Grief is not a fun emotion. It was this time 13 years ago my big brother, Chris, died. He was my only sibling and he was the greatest friend I have ever had.
It was December 11, 2005 and he was living in Yuma, Arizona. I was living in Boone, North Carolina attending school. It was winter and snowing like crazy outside. My brother had the night off and was preparing for some of his best buds from childhood to arrive on a flight the next morning. So needless to say, he was stoked.
I was sitting in my living room wrapping presents when he called. That year he wasn’t able to buy gifts for my parents or other family members, so in knowing this, I went out and bought gifts that were “from Chris.” Haha! While on the phone I was making sure he knew what he supposedly got everyone so he wasn’t clueless. I remember just how appreciative he was and I remember telling him, “that’s what family is for.” He would have done the same for me. In fact, there were times he had.
My brother, Chris and I were only about 2 years apart in age. I looked up to him more than anyone in my life. No matter how bad we fought over stupid things, no matter how weird he thought I was, not matter how I may have embarrassed him at times, he never doubted me. He never made me feel bad for the stupid things I did or the numerous bad decisions I made growing up. He knew that I was human. I was going to make mistakes and making me feel bad about myself for making mistakes, wasn’t going to prevent me from making more. It would only prevent me from understanding the value of the mistake. So many times I knew he wanted to yell at me and call me stupid or get angry; not that he never did but 9 times out of 10, I could bet money that his first question to me after any mistake, was going to be, “So Stace, what did you learn?” Typically my response was, I don’t know. Then he’d tell me when I figured it out then we could talk. Where he learned to do this with me, I don’t know. What a powerful way to get through to me. He was so strong yet so sensitive and empathetic with me, I can remember from a young age admiring this about him. I wanted to be like that. Now, granted he still had his many moments of being an asshole and pretending he was Rick Flair just so he could practice his stupid wrestling moves on me. (That always drove my mother bonkers. Haha!) Through it all, he never gave up on me. He never questioned my heart. He always made sure that I knew he loved me. He was the one person I felt I would always have. Because of his shear presence on this Earth, I never felt alone.
So back to December 11, 2005…our phone conversation lasted longer that night than usual. He joked with me. We talked about what we would do the next time we saw each other. We had planned to go on a snowboard trip that coming February for my birthday; so we talked about that. Around 1:30am, I had to go. I had school the next day and he was going to finish cleaning the house and watch a movie before he went to bed. We always ended our phone calls, no matter what, with I love you. So we said we loved each other and we’d talk the next day.
December 12, 2005…I had just gone through 2 exams and finished a term paper. All of them I aced! I was so excited. My phone was going off in my bag that entire day. I was getting annoyed until finally my English professor called me up to his desk and said I needed to call home. So I stepped outside in the freezing cold and was greeted by my boyfriend at the time. Something was wrong. I could tell from his face. He had obviously been crying and my instinct was to run and wrap my arms around him. It was at that moment he started sobbing and all he said was two words… “your brother.”
At that very moment my life has never been the same. As it had turned out, after Chris and I spoke on the phone, he ended up falling asleep on his couch, but he never woke up. He was found by the maintence man and his soon to be ex wife.
He was gone. My brother was gone. Just like that.