My head is aching. My hands are shaking. I can’t get the bitter taste out of my mouth no matter what I do. I tried to eat something but couldn’t. I didn’t want to write this, but I did, but I didn’t. I didn’t want your death to be just another article on a website somewhere that will be archived in a month’s time. But I needed to get these words out because this is different. You were different.
I grappled with myself and fought back and forth. Everyone deals with pain in different ways. Some drink, some smoke, some gamble – anything to stop the reverberating beats of the heart that get louder with each passing minute, filling your ears and blocking out all other sounds around you. Me? I write. I wanted to do this, because it’s a coping mechanism. But this really doesn’t have to do with me, or what I do to deal with pain; it’s about you. You, with your bright smile and witty jokes and how everything you did was to make others happy. You spread joy everywhere you went, and that love is never going to fade. I promise.
The words keep replaying over and over in my head like a broken record: he’s gone. He’s gone. He’s gone.
It was supposed to be a normal Tuesday evening. I had been avoiding some homework in favor of Skyping a close friend and shrugging off my responsibilities for the night. It was 8:30 P.M. and I had a blanket around my shoulders, an already sleepy smile plastered across my face. The chill in the air didn’t bother me. Then I got the call.
That night is etched in my mind as the time I felt the smallest I’ve ever felt. That bitter evening in December won’t ever be erased from my brain, instead a cold reminder of just how fragile this life can be. I know I’m not alone in that. Every single person who received that phone call and had to hear those words lost something.
We all lost a piece of ourselves, one that will never ever be replaced by anyone else. You were something else. You were special.
Every muscle in my body went weak. I felt systems failing and I scrambled for some kind of internal order. My immediate reaction was to laugh. I thought that it had to be a joke, that nobody as young and promising as you was destined to leave us so soon. You were only 25. You had your whole life in front of you and the whole world at your feet. It wasn’t your time yet…it shouldn’t have been. Sobs escaped from my mouth as my throat got thicker with each passing second. I ran and ran and ran. I wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, to try to convince myself that this wasn’t the reality now. This can’t be happening. It only happens in the movies, not to our family that we’ve promised to safeguard until the very end. It wasn’t part of the plan.
I wonder if you knew that the breath you took was going to be your last. I wonder what you thought about before you saw stars, before everything went black, before your time on this earth ended. A death at any age is painful, but in this case, I can’t help but feel cheated. We all do. We’d love to see you nonchalantly waltz through that back sliding door, as if this whole thing was a joke that we’d somehow fallen for. You’d come over and “boop” us on the nose. We’d laugh and see you roughhousing with the black lab you loved so much, teasing her and pulling on her fur. She’d always run back to you. That damn dog, she loved you so much. We did too.
But I shouldn’t say “did”, because loving you was and never will be past tense. You’re never just a thing of the past, a lifeless figure that slowly fades to grey with time, someone who is glazed over but is mentioned less and less as the days pass. That’s not what God intended as he built you beautifully from the ground up. You’re so much more.
You didn’t just exist…you lived.
You’re too important and you impacted too many lives for us to try to bury every trace of you. You’re still here, as the past, present, and the future, all at once. You’re everywhere, parts of you floating in and out of the air we breathe and the choices we make and the family gatherings that are missing that little extra something.
You used to make me feel special. Surrounded by a lot of boys who were louder and seemingly had more influence than me, sometimes I didn’t want to speak up. But you’d always find time to make me feel like I meant something. You’d ask me how I was, what music I’d recently been into (I know music in general was a huge love of both of us), what and who I wanted to be. You’d offer a fist bump, or a hug, most of the time both. You made me feel like more than just a face getting lost in the crowd.
That’s what made you so special – your compassion.
My hands are still trembling as I write this. I don’t know when my vision will stop going blurry every time I think of you. I don’t know if there will be a day when your sisters and mom and dad and anyone who had the pleasure of knowing you will wake up and feel okay. Time does heal all wounds, but sometimes the hands on the clock can make minutes feel like hours.
You’re gone, but never forgotten by the people who would give anything to see your smile and hear your laugh just one more time.
This doesn’t make sense, this doesn’t add up, and it’s not going to be easy to live in a world without you. We don’t want to. We want you here with your family and friends where you belong. But we will do this. We will carry on, our hearts heavy, our eyes bloodshot and red from the crying. We will move forward. Together.