July 15, 1998, 8:11am was my brother's last recorded breath, 8:12am, pronounced dead. Dead...This stuff didn't happen to people like us, we are good church going people, I love Jesus and surely he was going to heal and save my brother. Well, life's not a fairy tale and neither is this story. That was 14 years ago, when I was 14 years old.
Yesterday marked not only the anniversary of my brother passing away, but the fact that I have lived half my life without him. Something 14 years ago I was scared of. I have often said I feel guilty or too blessed to experience the many things I have and that my brother never did. He was only 22, a senior in college, a great man, a soul filled man. Seriously, you could look into his eyes and see his heart, he was so wise beyond his years, and so compassionate, loving, never judged, and just a truly genuine person. We knew this as his family, but the many, many visitors that came to the hospital during those days proved all of those things about Andy. We had hardly met half the people that filled the waiting room each and every day. They were all there because Andy had touched their life in some way, and they wanted to repay it by touching ours.
The last 14 years have been a roller coaster. I have had many highs, many lows, and many just steady rides. I have graduated high school, college, grad school, got married, had 3 pregnancies, given birth twice, worked different jobs, helped people, loved people, and have been hurt by people. Nothing ever prepares you to survive without a sibling. Nothing prepares you for the battle you will do with grief. Grief is a funny thing, most think it's something you go through and are done with, but truthfully it goes everywhere with you. Sometimes grief shows up, and sometimes it leaves you alone. Most times you think you are fine and then out of nowhere you get sucker punched with some feelings you haven't felt in a long time. You never get over grief, never.
I put on Facebook yesterday that the last 14 years have been about surviving, and honestly, they have been. I have never lost a sibling before, I feel like I am still learning how to survive. But I also put on Facebook that I intend for the next 14 years to about thriving. I want to take advantage of every opportunity given to me, because I know my brother was not afforded the same privileges. Andy truly was not someone that took things for granted, he never used anyone, he was always thankful and full of joy when something new was on the horizon. I want to do the same, I want to consciously make the choice each day to be thankful, grateful, and joyful for the chances I have. I also want to experience some new things that Andy never did, I know he would be proud of me for trying.
You never get over a loss, you just learn new survival skills. I will always miss my brother, oh, I miss him terribly. But I do have a peace that surpasses all understanding, even mine! God has been gracious to me in my grief, and I know he will continue to be. Life won't ever be the same, and right now I am okay with that.