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1,263 Days Later


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Don't worry, I did the math.

1,263 days ago, I lost my younger brother. My light and my shadow. The person I loved most in the world.

And this is the first time I've ever truly talked about it. On an anonymous, internet forum, sure. But, still, little steps, I suppose, right?

For any of you reading this, if it's anyone, who (understandably), don't want to do the math, it was three and a half years ago. And it's been three and a half years of pain. I know I'm, regrettably, not alone. I know a hundred million other people around the world have felt this pain before. I am not the first, and I will certainly not be the last. That breaks my heart.

But it never makes it better.

I was 22. 

There are no lessons or books or tips on how to prepare for the fact that before you graduate college, you will write your brother's obituary and have to shield your heart from the pain in order to get through it. No one in my family had the stomach to write it. I had to. I certainly don't hold it against them, for I went to college to further my writing career, but I've never forgotten the sheer, icy cold I felt around my heart when I had to do it. It's never left me. 

No one has advice for how to bury the person you love most. And as far as I can tell, there is little someone can say on how to ready your heart for a life of emptiness. 

When my mother put my little brother in my arms, I was only two. I don't remember it. But what I do remember was that I was promised an entire lifetime with my brother. I was given just over twenty years. It was not enough.

When you lose someone so close to your heart, no one will tell you that you'll go cold for hours, days or weeks at a time. No one will explain that there's a chance you'll refuse to allow happiness into your heart because of the immense guilt a shred of happiness brings. Few would blame you-- fewer would understand-- if every time you receive a random phone call or text, you'll immediately fear for the worst. 

Before my brother had a chance to turn twenty-one, before I could buy him his first legal beer, he was taken from me. Not just from me, but from a family who loved and adored him more than anything. From friends who considered him one of their own. From a world that I was sure would open up to him and to his light. 

It has been three and a half years since my heart shattered. I've spent every single day of that time trying to piece it back together. I'm not done. I may spend the rest of my life doing so. I may die a broken man. I don't know. 

When you are born into a family that loves you as dearly as I know mine does, you grow up in an abundance of light and support. If all you knew was the sun and its warmth, it's likely your first bought with the cold would be a humbling and pathetic experience. To be born into light is to recognize its counterpart as the darkness but to be grateful enough that you are given the privilege to avoid it as long as you can. 

We are human. All of us. Not a single person on earth lives their entire life without having to deal with cold or darkness. I don't think I appreciated the light until I was forced to walk in the shadows. It is painful to understand and accept how good you had it, and that once you embrace the darkness as part of your experience, you may never have it as good again.

But you should.

Human beings live and love together. We find ourselves in community. In connection. In partnership. These lives of ours, no matter who we are or where we come from, are not whole if we spend them alone.

And yet, everyone dies alone.

I would have sold my soul to the devil himself to keep my brother alive. While he laid in a hospital bed, braindead, I spent two days pleading to God or Satan or any who would listen to take me instead. I laid bare my soul and considered it forfeit, for I didn't, and I don't, deserve life as much as my brother did. 

Of course, none of my desperate cries were heard. And it breaks my heart the most to know that even though I told my brother how much I loved him a thousand times, I couldn't save him.

I was supposed to be his keeper. God dammit, I was supposed to keep him safe. He was my shadow when we were kids, and as I grew up he became the light that kept me going through times when, in truth, I didn't want to.

I couldn't protect him. He died alone, of complications with influenza, and I couldn't do anything about it. I lie awake are night, I wake in cold sweats from nightmares, imagining him walking alone. I'm not there to shield him from the cold or to offer my life in exchange for his.

That's been the most difficult part of this, if I'm being honest. Not having the person who I knew would be the best man at my wedding hurts. Not having him there to hold my first child someday and let him know that I want him to be the godfather is heartbreaking. But what hurts the most is that I just feel like a fraud. Because I promised him that I would protect him from the world. And I couldn't do **** when the time came. 

I had to listen to my mother wail as she saw her baby boy lying in that bed. I fell to the floor, unsure and unable to understand the pain a mother has to feel when she buries her son. But I know the pain it takes to bury a brother, and I know the days that follow in which you realize you're truly alone. In which you contemplate every decision, success, failure and moment of your life, realizing that in the grand scheme of things, very few of them matter.

I write this novel for those that are in the dark. For those that feel lost. For those that don't know what to say, when to say it or or who to say it to.

I don't either.

But we will endure. And we will know pain, but when the sun shines again, we will know love too. I hope, if anyone reads this, that you understand to lose someone so dear and feel so much, is to know love. 

It has taken 1,263 days for me to say all of this. And whether it takes you 1 day, 100 days, 1,000 days or an entire lifetime, you will get there too. Hold your loved ones close, don't ever shy away from telling someone, "I love you" and may you each wake every day knowing that even if you've lost someone, they will always be with you.


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i have been registered in this group for almost 3 & 1/2 years. I haven’t actually come back to this site in 2 years although I still receive email alerts. Your words grabbed me from the very first line. I can so clearly identify with every word you have written. Losing my wonderful younger sister, my only sibling, has left a giant hole inside that will never be filled. I am very grateful that I have a dear husband and kids but my world will never be as bright as it once was. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t deeply miss and grieve the loss of my sister, my best friend, my “soulmate “. I guess the only thing I can really tell you after my 3+ years is I hear your words and understand them. You are not alone. Knowing other people understand has given me comfort. I hope it does for you also. ❤️


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It is with a heavy heart I have to respond, guessing the pain you feel. I say guess, and not know, because I will never know your pain. But I appreciate you reading, and we will both find peace someday. My heart goes out to you, Lynelle. 

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