This is a picture of my brother and I. It was taken on the day I graduated college. It is the last picture ever taken of us. Nine months after this, in March of 2012, my brother passed away.
When you lose someone so suddenly, someone you’d always assumed would be there forever, it rocks your whole being. A few days after my brother died, a family friend, who had also lost a sibling, told me that I now had two lives: the one before Brenner died and the one after. At the time, I didn’t believe her, how could I possibly have two different lives? But now, I understand. The life I had before Brenner died is gone. I no longer have a big brother. I am now my parents’ only child. I have lost the person I could reminisce with about the time I tried my first shot of vodka or how we used to convince the babysitter we were allowed ice cream for dinner. There will now be an empty chair at my wedding reserved for family of the bride. I will never know the look of a brand new uncle holding my child for the first time.
Grief is a strange thing. The strangest thing about loosing someone you don’t expect to ever lose is that none of it happens the way you think it would. There is the initial shock. Mine came in the middle of the night to the sound of a policeman at my door informing me there had been a death in the family. To the sound of my mother trying to explain to me over the phone, through painful cries known only to a parent who has lost a child, that Brenner was dead. A gut-wrenching pain you’ve never known before. A flood of emotions you could never comprehend until this very moment. A train has literally hit you going one-hundred-and-fifty miles per hour.
And then, the whiplash comes. You’re tossed constantly back and forth between grief and reality while your heart aches but your brain continues to try to function. You need to call work, you need to find someone to watch the dogs, you need to get home to your family, you need breakfast, and coffee…And you are able to execute these menial tasks, barely. It takes effort because your heart keeps remembering over and over what has happened. Every morning you wake up, you face it all over again.
The thing about this whiplash is it never really ends. It continues on like this forever. While the length of reality get longer and longer and the periods of grief become manageable, none of it ever stops. Grief comes creeping back in at anytime; when you’re driving in the car, when you’re out to dinner with friends, when you’re in the middle of teaching a class.
So, why am I writing about this for my Sunday Inspiration? Well, because loosing my brother has taught me a lot. Brenner was a “grab-life-by-the-horns” kind of guy. He knew his passion in life and he never gave up on it. He achieved more of his life’s goals in his short 26 years than many do in their entire lives; and that inspires me. It reminds me everyday not to take my life for granted. It reminds me not to just believe in my dreams but to pursue them. He reminds me not to settle for just comfortable but to persistently insist on nothing less than pure and complete happiness.