Seventeen years ago today, my brother was born. He was the first baby my husband held, the first time I ever burned with unconditional love for a sibling, and the years that followed were filled with love and laughter. Last year, I wrote this poem for him and I never imagined I'd be celebrating this year without him.
The past few days, sleep is non existent, tears constant. The anticipation of this day ate me alive inside and out. I woke this morning in tears, looked outside, and the sun shone through my curtains. I didn't think I could make it to work, but I stood in that sunshine and soaked up the light. So much of this grieving process is stepping out of the darkness, not being consumed by it, and letting in the light. Today was not easy, I'm not going to lie, but there was a surprise in it for me, the joy. The joy of having this boy in my life and my childrens' lives. All day, they retold their favorite memories and although I did cry at Five Guys over my burger, most of the day was filled with laughter remembering what a funny, charismatic, and witty guy Andrew was and there is really no better way to honor his life than see my children laugh on this day.
We went back and forth on what to do to celebrate his life and decided on a flower float. With 5 red roses in hand, we walked the beach in silence, held the roses tight in our hands, and threw them in the water. For five seconds, my heart was at peace, my soul floating along those roses, untethered by grief, propelled only by love. At the end of every day and the start of every morning, love courses through me. There are things I will never understand, questions I will always have, but there are two things I am certain of: Andrew died knowing how much I loved him and now he is at peace.
These milestones are hard because there is no denying his absence. This was his day and it will always be for us. We will always celebrate his life and how he made ours so much better. Celebrating does not come easy, grief is overpowering. And to be frank, it is hard to let go of grief. At times, it feels like it is the only connection with the departed and is just too unbearable to let them go. I find myself holding onto this sorrow with clenched fists because I'm terrified of letting my little brother go but today, seeing my kids laugh telling stories of Andrew made me realize it is okay to let all this sorrow go. It is okay to let the joy in. It is the love, the memories that connect us with him, not the sadness.
We ended the night with cupcakes and candles. The kids each silently said something to Andrew or made a wish for him before blowing out the candles. As they hung their heads over the candles in the dark kitchen, their faces cupped in the candlelight, eyes closed, I realized, they, too, were letting in the light. Like I stood before my window this morning, they too, were soaking in the warmth and the love in all of this darkness.
And to keep with my tradition, I wrote Andrew a poem for his birthday.
Four months ago
moments before sunset
your light disappeared
leaving me in darkness.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months
a complete blackout
stripping me of direction
slowly padding my way
without you by my side
living in obscurity.
My eyes gradually adjust
to the blackness,
slivers of light seep
through my curtains
into my chipped heart
bust through the cracks:
A glow remains
softening the darkness
to a faint dim.
"And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below;
above, the vaulted sky" ~John Clare
Happy Birthday, sweet boy. May your big heart be at peace. I love you so very much.