Letters to Chris. Day 6. April 14th.

Hey Buddy,

It’s funny how time tends to fly by until you need it to. Then each day crawls forward inch by inch. What I need now is to stop hurting. Or at least function. To function means the passage of time. And time refuses to pass.

But then again, it has been six days. It feels like a lifetime, it feels like yesterday, but almost a week has gone by since I got that call from Mom. And not a second has passed where I haven’t thought of you, Baby Brother. You’re always there, no matter what I’m doing. I can’t escape. I don’t want to. I don’t want to hurt anymore. But I have to go through this. I need to go through this. This grief is what connects me to you, and I’m afraid to let go. I’ve never felt a fear like this. I’ve always had a fear-based identity, but this is something new. I’m terrified of living without you. I’m terrified of leaving you in the past. I’m terrified of going home and going through your things. I’m terrified of talking about you in the past tense, of seeing your urn. I’m terrified of how this will affect me as a person. Everything I’ve read says that once someone you love leaves, you are permanently changed. I’m terrified to keep going, but like I said yesterday, I don’t have a choice. I’ve decided I’m going to say that I have a brother, never that I “had” a brother. You still are my brother. You always will be. You’re still living. Just in a different, way more free way than the rest of us you left behind.

This morning has been rough. I didn’t get out of bed until noon. It’s just impossible to be motivated to do anything. I eat. I shower. I sleep. Sometimes I can drag myself out of the apartment to walk the dogs. That’s about the extent of my ability right now. And I know that’s okay. I did box yesterday. Our gym has a punching bag, so I grabbed my wrist wraps and gloves and went to town. Punching something felt so good. Just kicking the shit out of something was so cathartic. I thought about how maybe that would have been good for you-how it could have been a healthy outlet for your frustrations.

I’m actually at Starbucks right now. I brought the dogs, and am sitting out here on the patio. It’s comforting to be surrounded by people going about their daily lives: laughing, chatting over iced coffees, enjoying the sunshine. If they have any cares, it’s hard to tell. I feel like I stick out, like anyone who looks at me can see my insides and know my thoughts. It’s such a weird feeling. I’m trying to hide tears under my baseball hat. It’s frustrating not being able to control when they come. I hate being the girl crying in public, but luckily I don’t think anyone is really paying attention. And even if they are, most people don’t come up to a stranger asking what’s wrong. That’s a good thing. I don’t think I could explain to anyone else right now what I’m going through. (By the way, talking about baseball hats reminds me of how you used to bend your baseball hat bills in half so they looked like a upside down “V.” It used to drive Nikea crazy).

I don’t know how to deal with thinking how you were here a week ago. You were a phone call away. A text away. And I didn’t reach out. That’s a reality I have to live with. How do I live with that? You were here on earth six days ago. Six days. That means it has been six days that you’ve been gone. It’s impossible to wrap my mind around. You were here. Now you aren’t. You were here with me. And I took you for granted. I know this is human nature. This is what people do. If we lived like we knew everyone we loved would die one day, it would be one thing. It’s too painful of a truth and we can’t live with that thought constantly on our minds.  But you made me so painfully aware of that fact. That life is temporary. That I, along with everyone I love, are only here for a few years. Tomorrow isn’t promised. The thought of death used to scare me. Now I find it strangely comforting. I want nothing more than to be with you, to hold you again. When I think of you, I try to think of you as you are now. Carefree, happy. No sadness. No pain. It’s such a crazy thought. You without your constant companion of darkness. How freeing it must be for you. To have finally shed that heartache that came to define you. I was going through your pictures last night. I was able to look through them without tears. Chris, you were so cute. Such a handsome dude. It’s funny that we looked nothing alike. Me, short and dark. You, tall and fair. But we shared dimples. I noticed every picture, even when you were smiling, had an air of sadness. You always had that sadness. Even when you laughed, it was there. It broke my heart. So knowing you no longer hurt, and that you are still very much alive, gets me through. It’s what got me out of bed and into the shower. It’s what got me to Starbucks. It’s what allowed me to look at your photos without breaking down. It’s odd. I looked at your photos and did okay, but when I saw your birthdate written out, my heart broke into a million pieces all over again. I feel so shattered I don’t know how to come back.

In one of our conversations, you told me you weren’t as strong as me. I told you that wasn’t true, and that I knew you could come back from the despair you felt. Chris, you were the strong one. You lived with this for so long. You survived this for so long. I’m so proud of you for fighting as long as you did. I don’t know if I could have. Some people say suicide is selfish. Maybe it is, because it doesn’t really end pain but just transfers it to the ones you leave behind. But I don’t see what you did as selfish. You didn’t want to hurt us. You just wanted to stop hurting. I understand. We all do. I’ve been there. I tried before, remember? For far less than you went through. Luckily I didn’t succeed. I only tried that once, and promised myself I’d never do it again. It WOULD be selfish if I hurt myself, because now I know what it is to lose someone that way. The despair. The question of why. The anger and fear (not anger at you, Chris, but at myself for not reaching out more). The loneliness. The feelings of abandonment and helplessness. The need to wake up and realize it was all a horrible dream. I can’t wake up. I’ve tried. I need this to be a bad dream. But every morning I wake up, and your physical form is still gone.

By the way, I asked Mom if I could get a snippet of your hair from the crematorium. She told me it was too late. I can’t decide if I’m relieved or not. Relieved because you’re no longer laying there alone. Heartbroken because the tall, lanky body I used to wrap my arms around is no longer here.

Stay by my side, Little Brother. I can’t do this without you. It hurts every time I breathe. Help me to keep breathing. You owe me that.

I love you. I miss you.

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