This morning as I was driving into work, the song “19 Something” by Mark Wills came on. I was singing along the 1980 chorus which goes like this:
It was 1980-something
In the world that I grew up in
Skating rinks and Black Trans Ams
Big hair and parachute pants
Lookin’ back now I can see me
And oh, man did I look cheesy
But I wouldn’t trade those days for nothin’
It was 1980-something.
The second time the chorus came, I started singing again but when I got to the part that was supposed to be “big hair and parachute pants,” I instead said “and back when my brother was still alive.” I said it out loud without even thinking it. The next thing I know the tears came and I was bawling right then and there as I drove to work. I thought that the more time that went by, we could all heal from this loss but more time that goes by, the more that I miss him.
I have been faced with some tough choices in the past weeks and months. As I was bawling this morning, I asked my brother what I should do about a really big decision I had to make. I told him that I was happy with the ways things are but I wanted to do the right thing and I wondered what he would think the right thing was. I thought about what my dad would have told me was the right thing and I knew that the answer would come because of Dad’s beliefs and upbringing and I knew that wouldn’t help me with my decision. My brother would not have given me the same answer as Dad. In fact, he would tell me to do what makes me happy. I, then, found myself saying out loud, “I don’t know that means anymore.” Then I heard a voice inside of me say, “Everything happens for a reason.” Except I don’t what that reason is.
I don’t know what the answer is either. I have been contemplating the answer for many weeks and all I know is that I am scared either way. I have two choices and I am scared of both of them even though I know neither choice is bad. I am just scared because I don’t know the outcome of either choice. I am at a crossroads and I am not sure what to do.
I do believe that things happen for a reason and we don’t always know that reason right away. Things don’t make sense when they are happening to us; they become clearer once we have gotten a clear perspective. Since my brother passed away, I remind myself every day that everything does happen for a reason. Our lives and our destinies are set in stone from the day we are born and we really have no say in that. I also believe that people come into our lives for a reason.
My brother was so content with everything life handed him and I learned so much from him as battled cancer, when he passed away, and even after his death. A few days after he passed away, I found several poems and a story he had written. I also found his journal and as I read it, I saw his life unfold before me. I saw his moments of joy and his moments of sadness as I read countless pages of his magnificent writing. I remember asking, “Who is this man?” I didn’t remember us knowing about obstacles that he faced or if anything ever bothered him, because he was such a game player when it came to life and we never really saw him sweat. It always seemed like he had everything in his life under control. Reading his writings, I realized that I never really knew him.
As he was battling cancer and slowing dying, life just seemed so horrible, so painful and so unfair. As I watched him fight, I found out more and more about him, and I realized how special and unique he was. He taught me to embrace life to the fullest and to not take a moment for granted. As he fought his biggest and last battle, all he wanted was his family around him. He didn’t ask for anything more or anything less. He didn’t even say he didn’t want to die. He understood that he would succumb to the cancer and embraced God’s choice with acceptance and willingness. When he died, we were all around him and he went peacefully and was gone within a half hour after the doctors stopped his medications. Ironically, my mother says that when he came into the world, she was in labor for a very short time and he arrived within ten minutes after she arrived at the hospital. Everything about him was brief and without complexity – his entry into this world, his death, and how he lived his life. He didn’t ask for much from life or from any one. He always took the cards he was dealt and accepted the hand he was given. I envy that because I am the most complex person I know.
After his death, I started to piece together his life as we sorted through his personal effects. What I found was someone who enjoyed and appreciated all life had to offer. He was content with everything that was handed to him. He never complained about his obstacles and he always kept going. He was someone who really truly understood that everything happens for a reason. My younger sister said a few days after he passed away, “He was the only one who could bring us all into a room together.” She was right because he was the one that kept us all in check because as siblings, we all have our issues with each another. That is what siblings do but to him, everything can easily be forgotten with a joke or with a chuckle. He didn’t hold grudges and he didn’t believe in angry words. And sadly, we may never all be in the same room together – I am sure of that because without him here, we can’t easily forget our differences. However, I hope, in honor of his memory, that we can.
My brother’s illness and death were hard lessons for all us. However, they were obstacles that showed us how strong we were and what it really meant to be a family. We learned how short life really is and how important it was not to take those around for us for granted. What I know is that even if angry words are spoken; it really comes down to our true intentions and whether we are willing to forget and forgive. We can be angry with those in our lives but we have to take a step back and realize that we don’t always get the opportunity to forgive or take back those words. My siblings and I were given two opportunities: one to forgive and forget and the other to say goodbye and I know that were so very lucky to have had that. Not everyone gets that opportunity.
I do know without a doubt that everything happens for a reason. Chance has nothing to do with luck, illness, love, and/or stupidity. Everything happens so that we are tested and without those tests, life would be smooth sailing and no one would ever accomplish anything. Let’s face it – Life would pointless without tests. The people who come in our lives, our successes and our failures – all of these things help us become who we are. We learn from the good and the bad. The bad lessons are often the best ones that we learn the most from. If someone hurts us or betrays us, we learn how important trust is and how important it is to be cautious when it comes to opening our hearts. We also learn that if someone loves us, we love them back. That is what life is really about: love and making every day count because life can be shorter than we think.
I have learned so much about life in the past few months. I have learned how important appreciating every moment is. I have learned to talk to others and to get to know them better by actually listening to them. I have let myself love and set my sights high for the things I want of life. I have learned to hold my head up high and to be proud of my choices and stop letting the opinions of others dictate my choices. I remind myself daily that I am a good person and I believe in myself because I know that if do, others will as well. I don’t want to have regrets because I know that my brother didn’t. Most importantly, I have learned that if you love someone (whether it is a significant other, a parent, a sibling, a child or a friend); tell him today because you do not what tomorrow holds.
As I write, revise, and rewrite these words, I realize that I know the answer to the choice I have to make. The answer has been staring at me at all. See, we don’t know what our futures and our destinies really are. God did not create us to sit in our safe zones and not take risks. He created humanity to love, to take chances, and to make choices. Yes, I am comfortable with the way things are right now and they can stay the same if I want them to but I can also take a chance even though I don’t know where it will take me. I just know that my brother would me to make the effort to be happy even if it meant taking a risk. As I was writing that last sentence, I was thinking about Martina McBride’s song called, “Anyway.” Just because storms can blow away the things we build or our dreams may seem out of reach, or prayers aren’t always answered in the way we want them to be, or love ends up hurting us, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We should built, love, dream, and pray anyway.
“Control the things you can, don’t worry about the things you can’t; know and ACCEPT the difference. Tomorrow is NOT promised so appreciate TODAY as if it were your last.” -Anonymous.