Letter To Brian: December 8, 2011

Dear Brian,

I’m finding myself in a strange place these days. The grief over losing you seems to come and go in vicious waves. The part that hurts the most right now is that I’m in very awkward territory; it’s been over a year now so people seem to thing I should “be over with being sad” by now.

I’ve ventured out into the world of the living again and spend a lot of time with people—but there are so many days I deeply regret it. I miss the shelter of being home alone all the time where I could cry all day and all night without judgment. And if I did cry in front of others they understood—after all, it had only been a few weeks… then a few months… but as time continues to pass there has been a growing sense from the world around me that I should be over it by now. Somehow it feels more isolating now than at the beginning because I don’t feel as safe allowing my hurt to come out anymore—if not for the pressure of not bothering those around me with it then for the pressure I put on myself to move past it.

The best way I can describe what I’m feeling is this… Remember in the movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks how, after several years on that island alone, he was finally prepared to get off the island and get home or die trying? He worked so very hard to get his raft over the waves that threatened to push him back towards the island; he knew once he was past rough waters he’d have conquered the hard part and just might make it home again. Well once he reached calmer waters he alternated glances between the vast space in front of him and the shores of the island where he’d spent the past several years. You could see the concern in his face– the torment of wanting to get home but being afraid of the unknown and longing for the comfort of the island where he had come to feel safe. I know my own “island” wasn’t the best place for me to be, but I’m afraid to be out in the open and I find myself missing the days when it was OK for me to wall myself off for days at a time and not feel guilty for doing so.  This first year was terrible but I fear the next few years will be even worse. I spent this year just talking myself through each holiday, anniversary and special occasion. Now the true reality of the situation has begun to set in—it wasn’t a one time thing getting through those days; it was just the first of many more to come and my heart aches overwhelmingly at the thought of it.

I miss you more than you could possibly imagine. I see and hear so many things that remind me of you and I wish I could pick up the phone to call you and share it with you. I think about that dream I had about 6 weeks after you left us—I think of it everyday and am still convinced it was a gift from you letting me know you were OK. Do you hear me before bed at night when I beg you to come visit me again? It’s been over a year since that dream and I just want to have the connection again that I felt upon waking up that night.

You know what else I think about a lot? After I moved to Texas I kept on pestering you to come for a visit and possibly even move here to be closer to me and get a fresh start. You always responded with something along the lines of, “yeah, I’ll have to plan that soon,” but it never happened. In hindsight I am grateful—because I think on some level you were sparing me from the pain of creating memories with you here in Austin and being reminded of them everyday. There are days I’m so grateful to have the distance from where we grew up because I don’t know how I would handle all the daily reminders of the people we knew and the places we’ve been. I don’t have any of those places here to haunt me and for that I am often grateful; and I think you knew what you were doing.

I guess I’m all out of words now… please just know I miss you so very much.

With Love,
Laura

The Penny

A year ago today we were cleaning out my brother’s home… it was only 3 days after we recieved the news of his death. I’d like to share a story about that day.

A few days before were given a copy of this poem by a dear friend:

I found a penny today just lying on the ground.
But it’s not just a penny, this coin I found.
Found pennies come from heaven,
That’s what my Grandpa told me.
He said Angels toss them down.
Oh how I loved that story.

He said when an angel misses you they toss a penny down.
Sometimes to cheer you up, to make a smile out of your frown.
So don’t pass by that penny when you’re feeling blue.
It may be a penny from heaven that an angel is tossing you.

I didn’t think too much of the poem upon first reading it… but as we were going through Brian’s things, it came to mean much, much more.

I had spent a lot of time in his room boxing up his books and clothes and periodically stopping to sit on the bed, hold something he used to wear up close to my cheek and cry for a bit. The last thing I emptied was his clothes hamper; after I’d removed the clothes and placed them in a bag, I carried all the bags I’d collected out into the living room– leaving the hamper where I had found it.

About a half hour later my Mom went back in there to get the hamper from his room and she came out with a such look on her face; one of awe, hope and pain all at the same time. She stretched out her hand and showed me something she found when she lifted the hamper from its place– it was a single penny. Thinking back to the poem about the pennies I felt myself beginning to choke up a bit. But it got better. I turned the penny over to see it was dated 1975– the year Brian was born. I immediately burst into tears… and it made my heart smile to think that Brian sent that penny to us to let us know he was there.

To this day, every single time I find a penny, my heart skips a beat as I pick it up because I think of each of those pennies as a reminder from Brian that he’s still with me. And, more often than not, I find the pennies at the most amazing times… when I truly needed to find them most. I think he knows exactly what he is doing.

I’m not religious but I am spiritual and I will state openly that I do not believe in God and haven’t since before Brian passed. But I believe with all my heart that we do not just “go away” when we die and each time I come across another penny I’ll continue to think Brian is smiling down on me!

Just wanted to share!

Letter To Brian: October 4, 2011

Dear Brian,

It’s so hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since you left this world for another… where hopefully you found the peace you weren’t able to find here.

There’s so much I could tell you about this past year—about how much I’ve cried until complete exhaustion, how much I’ve missed you and how often I’ve picked up the phone and started to dial your number to call you only to realize seconds later what I was doing. There are days it is so painful to be around people because I feel so different from them. And I think there is a part of me that is afraid to get close to people because I’m afraid that they too will leave.

I’ve started to come out of my shell a little bit and am beginning to return somewhat to the person I was before. While I’ll never be the same again—I’ve managed to find myself laughing more often and when I think of you there are almost as many smiles as there are tears… so I’m starting to move on a little bit.

After you died I was haunted by the fact that each day that passed was bringing you farther and farther away from me; the last time I saw you, the last time we spoke, the last e-mail I received from you… all of those were becoming farther away as well. Now that feeling seems to have shifted a tiny bit; I find myself beginning to see each day that passes as bringing me one day closer to the day I get to see you again.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter to Brian: March 20, 2011

Dear Brian,

I’ll never forget the last time I saw you. It was July 5th, 2010– you brought me back to the airport after my visit home for Mom’s birthday. The entire ride was so heartbreaking; I could feel it– your profound sadness. I tried to get you to talk about it but you kept changing the subject… so I let it be. I just wanted to spend time with you. I didn’t want the ride to end; the closer we got to the airport the more anxious I grew. I didn’t want to say goodbye to you– something was happening that made my heart ache for you but I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly. You got out to help me with my bags, I gave you a hug and said, “Come visit me soon, OK?? See ya later, dude.” Once inside the airport doors I allowed myself to turn around in time to see you driving away; I started sobbing because in my heart I knew I’d never see you again… and I didn’t.

That part still haunts me– that I was so connected with you that I could sense that but yet I didn’t feel it the moment you died. It will take me a lifetime to get past the fact that an entire week had passed before you were found. I felt like I let you down– that not only did you die alone but you continued to lie there alone for a week while I went about my life. “He’s gone, honey.” Those are the first words I heard from Mom confirming that what we had hoped hadn’t happened really had… and the nightmare began. For weeks I would call your cell phone several times a day just to hear your voicemail message; I worry that I’ll forget the sound of your voice. I was a mess the first time I called your number after it was finally disconnected– it was like you had died all over again and the last remaining connection I had to hearing your voice again was gone.

I keep running through our life together over and over in my head. We were so close in age that we shared everything together– we experienced all stages of life at the same time: childhood… high school… college… jobs… everything. And we even liked each other enough to choose to be roommates as adults! I loved that we were not just brother and sister, but we were friends. We both included each other in our circles of friends and activities. I keep trying to remember those things; our Sundays watching the Simpsons, you “singing” me the X-Files theme song, pizza and football games, and even you trying, very patiently, to teach me how to drive a manual transmission! You had the most amazing, contagious laugh and a very gentle spirit and are going to be missed by so many people– more than you could have ever imagined. It may not make sense but it feels like you have taken that past with you… and it also feels as though you have also taken my future as I never imagined it without you.

I often wonder how long it’ll be before those memories bring me more joy than pain– because right now it hurts to think of them. My heart is broken! I find myself detaching from the world, I’m suffering from frequent panic attacks when the pain is just so strong it takes my breath away. I have become jealous of others who have siblings who are still here– and am hurt when I see them angry with each other. I am not the same person anymore; I feel so isolated, so different from everyone else. I can laugh… but have no true joy right now. I suppose some happiness will come back someday… but for now there’s only a hole in my heart where you used to be.

Please know that I am not angry at you now… nor do I think I ever will be. I have been to that place myself before and fought my way back out. I know it wasn’t a compulsive choice you made but rather the culmination of years and years of battling a crippling depression and you held on as long as you could– for us.

I miss you and think of you every waking moment. Instead of saying goodbye to you, since I know I’ll see you again, I’ll just say what we always said to each other– “See ya later, dude.”

Your loving sister,
Laura