Every year, December 16th starts off pretty much the same way.
I wake up like I do on every other day.
And then a few seconds or a few minutes after I’m up, I remember.
I remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and what I heard on that day in 1985 when my three-year-old brother took his last breath.
He died at home in my parents’ bed after an 18 month battle with leukemia.
Chemotherapy didn’t work, radiation didn’t work, and a bone marrow transplant didn’t work.
Thirty-three years ago, an almost inhuman, primal moan of agony came from my father.
My other younger brother and I were sitting on the floor of my room watching television when we heard my father.
My brother looked at me and said,
The next memory I have is of watching the herz leave our driveway with my dead three-year-0ld brother in the car.
It was the worst day of my life.
Grief never leaves you.
It may subside a little.
Lose its edge.
But it’s forever there.
I was sixteen when my brother died, but today, at forty-nine years, old I sat at my computer this morning, staring at the screen and I cried and cried and cried.
This time of year is tough for me.
Time may pass, but the body and the brain don’t forget.
It was 36° and rainy today.
Cold and wet. It was the perfect day to stay inside and be depressed. To not get dressed. To stay in bed.
Boy did I want to do nothing today.
But you know what?
You know who has done nothing for the last thirty-three years?
His name is Christopher.
Here is is before he got sick.
I try not to let guilt affect me.
But sometimes it does.
I mean, why him?
Why was he the one out of the three of us kids who didn’t make it?
And while I’m not consumed with that thought, I owe him.
He never got to swim in the ocean or have a first kiss or play in a baseball game or go to a dance or win a trophy or get married or have kids.
I owe it to him to really make this life count. I owe it to him to make a difference.
I can’t let his short little life be for nothing.
And so this morning, when all I wanted to do was absolutely nothing, I put on my sneakers, and I went for a run.
In the cold, nasty rain.
Because Christopher doesn’t have that opportunity.
When I came home, the kids were a little rambunctious.
I just wanted them to be vegetables on their Kindles and iPads so I could be a vegetable.
But I knew if I attempted that I’d be yelling at them in a matter of minutes.
So I loaded everyone in the car and took them to the Y.
They swam and played basketball.
I helped Number 4 in the pool with a couple things she’s been struggling with, and I did some strength training with Number 3 in the weight room.
Ninety minutes later, the kids were sweaty and tired and happy.
On the way home we stopped at the grocery store.
I told the kids we’d get some popcorn and ice cream and watch a Christmas movie tonight. All of us together on the couch.
I ran into the store which is about five minutes from my house.
The kids stayed in the car so I could run in quickly, and I hurried through the couple aisles I needed to go to.
I headed to check out, and who did I see there but,
my mom and dad.
My parents live about thirty minutes from me.
Sometimes they come to the grocery store near my house because it’s considerably less expensive than the one near their house, but usually that’s when they’ve been up at my house for visit or something.
Maybe Christopher had something to do with that.
An unexpected visit from one of their kids on the anniversary of the worst day of their lives.
Maybe it was just a coincidence.
But I’m going with a message from my brother.
He’s keeping us together, my parents and I.
And he helped to make me a better mom today.
He also continues to remind me that there are opportunities in every day.
They may not be under ideal conditions or circumstances, but they are there.
You can wait for the perfect conditions.
Or you can carpe the fucking diem.
Because you just never know.
And since my brother never got the chance, well, I’m gonna make sure I do both of us proud.
I’ve got some living to do for the both of us.