Today is February 15th. Your birthday.
Mom, Dad, and Al Facetimed me because they wanted me to be a part of the celebration, which included three cupcakes lit with three little birthday candles. Mom pointed out that each of the cupcakes represent 10 years. Needless to say, I began to weep from the deepest part of my soul.
I’m not exactly sure why, but this birthday has been different than others since you’ve passed. Of course 30 is significant, but the grief and the pain has come back with a vengeance.
Or, maybe that’s not the right way to put it; maybe it hasn’t come back, but taken on a new form in an unexpected and unavoidable way. The permanence of your death and the weight of your longtime absence is proving to take its toll.
A memory has recently resurfaced and has since been at the forefront of my mind. That memory is the night of March 9, 2011, the day of your last morning on earth, and last night before the blur of funeral and burial planning.
Before all of that, from midnight to 6 am the following morning, I sat on the couch in our downstairs living room, which had been newly rearranged to accommodate the overwhelming amount of grieving visitors, and I sat in the same place for six hours straight and begged for you.
I begged you to come back, I pleaded for you to just give me a sign, I asked for your forgiveness for having stupidly and carelessly argued with you the last time I’d ever see you, I cried out I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry my brother, my big brother I cherished from the first day of my life onward with every fiber of my being.
My brother, my protector.
The heaviness in the air, the thick and overpowering smell of the constant stream of delivered flowers, the sight of the countless crock pots filled with untouched food, the horrifying sound of our dad, our big strong unwavering dad, gasping and crying out for you. I still don’t know how he survived those initial days. I was so certain he wouldn’t.
That last night before the “new reality” would begin to set in, when I had quiet time in the living room we grew up together in, where we experienced the closeness and happiness and complete agony of our family’s growing pains.
The same living room and the same air we breathed together for years, the same couch we shared and fought over when we had boyfriends and girlfriends at the house, the same carpet on which we’d attempt to and, many times, successfully beat the living hell out the other.
The same walls that shook with our yelling and screaming in true, close-knit sibling style. The windows looking out into the yard we’d run around in and hit golf balls out of that would inevitably hit a nearby-parked car that we paid zero attention to.
As I sat there and the memories flashed so vividly while simultaneously grappling with the news of your death, I experienced what I would describe as the purest form of desperation. I could feel the inside of my bones for the first time, and I saw my soul’s very bottom, and I ached for and craved something I didn’t know I’d ever need. I needed your physical presence and I would die without it.
I needed to see your smile, I needed to hear your heavy heels running up and down the steps, I needed to hear your voice yelling my name “LIV!” so loud and abruptly like you did.
I needed you to come back and let’s start all over again and we’ll get it right this time.
I feel that night and those feelings all over again. That need and the total, utter desperation. I wonder if this is bubbling up again because I know now, I really know, you’re gone. After so many hours, days, weeks and months and now years you really aren’t coming back, are you? This new-found realization and struggle to accept this, again, has at times shocked me and left me momentarily paralyzed.
As the time has passed and we are suddenly here now, at what would be a huge milestone in your life and, in just a couple of weeks, the fifth anniversary of your death, I feel you and your ever-present effect on my life more deeply than I ever could have imagined.
I had no idea, that night I spent wide awake trying to reach you, that in five years from now you’d continue to have such a profound influence on my life: in my big and small decisions, in my apologies and in my proposals, in my perspective, even in my relationships.
I couldn’t know then that you would be so alive in more ways than I knew possible for a person to be.
I celebrate you today, on your 30th birthday, and in every day going forward. My big brother. Thank you for staying by my side all this time and for guiding me in your way.
My brother, my protector.