Death greeted me at its doorstep, but it didn’t invite me in.
What I mean by that is a product of a strange, forced snap into realism; the kind of reality check that only comes to fruition when something truly twisted and awful happens to you. I feel like I’ve come face to face with death, except I wasn’t the one that was being targeted. I was just a helpless bystander while Death mercilessly took someone that I love very much, nothing more than a witness to the ruin that was left behind. In this way, I feel like I’m in a strange purgatory where I’m not in the outside world amongst the living, but I’m also not one of the deceased; I’m stuck on Death’s front porch, wondering how I got here, what life was like before I was forced in this place, and how I could ever hope to claw my way out.
If you think about it, we live life day to day in a kind of numb, paralytic state. Not to say that as humans, we feel nothing, but that in the context of our everyday lives, our worries are very menial. I still have to deposit my paycheck. I wonder why Jason didn’t call me back. When am I picking up my mom from the airport?
I never realized how much of a blessing this state of catatonia is until this happened to me. If the worst thing you have to worry about is that you’re fighting with your girlfriend, then you’re pretty lucky. Tragedy and grief forced me into a vat of quicksand that has made all my nerve endings hypersensitive, so much so that I still feel every ounce of pain that was incurred on me when Andrew was taken away from me.
Andrew is my older brother. The best guy you could ever hope to meet.
The first week after we found out is a blur. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe, like nothing would ever be okay, but I don’t recall much else. However, I remember every second of the night I got the call and the day after. I was at work and I got a call from my dad. He sounded strange; his voice was higher than usual and he sounded frantic. “Hey, is Andrew with you?” I replied no, but that we had plans to have drinks after my shift. There was muffled random sounds after that as I asked over and over again what was wrong.
“Andrew was found dead at his apartment.”
I kept saying “no,” that I didn’t understand. I thought if I kept asking for clarification, kept asking what happened, eventually he would give me a different answer. “Oh, nevermind, the police made a mistake. It’s not his apartment. False alarm.” Obviously, that never happened.
I won’t delve into what happened next, how time seemed to drag, how life didn’t seem real, and how excruciating it was to go to his apartment the next day and get all his things. To go through his clothes, look through his music, see his handwriting in his notebooks, the lyrics he wrote, dorky drawings in his journals, everything that made Andy, Andy. It was the worst form of torture and pain I’ve ever felt, and I’m surprised I didn’t just keel over and die right there.
Not many people my age know true pain and grief; I didn’t before this happened. I took life for granted. I heard stories of the unbearable pain that comes with losing a loved one. I’d always been so afraid of feeling it, though I never really thought I would have to. You automatically assume that you have all the time in the world with the ones you love, and you completely underestimate how much you would miss them if they were gone, how empty you feel inside afterwards, and how the only thing left behind is an empty hole in your life.
It’s been almost two months. I feel like I’ve lived two lives– life before July 20th and life after. I still can’t believe he’s gone. I feel sad about it every day. I hear music that I know he would’ve loved, that we could have listened to together. I miss how he was the only person in my life who I wanted to impress because I respected his opinion that much. I miss how proud I was to know that I was related to him. I miss having an older brother.
One of the worst parts has been having my younger brother, Jon, and my parents go through the same amount of pain. Nobody in the world deserves to feel this way, to watch the only people you have ever loved suffer. I think my family is pretty strong, but I have no idea how we are going to get out of this. The holidays are upon us– the only thing we can hope to do is survive them. It’s hard to look forward to anything now. I will never know why this happened to my family and I. One thing is for sure– pain makes you do a lot of growing up. Nothing is simple anymore.
Life is so messed up– you’re born, you spend your entire life loving the people closest to you, only to know that they can be taken from you forever, in an instant. And you’ll never see them again. It’s as if they never existed. Nights are hard to get through now. I wish I had some inspirational tidbit about how we got through it, how we appreciate life more now, or how there is some inkling of a silver lining in this fucked up reality. But I don’t; we’re not there yet. And I’m not going to say that its gotten better since that day, because it hasn’t at all. This is the first time I’ve written since it happened, not counting the eulogy that I forced out of myself for the funeral– so I guess that’s a step.
But I didn’t just lose a brother– I’ve lost so much more. There are friends that I can tell I’ll lose through this; not many people can handle tragedy at this degree. I’m also about to break up with someone I’m very close to and admire dearly, due to circumstances unrelated. It seems like everything is slipping away from me, and I have no way of getting back to a good place. And the point of me writing this isn’t to gain sympathy or pity. It’s so hopefully, someone will read it and gain some perspective. Realize how grateful you are to have the people that you love in your life. Stop sweating the small things, and complaining over things that don’t matter. Maybe someone going through a similar situation can read my story and feel comfort in that they’re not alone. Real pain has a way of making you feel absolutely isolated, obscure, and insignificant.
I’ll try to keep writing about my journey, mostly for selfish reasons; writing about it is slightly cathartic to me. Also it will be good to look back on it when my family and I get through this– because we will. If there’s anything left to believe in, it’s the pure strength that radiates out of my mom, dad, and brother; it’s a force to be reckoned with, and gives me the courage to keep breathing everyday.