Letters to Chris. May 8th. One month later.

Hey Buddy,

It’s been one month. An entire month has gone by since you’ve been here. The idea of it is absolutely absurd. How the f*ck have you been gone for an entire month? How the f*ck am I still here? The idea that I still am is absurd. One month ago, Mom called to tell me you shot yourself, and my world turned upside down. I still don’t know how I survived that first night 30 days ago. Seriously…how am I still here? I must be stronger than I’ve ever thought.

But I’m so tired, Chris. Every day is a battle. I know I’m strong, but I don’t always want to be. I shouldn’t have to be. Not like this. It’s unfair how life tests us like this. Like it’s purposely testing my will to live. I obviously have one…that’s why I’m still breathing. Maybe it’s just for the people you left behind. Maybe it’s because I still want to live. I honestly don’t know. Because holy shit this f*cking sucks. It SUCKS. But somehow…I did okay today. Funny enough, I didn’t realize the date until I went into work this morning. I’m glad, because it would have been impossible to get out of bed had I known. It just doesn’t feel like it should be a month already. Death has a funny way of messing with time. It seems like April 8th was yesterday. It seems like a year ago. I can’t decide which…

It’s always there…but like I said before I can laugh now. I can actually laugh at jokes and TV shows. I can function at a semi-normal level. I can talk normally about you and not lose it. I spoke with a woman yesterday who had reached out about my letters to you. We talked for two whole hours about you and a flightmate of hers who had taken his life a year ago. His name was Ben. Ben was around your age, and also had a family that loved him. My heart broke for her and for his loved ones. Like his family and friends, we are left to pick up the pieces and live with hundreds of unanswered questions. But they are still going…still surviving. It gives me hope for us. I can’t tell you how much it helped to talk to someone who has been there. I give you and Ben credit for introducing us.

Thank you.

But I’m still broken on the inside, even if I look to be holding it together on the outside. You just can’t be a mess all day, every day. The world doesn’t work that way. I had my three weeks off work to be that mess. Now it’s time to be a functioning human again. One who contributes to society by going to work and the grocery store, talking to strangers, taking out the trash…you get my point. While I can see my normal self coming out now and again, like being able to get ready for work and actually care what I look like, I still see major changes. In addition to having no patience for anyone’s shit like I told you about in my last letter, or not being able to be teased by my husband (I’m so damn sensitive right now), I avoid talking to any stranger I absolutely don’t have to talk to. I’ll find myself praying that I don’t get stuck on an elevator with someone, or get checked out by a Chatty Kathy at the store. I just don’t have the stamina. My empathy is also limited. I told you about that, too. It’s just like I have no time for people’s petty problems. And that’s way different for me. The weather today was definitely appropriate. It stormed nonstop. The clouds came in fast and dark. There was hail surrounding us but luckily we were safe from the baseball sized ones that hit up north. By the time I got home, the rain had slowed to a trickle. So I went for a run on the same path I took the other day while listening to your favorite song, “Your Guardian Angel.“ I’ve been listening to that song nonstop. I think I told you I want to get some of the lyrics tattooed somewhere. I’m thinking the part that goes:

I will never let you fall
I’ll stand up with you forever
I’ll be there for you through it all

I’ll get them done the same time I get the one of you as a kiddo dressed up as a cowboy (I’ve messaged our tattoo guy in KC, sending him that pic and your signature to see if he has ideas about how to combine the two). I’m so excited. But anyway. It just felt so therapeutic to run in the rain. I loved it. It was so cleansing. It was grey, yet the clouds weren’t quite as ominous as they were earlier. It reminded me of when you and I would run together. Back when you were younger, and you had your long lanky legs…like a colt. Even though you were shorter than me, you could still outpace me.

It seems like a lifetime ago.

A lifetime ago that I changed your diapers. That you loved to play dress up. That you loved Legos and Toy Story and Harry Potter. That you had big dreams of firefighting. That you called to tell me you were going to have a son. You were so alive. Death is so weird. How can someone be here one second, and gone the very next? I can’t wrap my mind around it. Still. My brother died. One month ago. Thirty days ago. The words still seem so foreign to me. Maybe they always will.

One month. Yet you are still reaching out. The other night as I laid in bed with our door and window closed, and the dogs and Clay sleeping peacefully, I suddenly smelled Herbal Essence. Anyone who has used that shampoo knows it has such a distinct smell. We don’t have any floral scent in our house, but yet the aroma was almost overwhelming, like I was holding the bottle right under my nose. And it stayed for several minutes. I thought it was odd, but didn’t give it too much thought until two days later. Then it hit me. There was absolutely no reason for me to smell Herbal Essence in our bedroom. If anything, our room smells like dog (thanks, Daisy and Scotland). I texted Katrina to ask if she knew what shampoo you used. I already knew the answer. Because scent is a way passed loved ones reach out to us, I knew you used Herbal Essence. I just knew it. She answered:

“I used his shampoo once and laughed. It was a girly shampoo…herbal essences…”

I absolutely lost it. But for the first time since you passed, they were tears of joy. You were in my room. You were saying hi. Of course my tears scared Clay because they came on so fast. He looked absolutely terrified as he asked if they were happy tears or sad tears. “Happy! Happy!” I cried. I’m so so grateful, Chris, that you continually remind me that you are still here with us. I’m so grateful I can call Mom and tell her about these experiences. I called her the minute I received that text from Katrina. Mom was at an anniversary party at our neighbors (remember the Schrimpf’s old house?), so stepped out to chat. The second I told her, she started to cry tears of relief. As I’ve said, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. As much as this hurts your sisters, as your mama I know her pain is tenfold. So knowing you’re okay, knowing you’re reaching out to your big sister to let her know you’re safe and happy, helps ease her suffering. Even if it’s brief. Your ways of reaching out remind me that you are where you are supposed to be. I’ve always always wanted nothing but for you to be happy and safe. And now you are. In so many ways, it’s everything I’ve prayed for. The way you finally found peace definitely isn’t what I had in mind. But I can’t change it.  So keep reaching out, little brother. Please. Keep reminding me that you are okay. That you love us and are with us. Because we love you. Always.

Good night, lil bro.

Jenn

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