Friday, May 24, 2024

This I know.

One would think that after 26 years of being a mother I would have the hang of it, but honestly? 

I still need work.


I'm growing though. Forever growing. Forever trying. 


Really? These two have probably made it entirely too easy on me.


So many years ago, when I was a super struggling mom in East Tennessee, I dreamed of days like this. 

Graduation days.

Celebration days.

"These are the days" days.


Make no mistake. The struggle is still here. Different, but still here. 

I'm learning the struggles never go away and when they do? They are just replaced by other struggles.

I'm learning that it's okay.

I'm learning that we're all just learning.

I don't know much, but I know I prayed for these days.

I know that sometimes I worried days like this would never come, and here we are.

Here we are.

Not just here. Summa Cum Laude here. Master's degree here. The first one, here.

I failed a hundred thousand times with the two of them. These two beautiful babies that somehow got entrusted to a terrified twenty-two year old. I was so young and so dumb. I am still so dumb sometimes, and not quite as young. They've forgiven me a million times over, for not knowing. There was so much I didn't know. 

There is still so much I don't know.

I know this is real, though. 

This family is real. This love is real

The two that made me a mom and then the one we let into our secret gang. 

The loves of my life.

The four of us, we built this. Together. This messy, beautiful, imperfect life.

I am so grateful and glad, every day, that I get to be a part of it all.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024


 "How are your mom and dad?"

I get this question a lot.  People mean well and people care. They cannot imagine how my parents are coping with the loss of their son, and frankly? Neither can I. I don't know how they cope with it. 

I usually say something like, "They are doing the best they can". Which I believe is true, but also I believe is insufficient. I don't have the right words for their loss and every day their best is probably different. That's okay. Best is best.

We all do our best.


Yesterday my brother Chris would have been fifty years old, which seems ludicrous because in my mind there is no possible way I'm knocking on the door of fifty years old. Surely I'm only twenty-five or twenty-nine and surely I have so, so many years ahead of me.

I like to imagine our conversation, if he was here and whole, on his fiftieth birthday:


Me: Welp. You're 50.

Him: That's stupid. Fifty is stupid.


In my mind I can hear him say those words. That was the only thing that made me laugh yesterday.


My parents have had a huge, horrible loss. My niece and nephew and great niece have had a horrible loss. I would never, ever diminish how horrible those losses are. I grieve for my parents and my nieces and nephew. My heart breaks for them. I wish I could take away their pain. 

Sibling grief is different, I know this.


It's loss of friendship. 

Loss of your childhood. There are so many shared memories that I have only with Chris and it sometimes terrifies me that I am losing them. Forgetting them. There is no one left to validate huge, enormous chunks of my life and the hollowness of that realization is daunting sometimes. Losing those links to your past means you lose a piece of yourself.

You lose your identity. I was the third child. Am I still the third child? I don't know. I don't know how that works. I don't know what to say when I meet someone new and they eventually say, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" The sisters part is easy. I never quite know what to say about my brother. I always worry I say to much, or not enough. 

"Stay strong for your parents" people say and oh, I try. I do. I try so hard to be strong for everyone, all the time. My grief is real though, and it's complicated and terrible and sometimes I just don't feel strong. Not at all.

I have no one I'm in cahoots with anymore. From childhood I kept his secrets. "Don't tell mom!" I never told. I still haven't told. Even in death, I hold so much of his pain and fear and even anger. It was easier when he was alive and we could talk through things. Now, I just carry it. It's very, very heavy.

Our brothers and sisters are our history and they should be our future. Losing a sibling is the most unique, terrible, life-altering grief and no one talks about how hard it is.


The truth is, I'm still hurting. 

I have become a different person, and there is no going back.

I'm forgetful. The brain fog is real. 

I talk way too much and I worry a lot that people will get so tired of hearing about my brother. I don't want him to be forgotten. I don't want to stop talking about him so we won't forget. I can still hear his laugh and his voice and I want to always be able to. 

I worry that people get tired of hearing about my grief.

Today? I'm really sad I didn't get to hear from him how stupid it is to be fifty.

In 540 days when I turn fifty, I'm really sad he won't be here to celebrate it with me by telling me how stupid it is to be fifty.

I don't gatekeep anything, especially grief. You feel how you feel and that's okay. I genuinely appreciate people asking how my parents are, and I know they appreciate it too. I know my nieces and nephew appreciate people caring for them and checking on them.

Check on me.

Check on my sisters.


Siblings grieve too.  


Monday, March 25, 2024

We always do, we always do.

 Because of my life circumstances, I've made a lot of new friends over the past few years, which in theory sounds really good.

It's awful.

A great many of the friends I've made are in the most horrible club imaginable. The Suicide Survivors Club. You do not want admission. Once you are in you forever wish you are out. You can never, ever leave.

One friend who is a very recent entrant to the club said to me, "I just have to make it through the funeral. If I can just get through the funeral it will be okay."

I didn't tell her she was wrong.

I remember feeling the same way. 

I remember the morning of my brother's memorial. I remember thinking that I had to stand up in front of people and say words and once I did that then it would be okay. I remember being so, so cold. I remember my body physically shaking I was so cold. The coldness did not go away, no matter what I tried.

I do not remember standing in front of the room, saying the words I had written.

I do not remember the words I said. At all. They are written down somewhere I'm sure, but my mind has buried them very deep, much like so many other things that have transpired since February 2022.

Late that night, after the memorial, after everyone had gone home I remember feeling so emotionally drained and exhausted I felt like I would never be able to get out of bed again. My body felt physically heavy. My soul felt heavier.

Since that day there have been many "firsts". The first time the 16th rolled around on the calendar again. It's been a month, I thought, and I don't feel better. Then it was his birthday. Then half a year. The first Thanksgiving. The first Christmas. Then it was a year.

Each time one of these firsts happened, I breathed a sigh of...relief? Maybe relief. I felt like, I have to get through this. I just have to make it through this and then it will be okay.

My new friend believed the funeral is the hard part.


The forever. 

The forever is the hard part.


The moments when no one remembers to ask if you are okay, because why wouldn't you be okay? It's been 768 days. You should be okay after 768 days, surely. 

The two seconds that you see your dead brother out of the corner of your eye, standing in the middle of the Sheetz, because that's a logical place that he would be. That you almost sprain your ankle trying to turn around quick enough to catch him, because he can't really be dead and he's just been hiding for 768 days. It's not him, it's never him, but those two seconds are the best two seconds of some days.

When the song that he loved comes on in the gym, right at the moment that you are struggling the most and you feel like you can't breathe. You think about him at sixteen years old, driving a little red car, blasting that tape in the tape deck, smiling and happy and okay, and it makes you gasp when you hear that song. It was so long ago, but it was also just yesterday. We were young and life was full of possibilities. Now he's gone and half of my life is gone too. For the next half I don't have a brother and that is impossible.

When you get a text from his son, telling you about things in his life and you are so proud, so damn proud of that kid, and there are these moments of absolute joy that you get to have this person in your life and also just pain that your brother, his dad, isn't here to experience it all too. 

When you touch the paintings, hanging on your walls. His blood, sweat, and tears are in those paintings and I think about how he lives on in his work, in his children, in his writing, in everything beautiful that he created. Masterpieces, all of it. I wish he could see it all. He could surely never feel like it wasn't enough, because look at all of it. Look at how beautiful it is.

It's the absolute, utter, gut-wrenching guilt. That I am here and most days I'm mostly okay. That I keep living and breathing and existing. That I have this terrible depression too, but I'm managing it. That my demons are different demons than his.

It's the first thing in the morning, when I open my eyes and randomly think about him.

It's the forever.


Forever is so long.


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Everything to gain and nothing to lose.

 January 22nd, 2022 was the last day I ever exchanged text messages with my brother Chris.

We texted a lot over the last few years. Usually multiple times a day. I could tell how he was doing based on the frequency of the text messages. Rapid fire texts usually meant he was manic. Slower paced but steady texts meant he was doing okay. Silence was the scariest response. I always worried when I didn't hear from him. 

I texted him on January 15th because he had Covid and I knew he didn't feel well. He did respond that day, but then went silent, which was never a good sign.

I texted him a week later, January 22nd. 


Are you feeling better?


What I did not say was I'm worried about you. It scares me when I don't hear from you. 


I'm okay. In a lot of pain, but depressed to the point that I don't even care anymore.


That was not the entirely of his message, but that is the part that hurts the most.


I did not say I'm so sorry. I did not say I value you and and I don't know how to live in the world without you in it, so I really need you to get help and be okay. I did not even say I love you.

I texted him a picture of me and my dog Macie, wearing matching socks.

Objectively, I know I did this because it was funny and cute and I thought it would make him laugh. I believe it did, or at least he sent back:

Lol. Cute!

 I didn't know how to say all the other things, and even if I did, even if I was great at being a loving, wonderful human being (spoiler: I need work on this), I did not pick up what he was putting down. I thought he was depressed because he had Covid and didn't feel well and people, frankly, were being huge dicks about Covid and that just made it so much worse for him. So much worse. 

I didn't see it though. I didn't get it. I felt like he was one of the closest people in the world to me from 2020 until the day he died and I. just. did. not. see. it.

Until February 16th, 2022 I had never lived in a world in which my brother did not exist and honestly, it did not seem real that I ever would.

I spent a lot of time hating myself for not seeing it.

A lot of time.

So, so much time.

I woke up on January 22nd, 2023 in utter despair. Questioning everything. Missing my brother. Wishing I could do it all over again and this time say the right thing. The correct thing. The very thing that would make him realize that the world is not as it should be without him in it and please, God please, just don't go. 

I woke up on January 22nd, 2024 in utter despair.

I got dressed for the gym, because getting them gains doesn't get a grief day, and I went downstairs where I was soon joined by my little black lab, Macie Jolene. 

She's mostly Jason's dog. I'm pretty sure if she could get me out of the house so she could have Jason all to herself she would do it. In all honesty, I think the last family she had abused her pretty terribly and she is a little uncomfortable around women in general. Which is sad and terrible and makes me give her extra love and snackos. She's considerably warmer to me than she used to be, but she's still not the most cuddly dog. That's okay, not all dogs are cuddly. 

I keep trying with her though. I always keep trying.

I gave her breakfast and she settled in on the couch to sit with me and my despair. We do this every day.

What she doesn't do every day is cuddle up closer to me, lay her head on my lap, and fall asleep. 

But that's what she did on January 22nd.

Today can be a good day.


I don't know why that popped into my brain at that exact moment, but it did. The deep work I've been doing for the last several years has taught me that even when I think something that doesn't mean it is necessarily true. That my brother's death was not my fault, and even if I had told him I loved him in that second, his decision was already made. That he knew, and I know he knew even though I didn't say it, that I loved him. That he is okay now. That he has peace now that he never had in his time on Earth and even though he transferred that pain to the people who loved him, he no longer had that pain. 


It's okay for today to be a good day.

January 22nd at about 7pm, I was in the car with my husband. He needed gas and he asked if I would ride with him to the gas station. I didn't need to, and honestly didn't really want to, but he wanted to spend time with me and I said yes to that. While we were in the car, I got a message on the Teams app on my phone that the very biggest deal that I've been working on for a year, that I went to Dallas to present for in November, that I had put so much time, energy, and effort into, had closed. It was a done deal. Right before the end of the fiscal year. Over a million dollars. My work and my name and my energy and every good thing about me. Won. Closed.

The chat thread quickly filled up with messages of congratulations and in the quiet car, I bowed my head and shed a few tears.


Today was a good day.


But before that message arrived? It was a good day.

 At my bootcamp, we celebrated one of my friends reaching 700 camps- a huge milestone. The same workout we celebrated someone who showed up for the first time. My friends, the same friends who got together and had a prayer circle for me when I was in Dallas presenting this huge presentation for this huge deal, were all there and we hugged when I came in. When I was leaving I saw another friend coming in for a later camp, and I jumped in front of her (parked) car and did a booty shake. She laughed, and there is pretty much nothing more lovely than making a friend laugh on a very good day.

My boss who is one of my biggest supporters, didn't get picked for jury duty. My work bestie, despite having Covid, made me laugh with hilarious memes all day long. I finished my self-assessment at work and I said nice things about myself, which is hard for me. I recognized how much growth I've had in the last year. I recorded a presentation and listened back. I knew what I was talking about. I know a lot. 

My husband has been in love with me for over twenty years and he wanted me in the car with him when he was getting gas. The most mundane of activities, but he wants me close by. When I told him why I was crying he said, "Of course you won it" because there is no one who cheers louder for me than Jason, and I don't think there ever could be. 

In the morning after bootcamp I walked outside into the very cold air and I took a deep, sharp breath and felt so alive I could almost burst. I am here, still here, and surrounded by so many wonderful, positive, uplifting things that I could barely stand the beauty of it all. I walked in the quiet woods, alone, and I let a few tears fall. They weren't sad tears though. 

It was a good day.


A few weeks ago the lovely lady I see for reiki said to me, "Sometimes you have to cut that tie. Not only so you can move on and heal, but also so your brother can move on to wherever he needs to be next too". I don't know how I feel about all of that yet, but I do know I love the idea of my brother being somewhere in the world, happy and free. Free from all his pain. Free from all the sadness he lived through. Finally okay. 


I think he would want me to be okay too. 


I will never "get over" the loss of my brother. There will never be a moment of my life that I will not wish he was around to get to experience. Every time I spend time with his children I think to myself, "Oh how lucky I am, to have these kids to love" and "Oh, Chris. I wish you were here with us."


But it's okay to have a good day. It's okay to re-frame the narrative. It's okay. 


It's okay. 


It's okay.


I am healing. Day by day, minute by minute. 


Monday, December 11, 2023

I've been everywhere, man.

 February- Las Vegas, Nevada



April- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

May- Nebo, North Carolina

May- San Diego, California

July- Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic

September- Boston, Massachusetts

October- Cancun, Mexico

November- Dallas, Texas

2023 was a year of deep grieving and self-reflection. It was also a year of joy, love, wonderful friendships, and so much laughter.

I am insanely, incredibly blessed and I think about that every single day of my life.

I appreciate all of you who are still here, still reading, and still cheering me on.