To the man who taught me to love unconditionally

Last week, I experienced holidays in a way I never have before. In the timeline of 5 days I attended 4 Thanksgivings/Friendsgivings, all of which Jack would’ve been at, if he were still here. I sat around at each of these events, and imagined where Jack would be or who he would be talking to, every time bringing myself to tears thinking about how much his presence was truly being missed.

The grief I’ve been feeling is a complicated one to say the least but in some other ways very simple. Jack, is, was and always will be my number one priority, and now that times have changed I don’t know how to keep him in that role because there is nothing I can physically do for him. I can’t run to the store and pick him up a Crunch bar, I can’t let him put on his music instead of him having to listen to Colleen & I talk endlessly in the car. There are many things that I simply, just cant do anymore, and as much as that kills me I know that’s not  the way Jack would’ve looked at it.

A little over a month ago my family received a beautifully bound book titled “Life is… (and other life lessons from a real life super hero)” given to us by a collection of Jack’s friends. Over this past break, I finally got to read through the book in its entirety. It was the happiest and most depressing compilation of ideas I’ve ever read because every single piece that was written about Jack was gleaming with humor, love & strength. It was incredible to read page after page of the legacy that Jack left behind to us all.

And that’s where my heart breaks time & time again. The realization that all we have is what he left us. And that while he left us with an infinite amount of memories and lessons to be learned, the fact is that we won’t have any more new memories with him. And I have no idea how to live with it. I don’t know how to live without Jack, to fully realize and accept  that I don’t live in the same world as my younger brother, who I can’t remember ever not having in my life.

As I go about my daily life, there has not been a moment since Jack got sick again in March where he has not been on my mind. But it doesn’t hit me all the time that he’s gone. Sometimes it’s moments you’d expect, when I hear a song that we use to listen to or we’re praying before our thanksgiving day feast. But other times I’ll be sitting in class or laughing with friends and I’m suddenly overcome with the thoughts of how I will never see Jack again in this lifetime.

These are the ways my grief is so extremely complex while also being incredibly simple. The emotions I feel are unpredictable and uncontrollable. Sadness can turn to anger to laughter in moments without me consciously knowing what’s going on in my mind.  But the underlying fact is always there…

I miss Jack.

I miss my baby brother & I have no idea how to live without the man who taught me how possible unconditional love is.

Jack and I did not always have the close bond we shared in our last years together. We fought as all siblings did but once Jack got sick in 6th grade, everything changed. As a 13 year old girl I faced problems well beyond my face breaking out or getting my crush to know I existed. My annoying little brother who had spent years of our lives fighting with me, now meant so much more to me. Anything and everything he wanted or needed from me was done. It didn’t matter how small the task was, I made it my mission to make Jack’s life easier in any way possible.

Of course, it was not always easy. I would get irritated and annoyed but I learned how to value those in our lives because there will come a day where they’re not there anymore. Through Jack that while we really can’t control what happens to us, we can always control how we react to it. He taught me patience and how to selflessly love those around you. Unconditional love is something we all strive for and while I have not always loved everyone in my life unconditionally,

I love Jack unconditionally.

I love him on his bad days, on his good days, at South Campus where he would avoid me because he didn’t want to be seen with his embarrassing older sister, and on nights where all I wanted to do was go to bed but would end up talking with him for hours about everything under the sun.

I love him for all that he has done for every single person he ever encountered and I love him for making me into the young woman I’ve become.

While I still don’t have all the answers & I am worlds away from figuring out what this all means, I take a deep comfort in the fact that I am not alone in this grieving process, which just shows how deeply everyone loved Jack.

Among many other lessons, to love one another unconditionally is what he left us with and in many ways if we keep on loving one another unconditionally then we will always be able to keep him close.

Stay golden,

Em