Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

I have always loved Thanksgiving. 

It's a day when I can let my flag of gratitude fly freely. I've always tried to be aware and appreciative of the many great things in my life: the most wonderful and supportive family, my husband and best friend, and many challenging and exciting opportunities. I've always felt very blessed. 

Each year I treasure this time as an opportunity to reflect on these blessings and feel especially grateful. 

In the days after David's loss I remember saying through tears, "But our perfect family, our family is perfect."
My dad was quick to say, "Nothing is perfect, Anna" in a sad and logical way.
I explained, "Yes, nothing is perfect, but our family is perfect to me."

Prior to losing David, I lived in a happy bubble of "perfect to me." This Thanksgiving, with things obviously less than perfect, I am left with the ongoing task of re-evaluating the way I see things. I am here, looking for the silver lining, the way I can make sense of it all. There are many uncertainties but some things are clear.

I am thankful for my family. I treasure each and every one of them. I am thankful for my loving parents and my incredible siblings. 

I am thankful to feel inspired and challenged by each one of them.

I am thankful for the most wonderful life partner Carlos. 

I am thankful for our joy-filled wedding this summer.

I am thankful for the gift of David's speech and blessing at our wedding.

I'm thankful for the memory of my three brothers singing "Sweet Caroline" at the reception.

I am thankful for who David was. 

I'm thankful for his sense of humor, unteachable dance moves, and passion for life.

I am thankful he had such loving friends and family.

I'm thankful for his incredible opportunities to create change and impact lives, especially through teaching. 

I am thankful for his accomplishments of travel, academic achievements, and living each day to the fullest.

David hiking near Machu Piccu.

I am thankful for his beautiful and exemplary life.

This Thanksgiving, I continue to give thanks. There is still much to be thankful for.

David isn't with us in person, but he is here in spirit. 

He will forever be a part of our family, and that family will forever be perfect to me.

*Wedding photos by Kim Ozey Photography
*Family portrait by Emily Ann Photography

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

One Conversation

David called my phone on October 8th at 12:58 pm. I was downtown Chicago at the time and the call did not register. I had been meeting a friend for lunch, and then wandered down to State street to do some browsing. I had a couple interviews coming up and needed to purchase a few things.

I went home that afternoon around 5:00 pm. My phone had been on silent while I was doing this shopping, and I had missed quite a few calls. Four different people had called me from Northwestern University, as well as multiple texts and voice messages. I'm not sure if this is why, but David's call did not show up. Most likely it was pushed down in the queue of missed calls and I just didn't scroll down to see it.

I walked to the train, took the train home, and listened to my messages/returned those who needed returning. I was feeling excited by all the potential opportunities and distinctly remember wanting to talk to David.

Since I had spoken to David for awhile on Saturday, I decided to wait to call him until Wednesday.

Wednesday, I finally followed David's encouragement and went to a yoga class. This was my first class in over a year, and I was feeling great! Since David asked me, every single time we spoke, if I had been working out, I was really excited to tell him!

I took a 3:00 yoga class and called David on  my walk home. His phone went straight to voice mail and I felt a little surprised. I thought, "Wow, what a good student. He must shut is phone off during class."

Less than three hours later, I learned the worst news I've ever heard in my life. My world stopped and changed completely, all at the same time.

I didn't know about that missed call from David until Thursday, when scrounging through my phone history looking for anything I could find. I learned Thursday that my brother had called me the day before he died, and I had missed it.

I have gone through many stages related to this incident. Initially, I remember feeling relieved that I had not known he had called. If I had seen it, yet purposely decided to wait to return the call, I would feel even worse. I thought maybe it was a blessing, what if I would have answered and told him I was too busy or said the wrong thing. I felt comforted knowing that David had received love and support from my parents and brothers, and he was not alone.

I know that this is nothing I can change, and I know that there is nothing I can do, but I can't help but think that I had a chance and I missed it.

Time and time again I've thought of what I would say if I could have that one conversation. The first night and the first couple days, the only thing I could say to David was that I loved him. Over and over those words came to my mouth, "David, I love you."

I imagine what that conversation would have been. I imagine what I would have said and what I would have heard.

I know now that David must have been incredibly scared. I know now that David was experiencing thoughts that were not his own. I know now that David was ill, more ill than he, or anyone who loved him, knew.

Knowing what I know now, these are some things that I would like to say:

"David, I love you. I am so sorry for this pain that you are feeling. I can't imagine what it is like and I know it must be terrifying. Remember that this is an illness. It is deceiving you to believe it is you, but it is not. Remember that this will pass, just like I said last year while you were in Colombia, this, too, shall pass. 

Today may be hard, but tomorrow might be easier. 

Please live. Fight. You are so incredibly loved. This world needs you. You have so much work left to do. I want to grow old with you. I want to live close to you, David. 

You are my best friend. You challenge me more than anyone in my life, I need that. I need you. I love you. I will do anything to help and support you.

Nothing matters but your well-being. Don't worry about school. Don't worry about where you'll live or what you'll do. Take care of yourself and those answers will come. 

Believe in yourself, because everyone believes in you."

This could go on and on. The harsh reality of the events which unfolded give me a clarity of the situation. I know now what he may have needed to hear. I know now what I should have said.

Since I cannot go back to that day and see that call. I have to find peace.

It's also possible that what I said to David may have helped him in on Tuesday, but that moment may have still come on Wednesday. The moment when all hope was lost and David's illness allowed him to see only one way to escape the pain.

This is an article from a Catholic priest who has laid a wonderful foundation of understanding related to suicide.

Now, much of what I wish I would have been able to tell David, I need to tell myself.

Most importantly: "This, too, shall pass. Today may be hard, but tomorrow might be easier."

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Good is Beautiful

I couldn't help but think of David today as snowflakes fell to the ground in Chicago. Neither him or I like the cold winter, but we both appreciate the novelty and beauty of the first snow.

There's something really peaceful about watching gigantic white flakes gracefully fall from the sky.

So many things in our world are beautiful. Everyday things like the sunrise and sunset, dew on the grass in the summer, colored leaves in the fall, and snow coating the world in winter. Things that we may appreciate, but don't really spend time thinking about.

Experiencing a great loss, especially when life is lost earlier than expected, it's very normal for belief systems to shift. Many of the things I held as certainties: "God is all powerful," "There is a plan," "Everything happens for a reason," these things that I believed as fact through faith, are suddenly turned to questions.

Trying times encourage you to step back from held certainties, and look through a different lens. My different lens is grounded in a more mature understanding of pain and suffering, yet it is still yearning for hope.

Today as I saw these big flakes fall to the ground, I couldn't help but smile.

Life is beautiful. Our world is beautiful. People and relationships are beautiful. There are blessings in every corner, if you can just see them.

I'm not sure what this means for my questions, but I feel hope in the good. I think that while my lens is grounded by this suffering, it is also more appreciative of life's beauty.

The bad can be overwhelming, but the good is beautiful.

Maybe that is God. Like an idea of yin and yang, the bad exists, because for some reason it has to, but the good exists too.

It's comforting to think that there's some greater plan. Some objective that is being achieved through this suffering, but maybe there isn't. That doesn't mean that we cannot create goodness from hardship.

I would trade all my growth and perspective in a moment if it could bring David back. But since it can't, at least it challenges me to be a better self. I'm challenged to find good, create good, and be good.

I am thankful for that.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Remember Them

Today is International Survivors of Suicide Day. Events were held in over 300 locations around the world.

This was something that I really didn't want to attend (much like my support group and individual counseling) but I felt like I needed to go.

The event was nicely put together. It took place downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

It's quite surreal walking into these things. There is an unspoken understanding in the room, without a word being spoken. People are there for a reason and even if you don't know their story, you feel a connection with them.

It is comforting to hear others' stories and empathize with their loss. It's nice to share your ideas and thoughts and hear other perspectives. It feels good to witness, learn, and share.

Though it was comforting to be there, it was a very emotional day for me.

It's funny that I say that because every day is a very emotional day. David has been gone for over a month now and yet it still doesn't feel real.

I dream of David, it seems like all night long. Only once has he spoken to me in a dream. That was a few weeks ago now, and his words were something like, "Wow, isn't that bizarre?!?" He said it in his unique David way and then walked away. Since then he's been present in my dreams, but more like a character who's not in the scene. I haven't seen him or heard his voice again.

During the day, I think of him every moment. I am obsessed with this grief. At times overcome by its intensity, other times dulled with its defense.

There are moments of shear pain, utter despair. In these moments, I feel empathetic to the pain that David felt. I feel like I have a glimpse of what it was like. This is the closest I can get to understanding his suffering.

These moments are suffocating. Energy and emotion intertwines forming an arrow, exploding through my heart and dissolving in tears.

Sometimes these moments come welcomed with open arms, I've been numb for too long and want to miss him again. Other times, they linger for too long. In these moments, I try to visualize the pain leaving my heart, the thoughts leaving my mind. I tune into my breath and close my eyes.

Every day is another day without David. What I need to remember, is that every day is another day of my life, too. It's important to live, even in times where my mind and heart are overcome with loss.

I will close with a poem that we recited today. It comes from the Jewish Book of Prayer. 

We Remember Them

In the rising of the sun and its going down,
We Remember Them.

In the bowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We Remember Them.

In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring.
We Remember Them.

In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer,
We Remember Them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn.
We Remember Them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We Remember Them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
We Remember Them.

When we are lost and sick of heart,
We Remember Them.

When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share,
We Remember Them.

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are part of us.
We Remember Them.

Loving and remembering David J. today.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Right Answer

Today I had an interview.

During the interview, I was asked "Do you have any siblings?" The question came out of no where and my mind began scrambling. It was a sense of panic. I couldn't formulate what I was going to say so I just began talking. I said, "Yes, I have three older brothers and a younger sister. We have a really great family. My oldest brother lives in Miami. My next oldest brother lives with his wife and daughters in Iowa, and my next oldest brother is David. David passed away just over a month ago."

That's where I stopped.

She interjected, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. What happened?"

This is only the second time I've been asked this question by someone who didn't know.

The first time I was at a memorial mass and I simply said, "He battled depression." I said this while holding his candle and with tears running down my face. She immediately understood, asked his name, and told me she would keep him and my family in her prayers.

Tonight was different, when she asked "What happened?" I replied without a thought.

"He was in a car accident."

She said, "Oh, no! Was it at night?"

I said, "Yes, he lived in Minneapolis. The other driver was okay but my brother died."

I said this without thinking and I felt sad as the words came out of my mouth. Maybe I said them because I wanted to know if they would feel better. Would it feel any less sad if I lost David to a sudden car accident? Would it be any easier to say?

The answer is no. This lie rattled out and it felt worse than the truth.

Since David's passing, I have taken a vow to talk about it. Maybe if I share the truth, someone else will know it's okay for them to share theirs. If we don't start talking about it now, when will we? It will never be easy, but it will be the truth and that makes it right.

I feel guilty for my lie, but more than that, I feel sorry that David's gone. I miss him every day.

I am sad that people who didn't know David won't get to know him. I'm sad that his illness, just that one part of him, now defines his death and to those who didn't know him, somehow his life, too. David was so much more.

I think the right answer might be to add one sentence, "David is gone. David battled depression. He was an incredible person who I strive to be like everyday." 

I hope then they'll ask what he was like because that's a question I would love to answer.

***I decided to write her an email tomorrow explaining what happened when she asked about my siblings. I know that she will understand.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Labor Day Visit, Part One

David moved back to the U.S. in July after living abroad in Colombia for the last two years. He arrived just in time for family festivities as my husband and I were married early in August. David was a the person who introduced Carlos and I (a story for a different post) so he was very involved with the wedding and gave a speech at our reception. With the wedding preparations, I was very busy and did not get to spend as much time with David as I would have liked.

As soon as things settled down, Carlos and I planned a trip to visit David in the Twin Cities. It worked out perfectly that we could visit over Labor Day weekend.We left Chicago on Friday afternoon and arrived early in the morning Saturday. Despite our middle of the night arrival, David insisted that he pick us up at the bus station. I was so excited for this weekend get-away. After a year of wedding planning, it was so nice to feel like I could just live again. I was very happy to spend time with David and excited to explore the Twin Cities.

We got a quick tour of David’s apartment upon arrival. He was living in an incredible historic mansion in Minneapolis. His room had a beautiful view of the downtown area and his love of history made him appreciate the place even more. He was excited to have us there and I was equally excited to be there.

David's House. His room is the one with four windows at the very top. Photo Credit: Luke Gibbs

We woke up Saturday morning and David fixed us breakfast. He made eggs, toast, and hashbrowns. I stood in the entry-way of the kitchen and watched him cook. He allowed me to keep him company but did not let me help. I’ll never forget that, the proud and excited way he prepared our meal. We all ate together and talked about what we wanted to do for the day. We had discussed different options but decided to rent bikes and explore around the lakes. David had a bike so Carlos and I just needed to rent them. There was a bike depot right near his apartment so we walked over and picked up our bikes there.

David led the way as we rode up and down the hills of Minneapolis. It wasn’t long before I needed a break. The rental bikes were super heavy and I was using every ounce of my energy to pedal those hills! David asked me if I would prefer to use his bike, he thought it would be lighter and an easier ride. I gladly accepted and we resumed our ride. He was right, with David’s bike I was able to move even faster than the boys.

We went down along the lakes and I rode ahead a little bit. Singing to myself quietly but listening to David and Carlos talk. It made me so happy to be there, sharing my brother with my husband and my husband with my brother. I felt proud and lucky. 

I remember riding and exclaiming, “this is the happiest I’ve felt in a long time!” David was surprised and said, “Anna, you just got married, shouldn’t that have been the happiest?” I said, “Yes, that was happy, but in a different way. This is a normal life kind of happy.” I couldn’t really explain it to him, or I was too embarrassed to be so honest, but really, I was feeling so excited that he was back in the US. I couldn't wait to be close again. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. My two best friends, were best friends. I couldn't wait for us to make many more memories together.

David was so fun to be around as he embraced life. He took advantage of opportunities to be active, experience new things, and have fun. He was a good influence on me.

We eventually parked our bikes along the lake and walked over to the beach. After only a moment of deliberation, we decided to go swimming. There was a floating island out in the middle of the lake and we swam out to it. The water was perfect after getting in and felt so refreshing after our ride. Growing up we did a lot of creek stomping and swimming in a nearby stream. We would hike up to the spring on our parent’s property. Some of these memories came back to me as we swam out to the island. I remember feeling young and happy to have this quality time with my brother and friend.

View of the island is off in the distance. 

We took turns jumping off the island and eventually just sat on the edge hanging our legs off the side. I was pretty in love with Minneapolis by this point and I told David and Carlos that I wanted to move there. We talked about this for a long time and eventually decided that maybe we could move in a year.

David and I talked about how nice it would be if all of our family lived close again. We’ve been spread out over the last few years and treasure our precious time together, usually once or twice a year. David and I talked with love for each of our siblings. I remember the feeling in my heart vividly. Sitting on that island, my feet hanging off the side into the water. Talking and laughing with David and Carlos. Feeling so blessed, like life was a dream.

Photo with David after we got out of the water. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Talking about Suicide

I can remember a lecture on suicide in my Clinical Psychology class in college. Unlike other lessons, I don't remember any personal anecdotes shared from our professor. We learned facts and statistics, many focused on gender differences in relation to suicide. Even in my Psychology class, suicide was something that no one wanted to talk about.

I started this blog with the hope of talking about some of these hard topics. I want to create awareness, while also trying to make some good out of this horrific bad. Most of all, I want to honor David.

I'm finding that this is very difficult. The hard topics are hard for a reason. No one wants to talk about suicide, including me.

Suicide is sad. It's sad because it exists. It's sad because it's misunderstood.

Even among many health professionals, suicide is talked about as if it is a choice. Not just a choice, but a bad choice. People who “commit” suicide give up. They use the most selfish means to end their pain, and burden all who love them. Life is too hard so they just take their own life.

Suicide is seen as the illness. It is rarely seen as the result of an illness.

I don’t see suicide as a choice. I think that those who die by suicide see it as the only option. They use the most painful means, to harm themselves. They endure suffering. They give up their successes, their dreams, their loved ones, and their future. They don’t feel that they are supposed to live anymore. Their brain is sending a signal to die. Their brain convinces them that they have to die.

Is there anything more scary or tragic? The dis-ease in your mind, literally taking your life from you. Taking your life from you, and doing it in a way that makes it look like you took it from yourself.

I can’t think of anything worse.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I haven't been very inspired to write the last couple days. I've been cycling through feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, abandonment, helplessness, and quiet.

I feel the quiet right now. It's not an emptiness of emotion, it's tinted with sadness, but it's more like a sense of acceptance. It's almost a sense of peace.

This feeling comes infrequently, but when it does, I'm thankful for the break. It's a time to calm my mind and my heart, it allows me breathe deeply and relax for a moment.

I wonder if over time I will feel like this most of the time? Maybe that is the "new normal" I've heard about. Forever grounded in this loss, yet quietly grateful for my relationship with David.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Burn Bright

I wish David could have heard this song. Now, I need to hear it. We need to hear it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


There are two conflicting ideas felt when you lose someone you love. Two opposing forces felt with equal intensity depending on the moment.

On one hand, you feel grateful. You feel so lucky to have had them for the time you did. You feel honored by their memory, inspired by their story.

On the other hand, you feel crippled with their loss. You feel that their death is unfair. It doesn't make sense and most of the time you just don't believe it.

Yet, you want to make them proud. You want to honor them with the life you have. You want to work hard and aspire to be half as great as they were.

But, if they couldn't finish graduate school, have a family, find a job they love, experience the joy of life, why do you? If they, in your eyes one of the best, most worthy people you've ever met, were robbed of these blessings, why weren't you?

You want them to know how much you love and miss them, and maybe the way they'll know that is by the despair you feel now. Maybe they'll see how loved they were and for a second you believe that that might bring them back.That doesn't last for more than a second when you realize that they are gone. They have passed on.

For some reason, they have passed on, and you're still here. You're here. Your body is here to take care of, your mind is here to challenge. You heart is here to feel and your loved ones need to be loved. You are here. The only part missing is them. The hole that they left.

You realize that the hole they left will not heal if you allow the outsides to soften and grow. They would not want that hole to over-take you. They would want you to do your best. They would want you to live.

After all, of all you learn when you lose someone you love, possibly most clear is how precious is life. The intimacy of each day. The fleeting nature of it all.

With that said, I decide to embrace the day, savor the gift. Feel comforted by the memories and empowered by their story.

That is what I decided yesterday, and what I'll decide tomorrow.

Return to the River

"There is a mighty river. The river is vast and infinite. The river has no beginning and it has no end—just the eternal flow. At a certain point in the river, the water goes over a cliff, breaking the river into droplets of water that fall over the edge in a glorious waterfall and return to the river below. The waterfall is life. Our life is the fall of one droplet of water. Each droplet yearns to connect with other droplets, sometimes making new droplets in the process. The river is God. The river is the whole from which we came, and the whole to which we return. God is in us and we are in God. Our yearning for connection with other people is our heartache for God. In the end, our individual droplet selves return to the river, and become part of the infinite whole once again." -Source Unknown

I found this inspirational post and picture on a fellow suicide survivor's blog: I'm thankful for its beauty and hope.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two-Sided Coin

I am humbled by the amount of readership "Loving David" has received. As I've written, I want this space to be one of celebration for our gift of David. I want to remember the happy memories and all of his greatness. While it would be very easy, and feel very good, to only focus on these comfortable stories, I feel equally called to shed light into the disease and experience which ultimately took him from us.

The caveat is that I don't want these less comfortable details to obscure David's healthy goodness. I want to create an understanding among those who loved David, and those who didn't have the privilege to meet him. The way I have processed these two sides of the coin, is by seeing them as just that. David was healthy, happy, loving, active, funny, bright, and dedicated. That is who my brother was. He very tragically was also ill and his depression contorted his thinking. The depression filled him with self-doubt and hopelessness. The depression is what ended his life.

One year ago, while living in Colombia, David got a physical illness and it lingered for over a month. David, a person who went to the gym nearly every day, played every sport he could learn, and who placed an insurmountable value on physical health felt trapped in his own body. For weeks he was not able to run, play sports, or get a good night's sleep. Not surprisingly, it did not take long for David to become pretty down-in-the-dumps.

His curious nature and quest for understanding led David to where most of us would be led to learn more: the internet. David began researching everything he find about his illness. His anxiety built about the worst-case scenarios and David began to lose a little hope. Much like mental illness, physical illness can take captive one's spirit. This line between physical and mental health began to blur as David's anxiety began to worsen his physical symptoms. Sleep became even harder to come by, due to his ever-cycling mind. David's anxiety began to be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy and soon he realized that his fixation on his illness was not healthy.

David sought out help in Colombia and began to see a psychologist. David was never given a diagnosis but was told he possessed certain "tendencies." Many of the traits which made him so successful and high-achieving: perfectionism, curiosity, etc. are the same traits which were able to become unhealthy. With the right triggers, these could unveil an obsessive nature which could be detrimental.

David resisted going on medication for quite some time. The research of the medication they wanted him to take revealed very scary side effects: Anxiety, Nausea, Insomnia, Restlessness, Dizziness, Weight Gain, Headaches, Constipation; the worst of all, Suicide. David did not feel comfortable taking this medication with the possibility of perpetuating his symptoms, especially while so far from home. Eventually, with the support and encouragement of his immediate family, and a few close friends who were in Colombia, David decided to give the medication a chance.

Within a few weeks, David was feeling more like his old self again. His physical illness was almost entirely gone by this time, and David was able to become active again. The medication helped lift the emotional cloud which had overtaken him, and I can remember the difference in his voice, the life had returned. David shared that he was feeling much better and so relieved to feel enjoyment in the simple things again.

This story will be continued...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

One Month

Today is the one month anniversary since David's passing. I still have moments of shock like I am learning what happened for the first time. I frequently want to call him, only to remember that I can't. I can still talk to him, but in a different way. I am working on that: how to talk to David without feeling foolish. Sometimes I feel his undeniable energy. It's very interesting and hard to explain. In those moments, I just know that David is with me. He's always with me, but in those moments he's right with me.

I miss our memories, our friendship, and our hopes for the future. It's very bizarre to miss him for events that haven't even happened yet. I miss him for the holidays, for his wedding, for experiencing parenthood together. I miss our shared hope to live close together again, and the fact it didn't get to happen. I miss making meals together and growing up together. I miss him.

When reflecting on how much I have learned in the last few weeks, I came up with a few lessons. I know this list will only continue to grow. It's incredible how David can continue to teach others, even when he's not here to do the talking.

David mid his Peruvian travels.

Things I have learned from David, and from losing him:

-Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Tell them how special they are. Hug them and kiss them. Love them.

-Make time to cultivate relationships. Whether stranger or old friend, never lose sight of the beauty found in people’s stories.

-Appreciate humor and take advantage of humor as a way to brighten others’ day

-Never make assumptions. Ask questions and LISTEN to the answer. Specifically ask, “How ARE you?” Mean it. Listen. Understand.

-Appreciate mental health. Appreciate physical health.

-Appreciate family. Love family. Spend time with family.

-When an intimate family or friend passes on from this earth, they live on through you. Aspire to be more like them. Allow them to empower you.

-Find joy in the simple things: a light breeze, a blue sky, or even a box of animal crackers.

-Be positive.

-Do the best you can do every day. Make a difference in everything that you do. Leave a lasting impression with all you meet.

-Some days will be hard, some days unbearable. Push through because the sun will shine again. The clouds will lift, and you will feel happiness. I understand that David's disease did not allow him this privilege. Appreciate this as a privilege.

-It is okay to have a bad day. It is not okay to feel bad for days. Seek outside help and support when needed.

-Appreciate nature. Every bird, every gust of wind. The world is so beautifully connected. Admire its intelligence.

-Keep faith. Trust yourself. Trust God.

I've also learned very much about mental illness generally, and depression and suicide specifically. Those are lessons for a different post but more poignant than any lecture I ever had studying psychology.

In one month, my life has changed completely. The way I see the world is different because my world is different. I have learned so much in only one month, and I am thankful that I am able to face tomorrow, despite my heavy heart and tear-filled eyes. I love you, my brother David.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hopeful Metaphor

A tree as vibrant as David. 
My husband shared a hopeful metaphor with me: the pain I feel from missing David is like a burning flame. Every time my thoughts get close to specific memories, hopes, or dreams I get burned. The pain can be too intense to bear. But over time, that flame can be molded into something else, something different. It could be a diamond, gem, or crystal. It can be something beautiful that I hold with me at all times.

I know that sometimes it may still bring tears, but overwhelmingly, I will feel proud and humbled by who David was. I will feel love. I will feel thankful that David was my big brother for 23 years of my life. I will feel empowered by his struggle and more compassionate toward others. I will remember who David was, what he taught me, and what he encouraged me to be.

Today I am thankful for today. I am thankful for all the yesterdays. I don't know what tomorrow will bring but I have hope. I love you, David.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Brother

David began his Master's in Public Policy at the University of Minnesota this fall. He fell in love with Foreign Policy at the University of Iowa while earning his undergraduate degree in Political Science. David had an ear and heart for the injustices of the world. He struggled with the question why. Why does this happen? Why can't God ease some of the suffering in the world?

The love David had for others whom he didn't even know, is only a glimpse into the love he had for his family and friends. David thrived in a group of people, whether strangers or old friends, he was quick to instigate a meaningful conversation, debate, or share a funny story to break the ice. David had a charismatic glow about him. Everywhere he walked, and he walked with a pretty great stride, he was connecting with people.

Growing up four years younger than David, I wanted to be as cool as I considered him to be. We had a volatile relationship growing up, he was jealous of me due to the attention I received as the first girl. He was pretty mean to me at times, and this caused a resentment in me. Even though I admired him to no end, I did not let him know this. I put on a hard shell toward him and acted like I was better than him. We knew just want to say to each other to cause pain.

It wasn't until my Freshman year of college when this changed. I moved to the same city as him and began my studies while he was finishing his last year. David was really good at school. He worked hard, earned excellent grades and really learned what he was studying. He loved history and political science. He felt proud of his ability to spout off dates and specific events that changed our world. I often felt intimidated by his knowledge.

David would critique my papers for class and taught me how to make a logical argument. He brought me grocery shopping and at some point we began to hang out by choice. He liked asking me to go shopping with him, I remember with great happiness shopping for his first suit. He looked so sharp and was very excited. Through our friendship, I learned of David's kindness and sensitive heart. His outward shell of humor and intelligence, often overshadowed his extreme compassion. Learning this about my brother made me love him even more. Through our friendship over the next few years, something in my heart changed. David not only was my big brother, but I felt like his big sister.

We constantly told each other how proud we were of the other. We still had little tiffs, but immediately would work to find a peaceful resolution. We would make up with a tight hug and two "I love yous" one from him, and one from me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One Month Ago

All the love in the world. All the heartache in the world. All the prayers in the world. None of this can bring David back to me.

I am in disbelief. The days have passed and I don't know where they have gone. One month ago, I was driving to the mall with Carlos. It was raining, traffic was congested, and David's call could not have come at a better time. I was missing him then, and I didn't even know it until I heard his voice. He was feeling a little stressed about school, but was more interested in hearing about my job prospects and being the supportive brother that he always was. Looking back now, I can see that David was withdrawn, but he was so loving. We probably talked for 15 or 20 minutes. I told him how I had volunteered that morning and I was going to look for a dress for Jacob's wedding. He told me how he was taking the greyhound home for the wedding and I told him I thought he would prefer that over driving. We just had a normal conversation. He asked how Carlos was doing, like always, how was his job? David was happy for him to hear that it was going well.

We hung up because he said he needed to go to the gym. I told him to have a good time at the gym and he reminded me to call him more often. I told him I hadn't been calling as frequently because I knew he was busy and didn't want to burden him. I told him I loved him and he told me that he loved me.

I didn't know it then, but that's the last conversation I will ever have with my brother David.