Nine years ago today my little brother Andrew died of a heart attack. He was 22 years old.
He simply went to bed one night, and then didn’t wake up.
Andrew was a lot of things.
He was kind, funny, charismatic, charming, shy, empathetic, bright, clever, and innocent.
He was the flickering candle that lit all of our lives.
He also had his challenges.
Andrew was born with some developmental issues.
But the cool thing was he laughed in the face of every wildly inaccurate stereotype society has about people that are viewed as “intellectually challenged”.
He could calm a crisis between friends in a blink. He could strip down a computer and put it back together again. He could love with more purity than anyone you will ever meet in your life.
He was a brilliant young man.
For years I held anger in my heart for the people that bullied him to tears. And to the employers that skipped over him because he wasn’t like everyone else.
I remember him putting out resume after resume to anywhere and everywhere.
I remember the heartbreak he felt grappling with that.
People don’t think that folks with these challenges are self-aware.
Those people are wrong. They very much are.
I feel bad for anyone who passed up on the chance of getting to know my little brother.
He was about as pure a gem as you’ll ever find.
I used to view it as a monster — a creature that would come in the night and sit on my chest and not let me sleep.
But it isn’t.
Grief is a healer. It’s what helps you put the pieces back together again.
It’s the messenger that delivers memories when you need them. And sometimes when you think you don’t.
For years I blamed my depression and anxiety on his death. But the fact of the matter is, it was there before, and it was there after it.
The food addiction didn’t start with his passing, it may have increased, but it began as a child.
It’s easy pin problems to a tragedy. And for some people their issues are directly related to an event like that.
Part of my grieving process was finding out that mine weren’t.
And once I discovered that I was able to let go of a lot of anger, frustration, and sadness surrounding his passing.
Don’t get me wrong — I still grieve for him. Every time September rolls around I get a feeling in my gut. A pang of loneliness that I never really recognize until just a few days before. And I think to myself “oh, that’s why I’m sad”. It sneaks up and surprises me every year — you think I’d have that figured out by now. But. maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work.
But even still, nine years later I’ve developed the ability to smile when I think on him, and relive every second we spent together.
Like the joy in his face when he’d beat you at Scrabble — and believe you me, he could beat you at Scrabble. Or, the sound of singing coming from his room.
He was truly a dreadful singer, the man was born with a tin ear. But, that being said, I’d pay whatever it took to hear him sing one more time.
And as I head out the door to visit his grave for another year, I take a moment to pause and appreciate the man that was, and the memory that still is.
His candle has been re-lit.
And each year it burns ever brighter.
Rest peacefully little buddy.