Ten Months

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’ve just finished yoga. I’m sitting at my desk because I have nowhere else to be. I know I should write. I know that when I do I will feel a weight off my chest. Out of my heart onto the keyboard. Alright, here it goes:

Ike, it’s been ten months since you passed and I’m still not sure what to do without you. It still doesn’t feel real. I still have to remind myself that you’re not coming back. Some days, most days now, I feel deep gratitude for the relationship we had, the life you lived, and the amazing people you left me with. Then, there are days when I’m lost, lonely, and everything reminds me that I’m here on earth without you. 

The media has focused so heavily on teenagers, college kids, the mid-life-crisis-ers, born again adults, but what about the fresh out of college kids who aren’t sure what to do? There are numerous jobs whose paths are clear. You start at point X then work your way up. What do we do if we don’t want to follow one of those career paths? What if we are one of the creatives, the entrepreneurs, or just the confused who don’t know our exact calling and aren’t sure how to get started? HEY EVERYONE, WHAT ABOUT US?

We see so many success stories online, on TV, and hear about them from people constantly. “She was offered this amazing job in the city after one interview.” “He graduated with an advanced degree and is doing another year. His company is paying for it.” That’s all fantastic. But that’s what we hear the most yet that’s what happens the least. No one likes to talk about their hardship or their complete failures or the time they spent just down trying to figure themselves out. That’s where I am now. I’m trying to figure things out. Here I am: Unemployed. 23. A bit lost but telling myself I am finding my way. 

When I think of who I was a year ago, I laugh because she was a completely different person. She was comfortable in small town Scotland. She was resting in a relationship she knew wasn’t forever because she was afraid to be alone. She was waiting for life to be better instead of actively trying to do and be better.  

The girl I was a year ago was moving to New York after University to start a marketing job she wasn’t truly passionate about but felt obligated to take to prove to everyone she was employable. She would have continued life at a distance from many loved ones because her brother was her link to so many. She would probably have held onto St. Andrews and various relationships for the sake of security. I believe I would still be that girl, or a version a lot more like her, had she not lost her brother. 

As hard as it has been, this past year has changed me for the better. I am better for losing you even though my life would be better with you still in it. I feel like I’ve begun to grow into the person I’m supposed to be. I am calmer, more present, allocating my time to suit my wellbeing and to connect more with the people I love and care for. I am this person now solely because I have tried to grow to shrink the hole you left behind in the hearts of many.

I now wake up in the heat of a bustling city. I live with, by an act of fate, a girl who I feel like I’ve known ten years when it’s only been about ten weeks. I take time for myself. I check in with how I’m feeling and act accordingly. I even started going to a California therapist who listened to me scream and cry for an entire hour during our first session. These sessions are much calmer now, I swear. 

The people I message for Friday night plans are new and exciting. Everyone walking on the street and in the grocery store are strangers, yet they talk to you like they aren’t (California- people here are weird in the best way). I’m in a completely different place, mentally and physically, than I was a year ago. I was truly someone else a year ago. Haha, that bitch. 

Everything in my life has changed. Everything has changed so drastically that trying to put my fingers to the keyboard to write about it all has been so daunting and terrifying I’ve been putting it off since the last time I posted. I have come to realize that I will always be scared of something, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. If anything, it means absolutely the opposite. 

So no, I’m not always okay. And that’s okay. And yes, grief is apart of my daily life in a way that only those who have endured deep loss can truly understand. I’m a lost, out of school, young adult who is trying to figure out what the rest of my life is going to bring. I get scared sometimes. I have felt completely alone. Yet, I have grown immensely and decided my happiness is in my own hands. I choose to be a person who brings good to those around me. I choose happiness even though I have met pain. Life will be okay without you because I will make it okay. On that note, I’m going to go cook dinner for my friends.

X

26 Weeks

To grief, time is irrelevant. Time doesn’t heal the wound of irrevocable loss. Time just gives way for new circumstances and people to distract you from the pain that will never truly cease. Sometimes you can hide the grief, pretend it isn’t there, but the pain always resurfaces.

The days when I feel you should be present have proved the hardest. I fear they always will be. There are certain moments I always imagined you would be there for, visions of the future that play in my head like memories. Whenever I imagine past or future time with family, life milestones or general celebration you are there. I don’t know how to cut you from the film reel.

My graduation was one of the events you should have been there for. You already had your flights. You had written up the road trip itinerary for your week before. Your rental car was booked. You were figuring out what tartan you wanted for your kilt.

The entire grad week I waited. I waited for Mom to arrive. I waited for Carter and the road trip gang to show up. I waited until Dad had seen my room before I took down the collage on my wall. Then everyone arrived and I was still waiting. Graduation day came and I couldn’t keep my eyes on one subject, constantly looking around for a particular face in the crowd. Then it was time to leave St. Andrews before you arrived.

I had just gotten back from the three weeks of constant laughter and excitement grad trip was. I went from Copenhagen, to living in a van in Portugal, to living in a mad house in Portugal, to Sweden, and back to St. Andrews where Dad and Georgia were waiting for me. I had been constantly surrounded by fun and love that I hadn’t even thought of the pain I may feel in the upcoming week. 

The day of graduation was warm and sunny. I know that was you. I smiled all day but my memories of graduation will always be rooted with an underlying sadness due to your absence. You would have yelled my name and cheered as I walked across the stage. You would have taken 100 photos. You would be confused when a curated selection of the photos wasn’t performing as well as you wanted it to on Instagram. But you weren’t there and the sunshine you provided didn’t make up for the lack of your charisma and humor.  

Nobody in the family mentioned your name for the first day or so we were together. I think we were all scared that someone may break down if you were brought up. It wasn’t until Nicky pulled me aside the night of graduation that the weight of your absence was acknowledged. 

He asked to speak to me privately as we sat in the courtyard of Dad’s rental house drinking champagne. We moved inside to the living room. I knew whatever he was going to say would bring me to tears. I was right. I felt the tears begin to fall as soon as he took a deep breath and started to speak. “Cammi there are no words. I understand what you’re going through and there are no words. Ike meant the world to me. You meant the world you him. That means you mean the world to me. I know things will never be the same. Things are and will be different. Let’s do our best to make that okay. We have to be strong. We have to go on. That’s what Ike would have done. Ike was so proud of you. He talked about you all the time. He loved you so much. I love you so much. We’ll be okay.” Carter saw us through the window and came in for a hug. We all embraced in a way that felt like home. 

I went out that night and danced. I celebrated graduating. I realized I had joy deep in my heart when I looked around and realized people I loved surrounded me. Dancing ourselves sweaty and singing at the top of our lungs, I grew nostalgic thinking we would never do stuff like this again in this town. The entire room of people I was with would probably never be together at once again. Growing up is as beautiful as it is shitty. You find amazing people. These people become home to little pieces of your heart and constantly brighten your days. Then circumstances change and life takes them far away. 

I miss you more than I thought was possible. Usually when you miss someone you acknowledge that they’re not there but realize life in the present is worth filling yourself with. Death is different. I miss you all down my spine and ache knowing there will never be a time when we get the joy of reuniting. You’re not just far from me you’re gone from earth. You’re not asleep under the same stars somewhere else. You’re above me. Nothing can connect these dimensions that keep us apart while I’m living the life I have to. Sometimes I feel so hopelessly alone because I am only longing for your company.

I played your playlist as I packed up my room the day after graduation. The grief monster lounged comfortably on my windowsill. He kept pressing me to tears by reminding me that the last time I packed up an apartment it belonged to you. He demanded I grieve my college years that have suddenly ended and you at the same fucking time.

Pushing me to my knees, the grief monster played “The God of Loss” as I took your picture down from my wall. It was the picture I snapped of you while we waited on our milkshakes in a Stake n Shake drive through. It was the picture I had used for the “I Like Ike” pins. I curled my body in tightly and held the photo to my heart. I cried as hard as I could without making a sound. I didn’t want anyone to see or hear me in such disarray. “Sanctuary” came on shuffle next. I blamed the grief monster. He really knows how to make it hurt. I felt like I had motion sickness as I sat still in my motionless room. 

I missed you so badly and had been deeply happy for the past month that I felt I had to take an evening off to spend with my grief. I finally worked up the strength to read the letter Nicky left me and cried my eyes swollen at the closing line. I knew I couldn’t leave my room until the next morning. Learning “Ike was so proud of you. We spoke of you and your future about an hour before his passing” made time slow. Instead of going out and further celebrating graduation with my friends, I spent my Friday night re-reading the letter and listening to the Beatles. The line of the letter that reads “I lost my best friend. You lost your best friend and your brother” makes me lose my breath whenever I think of it. I desperately wanted to feel close to you. I just wanted you to be here for this week. I wanted your face to be in my graduation photos in more than just the button on my robe. I’ll always wish you could have been there.

Grad ball on Saturday night was the finale to the graduation celebrations. After the ball, everyone sat on the castle ruins and watched the sunrise. People were crying thinking of leaving the small safety net of St. Andrews. People were crying because their friends will live in different cities. People were crying because they were drunk and everybody else was crying so they felt obligated. I didn’t cry for any of these reasons. The tiny town was beginning to suffocate me. I know my friendships are strong enough to endure whatever distance comes between us. I wasn’t nearly as drunk as everyone else. I cried because I had missed you so much the whole week and had to act okay because it was a week of celebration. I cried not at fear of my new life chapter but at the realization that you won’t be apart of it. I cried realizing your role in my story was just another chapter I’ll never get to relive. 

19 Weeks

Lately I’ve felt lost at the thought of leaving St. Andrews. This place has become home. You came all the time. You met my people. I love these people with my whole heart. How can I live without them in my day to day? I know the answer to this because I’ve learned to live without you. Though, this knowledge doesn’t make the thought of leaving any easier. 

Fuck St. Andrews for bringing wonderful people into my life then scattering them across the globe. Little pieces of my heart will forever live internationally. How will these relationships endure the distance? Will we have reunions as often as we promise? Will we all communicate through Facebook messenger forever? I love these people because they lift me up and make me laugh. I love living in a place where my farthest friend here is a couple blocks away. I’m scared to take that away. Damn, I’m gonna need therapy. 

Writing to you in this blog is the most helpful form of therapy I’ve found. I’m also saving Dad a few bucks not having a therapist try and tell me what to do anymore. The blog inspired another wave of people to reach out and share their own Ike stories and explain how you impacted their lives. You have an unsurprisingly large fan club. Hearing from people meant and means more than I can explain on a keyboard. They made me laugh, they made me cry, and they made me appreciate you even more. The blog also inspired people to reach out to me and share their own experiences with loss. It’s a pretty cool club, us survivors. We live for those we lost. We can’t let go of the pain because it would mean letting go of our loved ones. We choose pain like we choose our loved ones, without hesitation. We choose to hold onto the memories. We choose the pain of losing over the emptiness of forgetting. 

Talking to others helped me realize that I am not the only person lost. I am not the only person hurting. I am not the person hurting the most. I’m just the annoying one who went and thought it was normal to publish the inner workings of my mind online. 

I’ve come to realize that the ones who have lost loved ones are not the only people who experience grief. Everyone experiences grief in different ways throughout their lives. Think about it, we lose things all the time. As we move forward we must leave things behind. We lose the pets we thought would always be around, we become teenagers and lose our youthful friendships or mannerisms, we leave houses, towns, and routines behind, we turn a certain age and realize that childhood is a thing of the past. Burying you does not mean I met grief as you left. I have known grief my entire life, as has anyone who has lived. Grief is intrinsically connected to life and growth. The ones who lose people they love get a unique look at it from the eye of the storm. 

I will grieve St. Andrews when I leave. I will cherish the memories and my friendships but things will never be as they were. I will never forget the people who have impacted my life and I am forever grateful for the feeling I have towards those I was with on nights I can’t remember. Haha, I’m quoting Drake like some basic bitch instagram caption. As I’ve mentioned before, not everyone I’ll lose in my new chapter will be a loss. Some people leave so better ones can take their place. Better is the wrong word. More purposeful or better suited to my current environment is more fitting. Circumstances change so you can embrace the new. Sometimes we’re too myopic to see it. 

Comfort is blinding. The comfort I feel in St. Andrews with my loved ones makes me feel safe. Comfortable. I can’t let comfort keep me from going forward. I will be okay as I lose St. Andrews. I won’t let this loss knock me down but I’ll keep on keeping on.  This chapter wasn’t meant to last forever. More chapters, more people, more life is coming my way. I’m lucky to keep living this roller coaster. I wish your ride hadn’t ended so abruptly. My time in St. Andrews was always limited. I have time to emotionally prepare. I may feel lost, but I’ll be okay as I move forward. Great therapy session. I’m feeling better already. Same time next week?

18 Weeks

Since I’m closer than ever to graduation and a new chapter, I’ve been nostalgic in good way. I’ve begun to appreciate the past, for the good times and bad, and feel that I’m ready to move on. New place. New people. New me? My gratefulness for St. Andrews and my time here has made me reflect on how grateful I am to have had you. The worst parts of grief are over, for now, and I’ve been more optimistic than ever lately. 

In some ways, I do believe you were some kind of messiah, placed on earth to strengthen and unite various people and make us better along the way. Houston had it right. You lived your life like you would die tomorrow, everyday, and had done more in your 29 years than most people do in a lifetime. You did your duty to this life then it was time for you to go home to the sky. There are so many songs and movies that have come out since you left that I wish I could share with you. Dude, they are literally making a live action “Mulan” remake. It’s illegal we can’t see it together. Seeing “Yesterday” and not crying was a personal triumph. There are so many people who have come into my life that I wish got the pleasure of knowing you. I hope to give off bits of your radiance through my never-ending drive to be like you. There are still so many topics I wish we could discuss. What do you think of the presidential debates? There are still so many things I wish we could do together. There are still so many milestones I have yet to reach that I assumed you would be there for. These will be hard, tequila and tears inevitable, but I know I can get through it. I will never get over the pain of losing you and I will never meet a day when you don’t cross my mind in one way or another. Nonetheless, I’ll persevere and do my best to make you proud. I’ll even try to entertain you along the way. 

Despite all the pain and confusion your death caused, it also made me grow to be better. I know that whatever is meant for me will always find me and whatever isn’t will leave or miss me just the same. I have faith in God’s plan. I believe in fate but rely on hard work and instinct, just like you taught me. I know you live in a better place now. One without pain, one without worry, and one where you can be with all your loved ones, living and dead, at the same time. One where you are loved, one where you are safe, and one where you can pull pranks on the living without any backlash. You’re my personal ghost, now. I like to think. I talk out loud for the both of us now. I still miss you so much everyday. I will never stop missing you everyday. In my heart, I know you live on inside me and all the many people who love you so very much. I would give anything for you to be here with us today. I’d take having one leg, no vision, and no hearing if it meant that you could still be with me on earth. Put me in a different reality if it means I could be with you. But that’s not how my story is supposed to go. 

I genuinely believe that all things happen for a reason, and that your death, as convoluted as the meaning may be, was all apart of God’s greater plan. I have come to accept your death, fully, finally. For now. You are gone and I don’t have the power to bring you back. The only thing I can control in this matter is myself and how I act going forward. I am no longer crying everyday. I do cry most days, though. The tears that fall for you are mostly gentle flows of gratitude, remembrance, and longing. They mainly fall on occasions I feel you should be present for, times when I just need your guidance or humor to pull me through, and at the hand of warm memories I can’t ever turn away. The harsh tears still show up randomly too but not as often or brutally as before. Every now and then I scream out in pain, but perhaps am using the pain of losing you as a way to feel sorry for myself in a sort of emotional release. I’m selfish like that, I guess. 

Your death taught me that life is a never ending oscillation between the incredibly wonderful and the painfully awful. It’s never ending game that no one knew they began at birth. You fight off the first round of monsters, bask in the glory of their defeat, then another comes straight at you. But you have to keep going. You have to keep growing, in order to fight them. The hardships of the battles you face are always worth the joy of victory. No matter what happens, no matter how badly I want time to stop, life flows on. I let it. I go with it, even when it hurts. As for relationship heartbreak, I’m over it. Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m done wishing things had happened differently. That one week that I did was more than enough. There really are plenty of fish in the sea. I have faith in the universe that not everyone I’ll lose is a loss and not every character in my story is forever but the people meant for me will always find a way into my life. Sometimes, you even get lucky and lose a small mouth bass for a midnight parrotfish. Ha. 

Good things have happened since you died, things that wouldn’t have happened if you were here. Our family grew closer, I understand the value of love and life now, and I began to understand who I am and who I want to be. That is not to say I choose these things over you, of course not. But that is to say that life goes on and there are always rainbows that follow even the most destructive of storms. I’m listening to Kasey Musgraves’ “Rainbow” right now. Isn’t she so hot and cool? I know, I’m in love with her too. No, I don’t think she’d reply to one of your infamous Instagram DM’s. I know, Taylor Swift sure missed her chance. 

You were the rainbow of my life. You brightened up my days and made the storms worth enduring. I see your face in every rainbow I encounter now. You were the glue that held our family together. Then you died and you brought us together just the same. You were no longer there to be the glue and, despite Dad telling me “you have to be the glue now”, I didn’t. We all worked harder to hold our family of misfits together. We all became closer without you. Something was pulling us toward each other, an energy that you gave that no longer had a physical body to pull from. You were no longer there to arrange the family meetings, book the flights to family reunions, or to rally everyone you considered family together for dinner at El Fenix. But, as you disappeared, the love between us remained. We still wanted to spend time together despite you not being there to force these interactions onto our calendar. Your absence was replaced with a love that united us. We all became the glue. That’s a lot of glue talk. I’m done with that allusion for now. 

I know this is just a phase of joy that won’t last forever, the grief monster never stays away for long, but I want to write down my happy thoughts while they’re here. Ikey, thank you for being who you were. Thank you for being the best big brother, personal advocate, and life mentor that anyone could ask for. Thank you for teaching me everything you did. Thank you for making me who I am. Thank you for becoming my greatest inspiration. Everything I did, have done, and will do will forever be in your honor. You’re still gone but I’m okay now. I will be okay now. I’ll still break down but I won’t be defeated. I can’t wait to see you again. I think about reuniting with you everyday and try to meet each day with excitement to give it my best and end knowing that I am one day closer to you. I hope you’ve already planned a welcome party for my arrival. Let’s dance all night to a strange range of music that only you could do justice. I love you deeper and more elaborate than the ocean, Ike. Here’s to you. **”Sympathy for the Devil” slowly begins to play in the background as I close my laptop**

17 Weeks

My University career is on a fast track to the finale and it hurts my heart to think that there’s another wave of change heading my way. I just got used to life without you but my life is changing and I’m going to have to cope with your loss in a new place and around new people. I wish you were here to tell me it will all work out and let me know that it will all be okay as long as I work hard and stay true to myself. Since you aren’t, I have to keep telling myself. Not the same, but my only option.

I’ve spent the entire week in the library trying to finish a research essay I sure could use your help on. I’m writing about how the modern day pillars of social media were born and used throughout the Protestant Reformation. I discuss Martin Luther as the first viral celebrity and you would hate some of the comparisons I’m drawing. Martin Luther and the Kardashians in one sentence, a historical offense. I like the topic but the last thing I want to be doing right now is an essay. You aren’t here to keep me on track so I’ve gotten quite creative with my various forms of procrastination. I even started a blog all about you, believe it or not. Who would have thought that over 800 people would read my published journal within the first week? Wack, I know. Too personal to share online, I know. Too late. 

In every bit of downtime my mind plays memories and thoughts of you and I accept these visions gratefully. You’re so easy to remember. It soothes me to remember you were here, now that I’m not violently crying at the recollection. I surround myself with people who are open to discussion on the dead whenever you cross my mind. Man, have I got some theories on life after death. I miss you more as I go through life and experience more things I wish I could share with you. It’s like you’re on a drawn out vacation. Time to come home now, Ike. I miss you too much. I feel your absence so deeply. I’ve come to terms with your death but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be okay with it. That doesn’t mean the hole in my heart is any smaller. That doesn’t mean that I will ever stop wishing you were here. It does mean that I understand that you weren’t meant to be here forever. My life was always meant to continue after yours and I have to keep living it. I am grateful for the time we had. I am grateful you were my brother. I’m grateful that you were here for 22 years to make me who I am and to show me what I should be like without you. 

I find myself latching onto people who feel like home. Even though I know it’ll never be home again, a chunk of these people are Texans. Olivia and I discuss you all the time. Poor her, I should be paying her for therapy. We are some of the last few with deadlines left and find solitude in each other through library breaks filled with gossip and cigarettes. Yeah, you heard me, my nicotine addiction has flourished into straight tobacco. Yes, I’m still trying to learn how to properly inhale. No, I am still not buying my own packs. Olivia and I always wish we could snapchat you, outside the library with cigarettes in hand. You would snap us back immediately with love and necessary judgement. We both miss having you to edit our papers, even though you often read them aloud to your sixth graders as examples of what not to do. We laugh knowing how you would react to us smoking and procrastinating and find peace knowing that you’re in the little rays of sunshine that keep us warm amid the Scottish breeze.

The other day, I had my landlord read my tarot cards. She mentioned that she would love to do a reading for me and urged me to let her know what questions I’d like answered. My mind immediately went to you. Despite my life being rooted in uncertainty, you’re the only question I want answered. I want to know how you are. I want to know why you died. I want to know if there was anything you wanted me to know. She said she had never done a stack focused on someone in another realm, but the cards will show what they want me to know. She did a celtic cross spread and, with chills, told me she couldn’t wait to explain it all because the cards had powerful messages to tell me. Apparently she cried as she laid them before her. 

My landlord took me through every card placement and its meaning. Rather than bore you with the details, I’ll share the synopsis she gave at the end: The connection we had ran deeper than the ocean. Our relationship made me who I am and is central to my self-identity. My relationship with you may be the strongest bond I ever have with another person. I can’t live my life in a way that losing you paralyzes me from going forward. I’m about to set off on a journey that will help me to understand your death. I’ll gain perspective. I have great adventure coming my way. I have many options and numerous roads to success about to present themselves to me. The way I understand people and perceive the world around me is my superpower. I have to let my creativity and kind nature drive me through instinct. I must be weary of my own strength, not all pain should be private. I can’t fear letting people in. Vulnerability and strength can co-exist. My life is all about moving forward. I must have faith in myself and move forward through hard work and decisions. Not making a decision is worse than making a wrong one. You will be with me always but my life is about me and not you. 

Pretty cool, right? Much more positive than I was anticipating. Although it didn’t answer the questions I put forth, I am comforted by this bit of wisdom. After all, from what I can see, the cards are right. You were the most important person in my life but you were not and are not my entire life. My value and importance aren’t diminished because you are gone. You made me who I am, I will forever try to make you proud, but I will not let your death inhibit my life or keep me from moving forward. The irony in this all makes me laugh. The further I am from the heart wrenching, broken into a million bits, waves of pain the closer I am to appreciating your life, the closer I am to gratitude, the closer I feel to you. 

I choose to celebrate you through my life. I’ll keep moving and taking life’s twists and turns as moments of growth through hardship. I’ll keep moving but I’ll never forget where I came from, the people who have been there through it all, the people who were there for a time, the places I’ve been, and you. I will never forget you. But, like my landlord told me, this life is about me. I’ve got to go live it.

The more life I live, the more I am learning that we all are a little broken. We’re all a little bruised, and we all have our own stories, burdens, and experiences. The more I live, the more I learn that it’s often those things that can make us the richest and truest forms of ourselves. It’s the sufferers who have learned to rise after intense brokenness who are the most beautiful people I have met in this life. It’s the ones who know despair and who have channeled it into strength and purpose who make this world brighter. I hope to be one of them.

16 Weeks

The pain of your absence has been heavy lately, but that is to be expected after a prolonged period of joy (hence the break in the journal weeks). I find it’s impossible to write when I’m feeling genuine happiness. I guess the most powerful literature comes from raw pain (if you can even call these emotion-driven rambles literature.) The pain has not been the all-encompassing and ubiquitous torture it has been in the past but has become a lighter load that only gets heavy enough to acknowledge every now and then. The grief monster even lets me deny him sometimes. Other times, he demands to be seen and entertained for a while. His pressure for entertainment reminds me of all the times you’d throw my phone across the room to have my undivided attention. You two really know how to press my buttons. I only entertain the monster behind closed doors when I can cry in private, as I’ll never be the person to break down and demand comfort publically. Ironically, I like the pain that comes with him. I like having the grief monster around, every now and then. He reminds me that I have you to miss. He reminds me of the good times we shared. He reminds me of the love I have for you. He reminds me that you were once here and that I need to live in your honor. I want to feel his presence because he connects me to you. 

Your final autopsy was printed last week. Of course, it came out during the biggest week of the St. Andrews social calendar. We had no class and events all day every day. I had to turn away the pain and choose to be happy each morning, as I knew you wouldn’t want any trivial information on your death to impend on my ability to enjoy some of the last moments I’ll get to cause debauchery in this Scottish town I’ll soon leave behind. The pain of this new information was put on hold because it could be, because I know it will always be there. These priceless times with my friends won’t be. Nonetheless, the grief monster has been knocking and the lull in social requirements proves a sound time to let him in. 

Your final death certificate was printed suffocation next to the cause of death. We are still not satisfied with this claim but have come to terms with the fact that you are gone and, for one reason or another, you aren’t coming back. I wish I could see the reason why but I have faith that someday I’ll understand. It probably won’t be until you can tell me yourself. That’s okay. The additional pain of heartbreak from he-who-shall-not-be-named-anymore is a not so pleasant addition to my grief. Our breakup was for the best, but I still despise him for making my pain worse in my time of utter weakness. I do appreciate the self-reflection and growth that came along with it. There is something inside me telling me that everything will be okay and that all of this hardship is improving me as a person along the way.

It’s a constant hole in my heart, missing you. That hole is never to be filled. That hole is my space for you, your new home and the place where the best aspects of me will forever be rooted. My heart is still broken but it is beating. It is beating with joy and gratefulness. It’s growing stronger as it mends itself. I’m proud to be doing this on my own. I am not all on my own. I have our family, I have your friends who have become mine, and I have my own family of friends who have all surrounded me with unwavering love. 

I recently have come to realize that grief and heartbreak are the most beautiful kinds of pain. The presence of grief and heartbreak mean that you once had love that filled their space. The deeper you hurt, the deeper you once loved. And holy shit, do I love you a lot. Fucking hell, it hurts so badly to think of how deeply I love you. You were my favorite person in the world. Now, you’re my favorite person out of it. These conditions, heartbreak and grief, destroy a person. They cloud you with confusion. They change everything you know. They break you down completely. Since they are absolutely destructive, they require growth. Like a phoenix, you have to rise from the ashes and develop a new sense of self all on your own. You must build yourself up on your own. This is essential. Filling these holes with other people is like trying to fix a leak with tape. It just puts off an issue you’ll have to face later. Heartbreak is beautiful, once you’re finally strong enough to realize. I am finally strong enough to realize. This grief will never end because my love for you is forever. Heartbreak is just a delightful side platter I didn’t order but got served anyway. I’ll pay the check and be done with it, eventually. The pain of relationship heartbreak will fade away but, for now, it at least shows me that love was once true. My grief will exist as long as my love for you does. Forever. I am okay with that. What is life without pain? A life without growth. A life without love. And that would fucking suck. 

Love is something I have been focusing on a lot lately. Not the kind of romantic love that makes your heart skip a beat or forms butterflies in your stomach but an appreciative love for people and their unique individuality. Inspired by you, I let the people I love know how much they mean to me. I tell them often, in various fashions. I send letters to our loved ones. I call whenever I can. I am a vicious phone zombie nowadays because I want to know how my loved ones are, what they’re up to, how they’re feeling and why. I gift books or flowers just to brighten someone’s day. I verbally express my appreciation to people in a way I never have before. I actively try to bring light into any situation I am in. My darkness is saved for times when I can fall apart on my own. Losing you has shown me that life could end at any moment and, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to leave behind a trail of light and love in my absence. Just like you have. The pain I have been feeling lately is always met with appreciation and a will to go on and persevere through whatever is thrown my way. Thank you for guiding me through this process. Thank you for being you and, even in death, showing me how to be me. I like the person I’m growing into in your absence. You make me so proud to look up to. I hope I make you proud to look down upon. 

13 Weeks

The past week I have felt like a new person. It’s my first week back in St. Andrews since spring break. I finally feel like I am strong enough within myself to take this life, without you, head on. Two weeks ago, I was in Hawaii with my best friend in the entire world and a group of people I believe were brought together by fate. Quit your snarking, I’m really into spiritual awareness at the moment. It helps. I entered the vacation broken. I flew home medicated by Pearl’s anti-anxiety meds because I couldn’t stand the sober pain of my shattered heart. I can, finally, clearly acknowledge how I spent the week after finding out about Nico in a vegetative state playing Mario Kart and constantly composing paragraphs of emotion that I’m thankful I didn’t ever show to anyone except my journal. The ones I did send were only a fraction as cruel. Words are powerful and not to be wasted on people I’ll soon let go. I had suddenly lost the two closest people to me just weeks apart. Brokenhearted doesn’t begin to explain the pain I was experiencing at the peak of it all. Mom put it best when she questioned “God Cams, how much pain can one heart take?” A lot, I now know. But I grew while I was away on spring break. I became stronger and more independent in those two weeks I was out of, sometimes toxic, St. Andrews. I am finally ready to embrace this place post losing you. 

My newfound confidence and personal strength have finally taken off and this week and I have been out of my comfort zone contently. I submitted some of my poems to a school club and they were selected for their poetry night. I stood in front of a crowded room and read the words I’d written for you, my new favorite muse:

This past December my older brother, my rock and best friend, unexpectedly passed away. I wrote this poem one afternoon when I realized that the death of a loved one doesn’t occur once. Derailed by slivers of recollection, they die in pieces, breaking away a little bit more each time you realize the little quirks or the different roles they played in your life are now gone too.

No more you 

No more mid day phone calls

No more funny texts

No more inspiring mentorship

No more opinions on what happens next

No more editing my papers

No more judgment on my clothes

No more trivia battles

No more scrapbooks to compose

No more snaggle tooth smile

No more booming laugh in my ears

No more favorite face in a crowd

No more resting place for my fears

No more philosophical conversations

No more letters, comics, or jokes

No more hugs and no more high fives

No more burgers for you to poke

No more freshly shaved head to touch

No more matching hands to admire

No more early morning fitness

No more dreams for you to aspire

No more funny t-shirts

No more crazy socks

No more see you tomorrows

No more “I love you, you’re my rock”

No more of my advocate

In your place, there’s now a hole

No more of all of this,

Because no more brother to fill the role.

It hurt to read these words aloud. It was terrifying to be so vulnerable in front of a crowd filled with familiar strangers and the family I’ve chosen overseas but I knew you would have been proud to see me take part. I read another poem, the one about secrets spreading like wildfire in a small town, and ended on a much more lighthearted note than I began with. People afterwards came up to praise me for my ability to make them cry and laugh in one evening. I could feel my heart being topped off with love. I’ve finally patched up most of the holes that kept letting love spill out. The week went on with events and I was finally strong enough to join in without hesitation. I was a guest on Victoria’s radio show, discussing heartbreak and poetry amid other fun conversations. You would have loved it. I wish you could have tuned in. I attended the school hockey game with my friends and a group of people I’ve recently gotten to know. We had so much fun. We drank, we laughed, and we cheered on our team with the enthusiasm of an American crowd. I found joy knowing my strength and confidence were growing. I loved taking part in the kind of wholesome fun I know you would appreciate. 

The weekend came and I flew down to London to stay with Hannah. Traveling hungover constantly proves torture. My disheveled state resulted in me, idiotically, forgetting my wallet in Heathrow. Taking your advice from when my car battery died a couple months ago, I remained calm. You would have been proud after you made fun of my idiocy. “Well, what can I do now?” I thought as I laughed at myself for being such a fool. A disheveled mess, I arrived to the Gruy’s and asked them to help me pay for my cab. Hannah laughed and related to my hangover while looking fabulous and maternal with her precious baby girl on her hip. I now understand why you had chosen the Gruy’s as your second family. They are amazing people. I could write a book on their value to humanity. Kind, interesting, accepting, and relentlessly loving. Hannah and her family welcomed me into their beautiful home with open arms and made me feel like I mattered to them, even though we barely knew each other. I hope this relationship grows in the future. Thank you for bringing these people into my life. 

Hannah and I sipped prosecco the night I arrived, discussed life since we’d seen each other after your service, then left to go see Conner play his show in the East End. It was refreshing and awe-inspiring standing in the crowd watching him perform like a real celebrity. The last time I’d seen him play was after your service when he sang “In Your Life” to a melancholy audience. Less distraught this time around, he looked great. His exterior rugged, but his shy-boy persona proved endearing and charming. The ladies went wild. You would have loved it. He brought the guitar we had given him, the one that used to belong to you, and he gave me a shout out before playing it for the first time in front of an audience. I swallowed back tears while enjoying the music and wishing you were swaying next to us. 

I know I keep telling you, but I can really feel myself growing through the pain I’ve recently endured. I can tell I am different. I like the person I am becoming. I’ve felt immense pain in the last few weeks but these dark times have made me all the more grateful for the good. Losing Nico cleared space in my heart for new beautiful relationships to grow. Nico’s end in my story has brought new people into my life and reinforced those who were there all along, a lot like losing you. Finality of death is a lot like the finality of a broken relationship. Cemented in the past, that person is gone from your life and you have to grow to fill the holes they leave behind. I can no longer communicate with either of you the way I used to and I have had to find other things to occupy my heart and mind.

Despite all the absolute bullshit the universe has thrown my way, I am no longer hiding from the world but am ready to move forward. I am ready to go out and socialize. I am ready to be outside my comfort zone. I am ready to talk about you to anyone who will listen. Screw whoever gets uncomfortable when I bring you up. I like to discuss you because you were amazing. You were fascinating. You were loved by all those who were lucky enough to know you. I am proud you were mine. Yeah you died, but you lived life to the fullest while you were around. It’s worth discussing. I like to talk about you because you are always on my mind. I shouldn’t keep hiding what I’m feeling, vulnerability and strength can and should coexist. People need to be given a chance to see the inner workings of your mind. Most times, they respect you for it. The ones who matter anyway. You are my reason to keep going. My newfound strength is due in large part to the fact that I am positive that you are always with me. You may not be with me physically, and you may not even be with me spiritually anymore, but you are always inside of me. Your heart and wit and humor live on inside of me and all those you loved. We have to keep pushing forward for you, if nothing else. I am pushing through the hard times in search of the good for you, if no one else. I am having fun lately. I am enjoying life again. I’m growing, brother. I wish you were here to see it. I wish you were here to tell me to get back to work every once in a while.