Because he cared.

*Originally penned October 27, 2020*

It’s been a week, a week of wandering around in a dazed dream, hoping to wake up. It’s been a week of heavy hearts and a lack of words, because I know that putting words to it, makes it real, and I’m not ready for that. I don’t think we are ever really ready for the loss of a loved one.

Time is a fickle thing: days are long, weeks are fast, moments can either happen in a flash or magically slow, and years fly by.  Yet, when we lose someone, we often wish we’d spent our time differently- done more with them, and I think that’s normal.  Grief, in my opinion, is inherently selfish and understandably so.  We grieve for missed opportunities to spend time together, the missed dinners or things we planned to do but never got around to.  We grieve for the lack of ability to make new memories or share new experiences… and to quote myself from a week ago, “It blows.”  If we linger here, in this space of regret, it’s incredibly easy to get stuck. 

By my best account, it’s been roughly 1,248 weeks that he’s been an influence in my life, out of my 1,918 weeks alive.  More than 2/3 of my life, with an “extra big brother I never asked for”.  I used to roll my eyes when he’d say that, because he was right, I never asked to become the collective little sister.  Never before had “Slacker” been a term of endearment, yet with the smile on his face and kindness in his eyes, I began to learn.  He gave me a hard time, about all sorts of things, not only because he could, but because he cared.  

He had an odd way of showing it sometimes, taking the phone out of my hand to interrogate some boy calling me… and often hanging up on them, unsatisfied with their answers. “Not good enough”, he’d say as his only explanation, as he headed down the stairs with a laugh.  I’d follow him, and he’d be racking the balls, our eyes would meet and he’d shrug with nothing more needing to be said.  He could tell my mood by the way I played, which was saying something since I never played pool well- despite his best efforts.  He’d often tell me to “use my softer side” when a shot required finesse, and we’d laugh at my apparent lack of femininity as I shot too hard.  He could see my soft side, even if I couldn’t utilize it, because he cared. 

His friendship was not the garden variety, be there during the sunshine, type.  Despite the crap he gave me, he made it clear that he was an unwavering escort on our paths in life.  I can’t count the number of nights we stayed up talking on hard days, whether we talked in the basement on the couch, in his car on a drive or up on the rocks on donkey hill.  He could be counted on to be both your greatest supporter, encouraging you to follow your dreams and listen to your heart; and the voice of reason when you needed it.  He had a knack for delivering hard truths with compassion, and had no qualms telling you if something wasn’t serving you.  It was never done in malice, and always because he cared. 

For as much as we joked, and playfully hit, and he poked me to madness, his support was always present.  I think that supportive nature was best captured in a photograph from my brother’s wedding.  A month before, my left leg had been run over in a freak accident, and we all knew I was pushing my luck trying to wear heels on an unstable leg.  Somehow, it became a challenge for the wedding party to skip down the aisle after their nuptials.  I distinctly remember looking at him during the rehearsal and telling him I couldn’t do it.  He was my escort down the aisle, and he was utterly confused.  “What do you mean?” he asked, “Of course you can!”  I gestured willy-nilly like to my leg, which was lovely shades of green and purple (ironically the wedding colors).  “And…?” he said, throwing out his hands as though I seemed to think I had an argument.  As I started to open my mouth to protest, he spoke first.  “Sam” he smiled, “I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.”  True to his word, we skipped, and he did not let me fall.  I had no reason to doubt him, because he cared. 

I know that I hurt right now, like so many others who had the privilege to know him.  I take solace in the fact that I’m not alone in my sadness, though it’s hard for me to show.  I also don’t know where we go from here, but I’d like to think that when my time comes, I’ll once again get to see him smile at me from across a pool table as he tells me it’s my turn to break, or maybe he’ll be sitting with a mis-shuffled Magic deck, just to get on my nerves.  If I’m lucky enough to have our paths cross, in another time and space, I have no doubt we’ll pick up like no time has passed, because that’s how it always is.  If that time comes, I look forward to wrapping him in a hug, and thanking him.  My life is better, richer, all because he cared.  

I love you, 

Your Extra Little Sister