Letters to Chris. May 5th. Day 27

Hey Buddy,

I survived my first week back in my “normal” life. It was a long, difficult week and I’m glad it’s over. I did okay for the most part. I only cried at work once. My poor boss. I felt it coming on and didn’t want to leave the front desk unattended, so instead of running to the bathroom I ran to his office and told him I needed a minute. Poor dude wasn’t quite sure what to do. He told me to take all the time I needed, said he’d get me some water if we had any, ran out and sent my sweet coworker in to console me. I’m sure as a man nothing is worse than getting cornered in a tiny office by a sobbing woman. But I’m doing the best I can. And while I did get in a bit of trouble because I was late two days, I actually was pretty productive. I was able to laugh, to joke around with patients and get shit done. I’m honestly amazed. And I had very few ditzy moments. My brain isn’t working like it should so I figured I’d be in a nonstop fog. I always joke about being in a constant state of confusion (you know this…you’ve been known to tease me about it), so I’m relieved it hasn’t gotten worse (or maybe I’m in denial and people are too nice to point it out). I’m beyond thankful for my coworkers. They have been rocks through it all. One of them had a close friend who committed suicide a few years back, so she’s been here. And one of our patients just lost her sister so we shared about you two. The similarities were odd. Her sister was 25 as well, and passed only four days before you. It felt good to talk to someone else who has just lost a sibling. I would never wish this suffering on my worst enemy, but a huge part of me is so grateful that I’m not alone.

Nights are the hardest now. I think because I try to keep my shit together during the entire day, I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted by the time I get home. And I miss you so much while at work. I’ve been used to spending all day with you in my thoughts, and obviously I just can’t do that while working. So during lunch break I’ll look at your pictures, or talk to you when we have quiet moments (in my head..I can’t let people think I’m losing it by talking to myself). Surprisingly, yesterday was my best day yet. I still cried, but it wasn’t until I went to bed. I had to get up and go to the kitchen so I wouldn’t wake Clay (not that he would have cared, but I haven’t been the most awesome bed buddy lately and didn’t want to keep him awake another night. He’s been so tired all week). I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about not crying until so late. I felt guilty, like I was a bad sister for holding it together so well. It wasn’t that it hurt any less. I guess maybe I’m starting to get used to this constant ache..feeling this hole in my chest. It’s not like it goes away. No matter what I’m doing, even when I’m joking around and laughing, it’s still there lurking. Almost like it’s waiting to pounce. I read somewhere how at first the waves that hit you are 100 feet tall and back to back while you cling to this wreckage that was once a beautiful ship. Over time, the waves, while still 100 feet tall, become more spaced apart. And in those spaces is life. I think maybe that’s where I am right now. I’m still clinging to this wreckage like my life depends on it. I’m still fighting the urge to allow myself to drown whenever the waves hit. But in between, I can laugh. I can look at your pictures and not cry. I can almost see my old self coming out. I think this is the way the rest of my life will be. I’ll be okay one minute, but something will be a trigger and I’ll lose it. Something as simple as smelling your cologne somewhere, or someone talking about the National Guard or firefighting. Right now it’s anything. Or nothing. I’ll just be standing there not doing anything and it will hit.

The night before last, I went through all your pictures you uploaded on Facebook, taking screenshots of them so they are all on my phone. I had no idea you had a goatee at one point in time. I wish I had…I would have given you so much grief 🙂 Like, dude, what’s that on your chin?? I love the facial hair you had the last few months. I’d never really seen you with any. I remember when you were 14-15 and you had that patchy scruff you were so proud to shave (must be a right of passage as a young man). I couldn’t believe you were having to shave. But now you have a full fledged beard. Or did. You know what I mean. But it suited you.

My handsome boy.

Something new I’m noticing is my anger. Not just at you, but at anyone who irritates me. I noticed it a bit in Missouri, but it’s gotten worse. I raised my voice at an employee at Costco today when asking if they were out of coconut milk. He didn’t believe me when I said they usually carried it, saying he had never seen it and he always stocked the dairy aisle. I tried to explain it isn’t ever with the dairy and I literally buy it every week, but he kept trying to run away before I could explain. Finally I just snapped and yelled that he was acting like I was crazy but I knew what I was talking about. Something like that wouldn’t have bothered me to that extent a month ago. People around probably thought I was simply super passionate about coconut milk. It’s not like you can explain to everyone why you’re having a minor meltdown. The guy WAS being a dick, but I should have let it go. I just feel like the general public sucks right now. People are so self involved, worrying about all their petty little problems. I desperately want to yell at everyone, “Oh yeah? Your mother-in-law is visiting? You have to work late? You’re worried about bills? Boohoo. My brother just killed himself. Go f*ck yourself.“

Obviously this isn’t the best attitude to have. But it’s so hard not to resent people at the moment. And I know that everyone’s issues are valid. And I know that anger is normal right now. But this isn’t me in the slightest, and I hate feeling this way. So one of my goals tonight is to find a therapist who specializes in bereavement counseling. Before I make an even bigger scene over another unstocked grocery item. Or Clay locks me out of our apartment.

It’s also difficult to not get irritated with people who have things going awesome for them. I’m not talking about friends or family. I mean strangers. For whatever reason, strangers seem the safest people to hate right now. So I’ll overhear someone talking about their awesome vacation they just got back from (”OMG Paris was AMAZING!!) or how they are buying a new house, and I want to throw things at their face. And I hate that. Because, like I said, this is so not me. Clay reminded me that I have no idea what’s going on in people’s lives. Maybe they are going through the same thing as our family. He stepped on dangerous territory by asking if he just shouldn’t point out when I am being negative. Yeah, probably not. Definitely not the wisest thing at the moment. I know I can be an a**hole right now. I’m working on it. It’s a stage of grief and I know I need to get through it. I don’t want to be a ball of fury for the rest of my life.

Speaking of anger, after Costco I went out to my car and another wave hit, and I started yelling at you. I haven’t done that yet. Not like that. Anyone who walked by my car would have thought I was crazy. But it felt so good to yell at you. Because it’s you that I’m really angry at. I screamed at you for leaving us, that we f*cking told you things would get better, and that I’m absolutely devastated that you didn’t text me goodbye. Yes, I’m still stuck on that. I was always the one you listened to. Mom would ask me to talk to you about things because you actually listened to me. We always had that relationship our whole lives. But you didn’t tell me goodbye. I’m grateful you texted Mom, but why not your sisters?? I just can’t let that go. My phone had been right in front of me that night. Perhaps me begging you to live wouldn’t have changed anything. I know any therapist would say it wouldn’t have made a difference. But at least I could have told you how much I loved you. You would have died knowing I needed you and loved you and would have taken your place in a second. I would have told you I’d be flying out to see you that very night. Or beg you to come stay with us for a while. I would have told you that my life would be meaningless without you and that if you died I would die, too. That our family would be devastated, left picking up the pieces and never able to get closure. But you denied me that. So I’m angry. More than that. I’m p*ssed. And I hate how much our family hurts. Mom called a couple days ago and I could tell she’d been crying. She said she washed the rest of your laundry which took all day. And she cried and cried. Nikea has had a few difficult days this week. And while Dad is more the suffer in silence type, I know this is hell for him, too. We all know you never meant to hurt us, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Yet I know you understand my anger, and love me regardless. You knew I needed to scream at you. And honestly, I’ll probably do it again. I apologized because I hate yelling at you, even though you probably deserve it right now. But I have this feeling you understand everything way better than any of us can on this side of Heaven. You’re way wiser than we are. You understand how we feel. You know what you put us through. I can’t explain how weird it is to realize you now know things that we cannot begin to comprehend. Nikea has always been the smartest of us four kids, but now you’re the wisest. If you were here now, I’m sure you’d gloat about how you know all the secrets of the universe.

Know what I miss most? Family dinners. Dad always making weird Dad jokes that still made us laugh, Bethany enjoying her food so much she’d look like she was falling asleep or in a trance. I know some kids don’t like being forced to eat dinner with their parents, but I’ve always loved it. It gave us a chance to connect, without our cell phones (which you were always on..ahem)…like really connect as a family. Then we’d always help clean the table afterwards while Dad rinsed the dishes. God I miss that. I always meant to record those conversations because you never quite knew what anyone was going to say. Nikea was saying how you teased her during dinner last time you were home because she was drinking Pepsi. Since you worked for Coke, you pretended it was a great betrayal.

God, I’d give anything to have been at that table.

I’m so frustrated because I still can’t pull any specific memories from recent years. I understand this is caused by grief. You know I’m the one who remembers the most random stuff, so it’s beyond heartbreaking that I can’t get my brain to work. It’s like this stupid mental block that just refuses to lift. It’s funny how you don’t realize how you’re going to react to grief until it hits. I know it’ll pass and the memories will come flooding back…I just wish I knew when.

Of course I remember things from years ago. Your first car, a Ford Taurus that you loved to work on. The muffler was nonexistent so we always knew when you were pulling up to the house. You were so proud to show me the alterations you made in that car. And remember when you hit that curb and jacked it up? I felt so awful for you. Then I remember when you were super little and grabbed one of my many “Titanic” books and threw it at me laughing. You ripped Leo’s face in half and I yelled at you and made you cry (I’m sorry). I remember how you’d always eat Mom and Dad out of house and home but never gain any weight. I remember road trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s, yearly visits to TanTarA. Key West. I’m still not recalling as many memories as I normally would, but like I said, I know this will pass. I just don’t want the strongest memories to be of your last few months when you were so distraught. I still go back and read your texts, even though they break my heart, just because they are you. And Katrina sent me some voicemails you had left her. I wasn’t sure if I could bear to listen to them, but I was able to. I miss your voice so much, so it helps to hear it even if your words weren’t directed at me.

I took the dogs on a walk tonight. I was grateful for the weather. It was beautiful out. The sun was setting behind the mountains which were all these different shades of deep blue. I was walking on this path I hadn’t known existed before near our apartment. This field of white cattails caught the sun, glowing bright white. I stopped on this old bridge and watched the sun set. It looked like Heaven. Your Heaven. I know you loved the mountains (you were so excited to see them in Montana and when you visited Colorado a couple years back), so I feel so close to you when I look at them. I felt your presence. It was so strong I felt like I could touch you. I’ve felt it before, but it has been getting stronger the brief seconds I’m able to experience it. I’ve read of people experiencing the same thing with departed loved ones, and it’s so encouraging. Like I’ve said before, those brief moments when you reach out get me through.

Anywho, Buddy…I love you and miss you. Clay grilled some steaks for us (hey remember how you cooked me steak that one day when Carter was brand new? It was DELICIOUS. First time I’d ever had your cooking and I was so proud), so I better get going. He’s been waiting patiently for me. But again, I LOVE you and I MISS you so damn much. Talk to you soon.

Your big sis.

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