinating. You were loved by all those who were lucky enough to know you. I am proud you were mine. Yeah you died, but you lived life to the fullest while you were around. It’s worth discussing. I like to talk about you because you are always on my mind. I shouldn’t keep hiding what I’m feeling, vulnerability and strength can and should coexist. People need to be given a chance to see the inner workings of your mind. Most times, they respect you for it. The ones who matter anyway.

You are my reason to keep going. My newfound strength is due in large part to the fact that I am positive that you are always with me. You may not be with me physically, and you may not even be with me spiritually anymore, but you are always inside of me. Your heart and wit and humor live on inside of me and all those you loved. We have to keep pushing forward for you, if nothing else. I am pushing through the hard times in search of the good for you, if no one else. I am having fun lately. I am enjoying life again. I’m growing, brother. I wish you were here to see it. I wish you were here to tell me to get back to work every once in a while.