Three Years

Dear Tim,

Still can’t believe you’re gone. Still don’t totally understand it. But that’s another letter I don’t feel like writing yet.

You’ve always been my big brother. And, in that role of big brother, you taught me a lot in the time we had together.

But, Tim, I gotta be honest. You’ve taught me more — particularly about myself — in the time since you’ve been gone. See, even though you aren’t here — per se — you are still fulfilling your role as my big brother, and you are, in fact, still teaching me things.

And that’s why I have to apologize to you.

I’m not saying that I’ve totally accepted that you aren’t here, but I’m a lot closer to it now than I ever have been. And what I’m trying to do is focus on positive things related to that. Not positive that you’re gone. But positive that since you’re gone, I’ve had to think of things differently.

I can’t be made at you anymore. That’s the first thing. And, well, probably the most important, for a lot of reasons.

I can’t be mad that you’re not here. I don’t have to like it, but I have to accept it. And, well, Tim, that hasn’t been easy thing for me — just ask anyone who truly knows me.

I’ve let your loss consume me. I’ve let it take over parts of my life I never expected it would impact. I’ve let your death continue to bring me down. Not that it should excite me, mind you. But I should be able to get past certain elements. And I should be looking at what it can teach me.

And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

I can be sad that you’re gone. And I should be — and, well, I am.

But I can’t be mad about it anymore. That doesn’t help anything — especially me.

I’ve let this bother me so much that it would, at times, consume me. And sometimes people would know that and sometimes they wouldn’t.

It was to the point that this day — the day you died — had to be a negative day. Same with your birthday.

It’s a small step, but I’m starting somewhere. And with each step I’m saying that these ‘anniversary’ days don’t have to be bad days. They aren’t necessarily going to be easy days for me, but my approach to them is different.

In my own way, I’m using these days to find some positive moments. Sounds strange, I know, but I think it’s very doable.

Why, for example, do I have to spend today remembering every instant of when you were in the hospital — including the day, this day, when it was time for you to go?

Why can’t I use this day to remember stories — like the ones we’ve shared time and time again over family dinners? Because doing something like that helps make this day bearable. It gives me a chance to focus on what we had while you were here, rather than on what we don’t have now that you’re gone.

And, well, that’s not really true. You really aren’t gone. You are with us. Constantly. It’s so evident.

I can’t even write how much I’ve struggled with this, Tim. But people know. I know they know because I know how I’ve been at times. There were moments when I’ve been miserable. And the reason? Because I’ve let your death consume me — far beyond where I ever thought it would take me.

But now, I’m taking myself in a different direction. Yes, I’m sad. Very sad for a lot of reasons that you’re gone.

But what should be so easy to say — even though it’s not, but it’s getting there — is that I’m thankful for what we had. For what we shared. I can’t think anymore about how it wasn’t enough. How I wish we were closer than we were. How I wish we could still have the chance to do things.

That kind of thinking doesn’t  help me anymore.

It’s a ridiculous cliche, but we were what we were. We weren’t best friends. We didn’t hang out a lot.

But that’s fine. Can’t change it, so not dwelling on it — or trying not to.

You’ve proven to me that you can impact my life without being here every day.

Fact is, we were brothers.

Fact is, we are brothers.

Fact is, you’re my big brother — and always will be.

Fact is, I miss you today — more than ever.

Fact is, I love you today — more than ever.

Love,

Mike

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The Birthday Girl

 

Dear Erin,

As you celebrate your third birthday on June 10, I owe you two things — my thanks and, most importantly, an apology.

First, Erin, my thanks.

One day, sweetie,  you’ll truly understand what a gift you were to not just mom and me, but the rest of your family. You’ll learn, Erin, that your arrival into this world came during one of the most difficult times we as a family have ever had to endure. That’s because you were born the day before your Uncle Tim collapsed and a few days before he died.

I’m so sorry, Erin, that you’ll never get to meet your Uncle Tim, but I am so grateful that you are aware of him. Afterall, every time we hear thunder, you know Uncle Tim is up there with Papa O and they are ‘bowling strikes’ whenever the thunder claps.

I give you my thanks, Erin, because nothing ever bothers you — particularly how you came to be in this world. How could you be bothered by something you don’t even know about? You can’t. But what you can be — and what you’ve become to me — is an angel.

Because, Erin, I’ve been affected by the way you came in this world. And, Bipper, that’s why I owe you a heartfelt apology.

Just this week, sweetie, I realized that I never truly celebrated your birth and your arrival into our family. So much was going on at the time. So much that has continued to affect me. At that time, Erin, my emotions were all over the place.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to feel. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know where to be. I didn’t know anything — except that within 24 hours, my world completely changed — twice. There is no manual for what I (and others) went through. I did the best I could at the time. And while I’m not sure I would change anything about what I did, I’ve realized now that in some cases, it just wasn’t good enough.

While I know that you brought joy at a time of true sorrow, I know that I didn’t embrace enough of that joy. And, honestly, Erin, it’s something I’m just now comfortable saying and understanding.

It hurts me to say, Bop, that I didn’t give you enough of my attention. I could easily write here, “How could I?” But that’s not the point. The point is, you were a gift to us and I didn’t accept it well enough at the time.

Worse, though, Erin, is that for two years, I have focused more on the negative than I have on the positive. And for that I owe you more of an apology.

Whenever thinking about your birthday, my mind has drifted — far too often — to the death of your uncle. You will always be linked, Erin, but what I have to do is turn that into a positive, not a negative. And I’m sorry that it’s taken me this long to realize that. But, here I am.

This truly hit me the other day, Erin, when someone asked me to tell them about your birth. Nobody had ever asked that question before. And, for a minute, I’m so sorry to say, that I didn’t know how to answer it. It’s like I’ve been programmed to hear your birthday and think of Tim’s death.

But this question, Erin, this simple question was such a good thing for me. And as I told the story, more memories came back in to my head. Memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time.

Simple things like Mom and I calling Miss Deb to come over early in the morning so we could go to the hospital and leave Aidan sleeping in his bed.

Simple things like how much ‘easier’ you were for Mom than your brother was.

Simple things like when Aidan first came to meet you that he was more interested in the rocks on the hospital roof than his new baby sister.

Simple things like cutting your cord and how I felt guilty cutting yours because I didn’t cut Aidan’s.

Simple things like falling asleep with you in the chair in the hospital room.

Those first memories have been blocked for a long time, Erin. I’m so glad I was able to unlock them and remember the joy that was there — before everything changed.

And now, I love the memories we are making.

I love coming home and hearing you come running from the other room to welcome me home.

I love sitting on the couch with you, watching the performance parts of that one GLEE episode and singing Poker Face together.

I love making up songs about you.

I love when you make me one of your many ‘projects.’

I love when you ask me to do ‘beep beeps’ when I drop you off in the morning.

I love your willingness to explore, to learn, to love.

That one question about when you were born, Erin, brought a flood of good memories — memories that help focus on the good. And that’s what I need to do — focus on the good.

You have my word, sweetie, that I will try so hard to do that. I will do it for me — but more importantly, I will do it for you. Afterall, you deserve nothing less.

Happy 3rd Birthday to my princess.

Love,

Daddy

Happy Birthday, Erin. And thank you.