Summer is quickly approaching… and I, like many others, am ready for sun, shorts, and flip flops! Along with the coming of summer is also the one year anniversary of the loss of my younger brother. We lost Eric on May 9, 2016, when he was only 26 years old. It was the hardest and most devastating thing that I have ever experienced. Death is a part of life, but when death happens unexpectedly to someone so close to you and so young, it makes such a deeper impact… it takes a piece of you. Throughout Eric’s 26 short years, he had taught me so much about life… the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even though he is no longer here, he is still teaching me and I can honestly say that I can feel him smiling down. I would like to share some of the things I have learned and experienced about coping with the devastating loss of my little brother.
1. Gone but never forgotten…
Not a day goes by that I do not think of Eric. Just like it states in one of my favorite poems by E.E. Cummings, “ I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it.” Those words have so much more meaning to me since the loss of my little brother. He will always be a permanent part of me.
2. Everyone has his or her own way of coping.
Everyone has their own way of coping with anything traumatic that has happened, and I have mine. This right here… writing down my thoughts… it is extremely therapeutic, and it allows me to express my feelings and struggles in ways that may not only help me, but it may also help anyone that happens to read this.
3. It’s ok to cry…. And also to laugh…
There are days that I think about him and tears come to my eyes, but there are some days that I think of him and I smile. Most of the times these feelings come rushing in completely unexpectedly, and I am still learning how to take a deep breath and accept all these emotions. I understand now that the emotions that I feel will never change, but the way I handled them will. It will take practice and time, just like so many other things in life.
4. It is important to keep his memory alive.
Eric’s pictures are up in the house, we speak of him often, and we share memories and stories about him. His son, Kobe, speaks so highly of his dad, but I know over time that his memories may fade because Kobe was so young when Eric passed away. Eric’s poster of him playing basketball in high school hangs above Kobe’s bed, and I will never stop answering Kobe’s questions about his father and sharing how much Eric loved him.
5. Maybe it’s a penny… a butterfly… a mustang passing me on the highway…
I do believe he is up there watching over all of us, and I do believe that there is truth behind signs that he somehow is present. My brother loved playing jokes and he had such a good sense of humor… and last summer when I was rolling around the lake and a butterfly smashed right into my forehead, I truly felt like it was Eric. I closed my eyes, and I swear I could hear him laughing. Maybe it’s coincidence… maybe it is not…
6. Eric was “too unique” for this world.
Eric’s other half and mother of his child, Monica, stated it better than anyone ever could. She said, “Eric was an extremely unique person, and this world just could not handle him.” That has stuck with me, and I could not agree with her more. The tattoo on his arm stated the word “untamed,” and that is exactly how he lived his life. The big sister in me always worried about him, but I also highly respected his ability to not waiver from what he believed in even if it was not the popular and accepted approach.
7. Sometimes I forget he is gone, and that will never go away.
There are so many times that I see a picture of Eric, and hits me all over again that he is gone. Sometimes I feel like he has just been on a long vacation, or busy… I feel like I should just be able to call him up or shoot him a text. I’m sure this will take time, and just like an open wound, I have to give myself time to heal.
8. Always say “I love you,” and always be present.
It is as simple as that. The last words Eric and I said to each other were, “I love you.” The night before Eric passed away, the whole family was together celebrating Mother’s Day. There is no other word to describe that day besides, “perfect.” It was the first time in almost a year that the entire family was able to get together, and I am so incredibly thankful that we had that day together. It was a perfect ending for Eric… he truly loved family.
9. He is happy… He is free…
It is hard too describe the feeling that swept over me as we scattered Eric’s ashes at the lake. The best way to describe it was that I felt at peace. I knew he was finally laid to rest at his absolute favorite place. I feel close to him when I sit at the edge of the dock and look out over the water, and when I miss him that is where I want to be… that is where I feel him the most.
10. I am a big sister, and I will always be a big sister because of Eric.
I am many things…. A daughter, an aunt, a granddaughter… but I loved being a big sister. From the day I walked into the nursery at the adoption agency and I met my little brother for the first time, I was so proud. I remember beaming from ear to ear when Mom brought him in to my second grade classroom because I wanted him to be my “show and tell” for that week. I will always have those memories, and I will be forever grateful for the 26 years I had with him.
Rest in peace little brother… I love you…. 💚