The days following your funeral were the toughest. The people slowly left our house. The flowers stopped arriving. The food went bad. The days kept coming. We weren’t sure how to go on after burying you. Griff put it most poetically when he said, “this is like the feeling after your team loses a hard fought football game but the feeling won’t go away.” He hit me with a scrunched-face “what?” when I laughed at him. All of us who were hurting the most still got together as often as we could. We played trivia every Wednesday at Plucker’s under the name “Hurricane Ike”. We never got close to winning, due largely to your absence, but still enjoyed the lively atmosphere and knowing that you would be there if you could. We sang karaoke at Griff’s birthday party. Our final song was “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. A real mood killer, but the kind of song that felt therapeutic to sing aloud together. We went to Medieval Times, cheering on the green knight with extreme enthusiasm. After dinner and the show, we drank more at Scott’s and sang as loud as we could to Queen and the Mulan soundtrack. I pictured you giving “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” your all. We went to your apartment, often, and each took tokens of the life you so strongly loved. (Don’t be mad at me for this) I even let Mom in twice. She traced her finger over everything you had touched. She instantly claimed the picture of Brian Epstein you had hanging above your bed. She believes that Dad shouldn’t have it because he probably has no idea Epstein was the manager to The Beatles. She’s probably right.
Dad and I were in your apartment, all the time. Your view of the bank next door really was a high-class site. We flipped through your scrapbooks, drank your flavored water, and stole the remaining pieces of your strawberry gum. I love that stuff! Thanks. We collected your mail, and the lady working in the back room came out in tears to offer us her condolences. It made me cry too. You really were a friend to all. I gave her the ‘I Like Ike’ button I had on my coat to remember you by. I carry a couple on me at all times now. Dad and I often wondered what your wardrobe would look like if you never attended St. Marks or Davidson, as their logos were printed on the majority of your clothing. Dad lost it when we went over to your record player and noticed that the last record you had listened to was one by The Kingston Trio. His shoulders got stiff as he tried to hold back tears. The tears fell anyway. He’s not much of a music man, you know, but you two shared many lighthearted car rides and conversations in their honor. I hope he finds peace in those songs eventually. My favorite part of invading your space was noticing how you had kept every note, letter, and postcard you’d received in the last few years. You sure had a lot of pen pals. That’s the kind of kind hearted person you were. I kept flipping back to the one I sent you from Japan last spring break. I audibly laughed through tears at the message that read“You’re my favorite sibling” that Ami wrote in code (in Japanese). Carter had received a matching one, but I never told her that her card read, “you’re my second favorite sibling.” I guess she now claims the title by default. I love her with my whole heart.
I know Dad will struggle to make these apartment visits and pack up your things without me. He struggles while I’m around. He loses himself in the memorabilia you’d collected throughout your many and frequent adventures. It hurts my heart to imagine him standing in your apartment, holding your possessions, lost in a mourning stillness. I can’t be here much longer to will him forward. Our immersion into your belongings inspired your gravestone. We decorated it with music notes, cowboy boots, and the simple yet poignant words “Scholar, Athlete, Teacher, Coach, Beloved Son, Devoted Brother, True Friend”. Dad says all the great presidents have similar headstone characterizations. I checked. He’s right, but I’m sure you already know.