Well, there it is. Another year gone by in my family of four. It’s getting easier to distance myself from the events four years ago, to stare straight ahead and keep my chin up. When he first died, I remember one of the hardest things was ordering a table at a restaurant. The four of us would file in, me, my mom, my dad, and Nate, frowning faces and hands in pockets. The hostess would watch us come in and look up from her cell phone, rolling her eyes and forcing a smile. “How many in your party?” she’d ask. “Five.” It was automatic. “Oh, is there someone else joining you?” Shit. “No, no one else is joining us.” “So…four then?” We’d walk to our table without looking up.
But now it’s been four years. We stopped making that mistake after the first two.
Today I had my weekly therapy session and my therapist, an overly enthusiastic grad student who is quite frankly trying way too hard, insisted that I talk about Alex. “Tomorrow’s the day,” she said “tomorrow’s the day your brother died.” I looked at her. “I think you need to talk about him today. I think it’d be good for you.” She has one of the most condescending tones I have ever heard. When she speaks to me, I feel like I’m about five years old. But she’s very nice. Very, very nice. So I have to be polite. “Alright,” I said, “I’ll talk.” She has been waiting for those two words since our sessions began last fall. I have trouble talking to people. I swallowed, and I closed my eyes. I fingered my bracelets. “Okay,” I said, “okay.”
For some reason, and I don’t quite understand why, I am grateful for Alex’s death. Not for the fact that I don’t have him anymore, oh God no, living without him gets harder every single day. I will never be grateful for his absence. But what has happened to me in the years since his passing, that I am grateful for. His death has forced me to look at the world in a different light. I try my hardest to see things as though it’s the last time I’m going to see them because I have come to terms with the fact that people do die young, all the time, and who is to say I won’t be one of those people? Live every day like it’s your last. It’s cliche as all hell and the only people I’ve ever heard actually say it are old and smell like fish. But that doesn’t change the actual meaning behind it. Appreciate everything. Don’t take anything for granted, because in the end you will have nothing at all. Love your family, your friends, your childhood heroes, your books, your television shows, your fucking stuffed animals, everything. Take a walk and look up at the trees, the sky, the rivers and the lakes, that the earth has blessed us with. It sounds so stupid and I know so few of you will read this and actually do it but it’s so important. WE ARE SO LUCKY. ALL OF US! We are so god damn lucky to be literally surrounded by beauty. One of the most influential writers of our time, David Foster Wallace, said in a commencement speech in 2005 that it was time that people paid attention to the obvious. I couldn’t agree more. Alex isn’t with me anymore and he hasn’t been for four years and he was my brother and my best friend. I took him for granted. I absolutely took him for granted. I don’t want to repeat that mistake. With anyone or anything. Because the fact is, I am so fucking lucky to have the privilege of life. And so are all of you. So enjoy it, and appreciate it, and love love love love love it. Appreciate what’s obvious. What’s simple. It’s the least you could do on Valentine’s Day.