Be good, kid

Nothing could have prepared me for this.

For the phone call I got last Saturday afternoon from my twin sister, “Thomas… Thomas is dead. You have to come home. You have to be with us and be here for mom.”

My older brother who was just 28 years young is gone. I have never known this world without Thomas. He has been a part of each and every second of my life. Now, as the world continues to spin beneath my feet in a blurry whirlwind that I can’t seem to grab control of, I must somehow learn to adjust to life without him. I have no choice.

Nothing could have prepared me for this.

I never thought I would have an entire kitchen overflowing with food because people are so worried I’ll forget to eat.

I didn’t expect my landlord to ask me if it’s my birthday because i’ve received so many cards in the mail.

When I went out for a run to clear my head, I didn’t think I would end up on the steps of the local bar crying hysterically, wondering if the cigarette butts on the ground were once held by hands that will never hug me again.

I never thought I would pinch myself every time my eyes opened in the morning, never thought I would sleep so well but for all of the wrong reasons. Never thought I would wake up with dried tears on my cheek because I unknowingly missed him even while I slept.

Nothing could have prepared me for this.

I have written two obituaries for loved ones in the past eleven months, one for my grandma who passed in February and now one for my brother. 

The night I wrote his, I curled up and cried while hugging my knees on the bathroom floor. I listened to the song my brother and I sang together on a road trip just a couple of months ago, careful not to disrupt the few peaceful moments of sleep my mother was getting in the room next door.

Nothing could have prepared me for this.

Always looking out for me.

Yet as I sit here and type this, still not able to fully comprehend the week which is now thankfully behind me, I realize that my whole life has prepared me to get through this.

I am inexplicably proud to be the daughter of my parents: the two strongest and most compassionate people on the planet with an unwavering faith and belief that God makes the back to carry the burden.

My twin sister gives me the reassurance that whether we like it or not, moving forward is the only option. There will be days where we fall back two or three steps, and that’s okay, as long as we’re doing the best we can at each given moment.

My older sister helps me to realize that sometimes we just have to put on a strong face and get our shit together because our parents need us to be there for them. She helped me realize that we don’t have to carry this burden alone, we can share it with each other.

My family taught me the genuine meaning of love, and tragic times like these make me grateful that as a family, we never leave one another without saying, “I love you.” Those were the last words I said to my brother. The last exchange I had with him was a hug. I could never adequately convey how blessed I am to have that peace of mind.

My college graduation, May 2012. The proudest big brother on the planet.
College graduation. The proudest brother on the planet.

Aside from my immediate family, I could not be more grateful for the town that raised me. The one that fosters all of the memories that I have with my brother and the one that kick-started the healing process for my family and me.

As if I wasn’t already blessed enough, I have a second home in Buffalo that takes care of me like I always knew they would. I didn’t have to worry about work, coaching, my mail, running errands… nothing. It was all taken care of for me and I didn’t even have to ask. City of good neighbors? You bet your ass it is.

This grieving process will be a lifetime adjustment. It’s still so fresh, so raw, so painful. But I’m better today than I was yesterday. To me, that’s a beautiful silver lining that I am gripping onto with all of the strength that I have left in my weak little body. I’ll be different because of this. I am different because of this. But i’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.

My eulogy to my brother:

January 16, 2014

My crazy, compassionate, hilarious and handsome brother:

You were my own personal bodyguard. Man, did you protect me day and night 24/7. You had people looking out for me in Buffalo that I didn’t even know about until this week. You built up a barrier of pure love and adoration for your three sisters that no one in the world could touch. It’s a million times stronger now because you’re able to do it all yourself from up above. I bet you love having all that control up there.

You gave me my spark of mischief, a crucial element to any life worth living. You were my partner in crime the summer your best friend Nick was away and you actually hung out with your little sisters. We played so many pranks on Emily when she was the first to fall asleep. Threw so many balloons filled with shaving cream out the window. Slid down the stairs on the mattress until the wood was worn out.

You were so great with us when we were kids. And as we grew older, you extended that love to your beautiful niece and Goddaughter, Alice, and all of our youngest cousins. I looked at you wide-eyed, hoping the man I marry one day will be as good with kids as you are. My heart shatters knowing that you won’t physically be at those milestones with me. My kids won’t have an uncle on my side, you won’t be there when I change my last name and say, “I do.”

Then I have to stop myself. Because those are selfish thoughts. They’re thoughts about me and what I want. And you and I both know I like to get what I want. But what I have to remember is that you are genuinely happier now. There is no doubt about it. Not a single one. You are probably being so spoiled up there and having the time of your life with BJ and all of our family members.

I’m happy for you, Thomas, because I know how badly you were hurting. And I forgive you for this. I don’t want to, but I do.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you and I finally got to open up with each other over these past few years. I still can’t believe we found a band that we both liked listening to in the car… and it wasn’t Eminem. That in itself was a miracle.

You are the best brother I could have ever asked for. And I don’t say that just because it sounds pretty and because I’m a sister who lost her brother. Fuck. I lost my brother. That will never be easy to say out loud or to write. But I say it because it’s true. You still ARE the best brother I will ever have. You will always be my big brother: who I learned so much from and am so proud of.  I will never stop missing you. And I will never stop loving you and living my life in a way that will make you proud. Like you always told me, “Be good, kid. I love you.”