It’s been four years without you but there’s no way that’s true. I remember a week or two after you died the rest of us went to get coffee. It was one of the first times we had been out in public since the funeral. I felt angry that no one in the coffee shop knew we were grieving. Like I wanted to yell “my brother just died!” so they would stop smiling and the world would stop moving on without you. How did these people not even realize you were gone? These days I tend to carry my grief deeper in my heart. Is that coping or is that denial? Some days I don’t know. But I still wake up in the middle of the night and think immediately of you. Sometimes it’s like I’m realizing it for the first time — you’re gone. How could you possibly be gone? How is this my story…our family’s story? I see a guy in Target and stare a little too long because his curly hair reminds me of yours but I still can hardly look at pictures of you. You know how people always watch others’ pain from a distance and say “I don’t know how they do it” (move forward after a loss, cope with grief, handle trauma)? I know the answer now: you just freaking do. There isn’t a choice. We go on living because time is cruel and refuses to stop for anything and all of a sudden it’s four years later and that’s impossible but here we are anyway.
So we went to the same coffee shop this morning and put a sticker with your name on it on a light pole. We allowed ourselves to laugh, even when it still feels wrong sometimes, and talked about the ways God has graciously guided us in the midst of our grief. There isn’t a choice to going ahead without you, but I pray that since we have to, we will do it well.