Standing in the back room of the church that afternoon, my knees began to shake. My entire immediate family and then some was crammed into this tiny stuffy room waiting for the signal; all but one. I tugged at the bottom of my dark dress. I was uneasy. I had never been to a funeral of someone so young…or so important to me. Two years earlier standing beside my grandfather’s deathbed with him I broke into tears. I felt his arm fall around me and pull me in. “It’ll be okay, Leah.” That’s what I needed now. His voice telling me that everything would work out. His arm resting on my shoulder. I needed my big brother.
This past week marked three years since my brother passed away.
I’m sitting here reaching for the right words, but everything seems to come out in cliches. I can’t seem to find quite what I’d like to say. But I know I can’t let another year pass without publicly saying how much I still miss him. How much I still hurt when something happens to remind me of him.
Soon after he passed I often felt like moving forward with my life was a betrayal to him. Like every time I laughed or smiled I was somehow tossing the memory of him to side. How cruel, that feeling of regretting joy or happiness. And how shocking that the rest of the world didn’t even consider stopping for my colossal loss.
With a little more time and wisdom under my belt, I now realize that moving forward is the only option. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think of him all the time. It’s hard not to when one of the most common questions people ask is, “Do you have any siblings?” At first I would answer this question with, “Yes, a sister.” But I only managed to stutter my way through that about three heart-wrenching times. I knew this was a betrayal to him. He was here. He was born. He lived. He died. He will always be my brother.
Over two hundred people showed up for his funeral that day. I remember turning my head slightly from my pew to see the overflow in the upper balcony and standing in the back. He was special to more than just me. All these people thought he was special too. There were even people who stood to say that he had saved their life. I felt so proud of him that day. And so proud of my strong, strong family.
I will always stop what I’m doing on May 27th and think of Noah. What he might be doing today, what jokes he might be making, how many chicken wings he would be eating. I can still hear his laugh so clearly. And how his voice would get higher when he would talk to my little niece.
Things will never be the same without him here. There will always be a gapping hole in all our lives, everyone who loved him the way I did. We all move forward and the days pass. He’s not forgotten though. Not by a long shot.
Have you ever lost someone extremely close to you? What steps did you take to move forward after your tragedy?