Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Memory

Today is my Uncle's 61st birthday. And amidst all the funny cards and well wishes I can't help but feel sad. Devastated is actually more like it. Because I know that's how he's feeling.

Not because he's one year older. But because this is his first birthday without his son. My cousin. One of the greatest people I have ever been blessed to know.

This time of year actually reminds me of him more than anything else. Part of the reason Fall is (and has always been) my favorite season is because it reminds me of better times. Not just the weather, good food and great football. But the amazing company that came from family get togethers. Trips to our Aunt and Uncle's log cabin, visits to our grandmother, all of us around a table enjoying Thanksgiving together, throwing the football around and laughing carelessly. Happy in that moment. Recklessly not realizing how much it would come to mean. One day. And one day in the unnervingly near future.

My cousin passed away on March 24, 2008. The morning after Easter Sunday. He was 27.

His death shocked (and still shocks) our entire family as each passing day confirmed the absence of his continued presence with us.

Below is something I wrote in the ensuing days after his death. I still can't read it without crying. I loved him. I miss him. And days like these only prove a painful reminder of the life we've lost. His.


He wasn’t just a cousin. He was the big brother I never had. When I was younger I always reveled in the fact that I was the oldest but part of my heart ached because there was something I knew I could never have by attaining that cherished title…an older brother. Someone to watch over me, protect me, give me advice and comfort me in a way only an older brother could do. Yet, it seemed fate had eluded me and I was destined to live devoid of that so desired presence in my life. That is, until I met my cousin, Gary.

He was everything I had hoped for in an older brother and yet so much more. Caring and compassionate, funny and articulate, wise beyond my years yet relatable in every aspect. He was what I had always hoped for. I remember one of my earliest memories with Gary was in Birmingham at our Grandmother’s house. The whole family had gathered together for some special occasion, which at this point is unbeknownst to me. And in retrospect, it’s clear why I don’t remember what we were even there for, it’s because all I remember was spending time with my cousin…my big brother.

My sister, Brittany and I, spent hours on end in the backyard with Gary, attempting to construct what would be our architectural masterpiece. In our minds it was going to be an amazing three bedroom, two bathroom cabin with stained glass windows and a fireplace, yet in reality, it never matured farther than a few metal poles and some broken glass from the neighbor’s windows. Over and over, we were implored to come inside and spend time with the rest of the family but all I remember is not wanting to leave my cousin’s side. I had faith that my dreams of perfection in the form of "backyard fort" blueprints would all be executed and eventually personified with the help of the only other two people who could appreciate and acknowledge my vision, my sister and my cousin…my big brother.

Eventually we were forced to come inside and the fort/architectural phenomena was forced to cease in existence. Yet I’ll never forget that time I spent with him. As juvenile as it may seem, that one instance instilled in me all I needed to know about my big brother. I knew that he would always watch over me (as he so lovingly made sure I didn’t pick up any of the broken shards of glass to compose our "stained glass windows") and he would always make me feel important (by giving me specific tasks in the construction of our fort which made me feel indispensible to the project). From that day forward I loved him with all my heart.

Growing up, I regarded him as my own big brother and I think part of me resented the fact that he couldn’t actually be that. I was so proud of him that it wasn’t uncommon for me to take pictures of him to school to show all my friends what a handsome "big brother" I had. I would regale them with tales of our adventures and his subsequent success, beaming with every accomplishment I informed them of knowing that only my big brother could have done such amazing things and done them so beautifully. And growing up, he was my role model. But then again, who wouldn’t have wanted to emulate him? Masterful articulator, quick-witted and sarcastic, opinionated and driven, passionate and ambitious, encompassing all areas of the modern day Renaissance man - that was my cousin…my big brother.

Years passed and time changed us but my heart never swayed. I knew that the bond Gary and I shared was forever solidified and could never be broken regardless of the frequency of visits. He was always with me in my heart and in my mind and no amount of time or distance could ever shake that. Now as I sit here writing this it’s still surreal. I feel as if he’s just left on a trip and he’ll be back in time for the next family get together. That a few months from now we’ll all be sitting around eating dinner talking politics where he will undoubtedly take the opposing side (not necessarily because he’s a proponent of the candidate but simply for the sake of argument) and he’ll continue to argue for hours on end to the point that you want to pull your hair out and give up. But then at the last minute, he’ll flash that charming half grin smile that seems to light up the entire room and win everyone back over.

But it pains me to think that that will never happen, evidenced entirely by the fact that I’m forced to right this memoir in the past tense. I wish I could bring him back. I wish these words had the power to resurrect your baby boy…my big brother…breathe life back in to him and enable him to be among us for just one more day. Unfortunately that isn’t a possibility. Yet, I know that his memory will live on for years and years to come - likely after we’re all gone and with him in heaven. His life was so much more than our minds can even comprehend and his actions and very presence touched countless lives and hearts that we will never come to know. But I find comfort in knowing that I will never be without him. Although he may have been ripped away from this world all too soon, he will never and can never be forgotten. He will forever be the person I aspire to emulate. The person I seek to impress. The person I hold dearest to my heart. My cousin, my blood, my big brother.

You’ll always be in my "Top Eight". I love you.


LittleMissObsessive said...

I know it's hard, but writing and talking about are the best ways to get your feelings out and feel like you are properly remembering them. love you

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