Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Only the Good Die Young

On March 24, 2008, one year ago today, tragedy struck.

My cousin was only 27 years old when he passed suddenly and unexpectedly in the night. And today marks an entire year since the last time he was with us.

There’s something profoundly sad about no longer being able to wake up every morning and think, “One year ago today he was still alive,” something my sister and I discussed as the day approached.

It all feels too new, too surreal for an entire year to have passed without him. And sad in so many respects to think that life has marched on uninterruptedly despite his death. Cruel even.

The following is something I wrote in the ensuing days after his death. I still can't read it without crying. I loved him dearly. I miss him immensely. 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.


Kylie said...

What a sweet post. We have all lost that special someone that forever changed our lives. Thanks for sharing! :)

Lil' Woman said...

What a sweet post..I'm soo sorry to hear about his passing and keep you and your family in my prayers.

insomniaclolita said...

This is very beautiful and sad at the same time. I feel my heart aches a little, that's how moving this is. Of course he'll be unforgettable. he's always there with you in your mind and heart as long as you keep him there :)

Meme said...

My heart goes out to you. Losing loved ones is very difficult.
What a lovely post!

a H.I.T. said...

Thoughts and prayers with you today. It must be very hard for you.

LiLu said...

This is absolutely beautiful, love. Be proud of it.

I wish you could bring him back too.

Mary Elizabeth said...

I had a cousin that passed away at a very young age as well. The relationship you had with your cousin mirrors my own. My thoughts are with you. Thank you for sharing your sweet memories. =)

Stacie said...

What a bittersweet post! Thank you for sharing your "big brother" with us.

Shannon said...

Very touching post, Emily. He and you will be in my thoughts today.

Socially Conscious Darling said...

Thank you for sharing with all of us.

Trixie said...

This was a beautiful post. We always keep our loved ones close to our hearts.

Muppet Soul said...

Oh honey, I'm sorry. :/

I'm all too familiar with this... How the more time goes on we feel like we're losing them a little bit more.

It does get a little bit more manageable. A little bit.

Sending you spirit fingers and pixie dust.

Mous said...

Awww I am so sorry about your lost. The truly horrible thing about death is how unaffected your life is by it and how time keeps trucking on but your heart is dying why your life keeps living. Dont you just wish that for a day it would all stop and you could live in that moment of grief with out life around you ticking?

You are in my prayers

minsmyname said...

It's even more surreal when you pass the age that he died at. I've lost a loved one and I recently passed his age, it's a very odd feeling. Thanks for sharing your story.

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