I'm not a very sentimental person. I don't cling much to the past, nor do I treasure every card I receive, every trinket ever given, etc. That's not to say I don't appreciate them. I do! I love thoughtfulness - it just means sometimes I prefer to hold on to the thoughts and memories rather than the stuff. I also am not usually a date person. I remember about 4-5 people's birthdays. I sometimes struggle to remember what year I was married in. Numbers just don't stick. Thankfully, I'm married to a man that is the total opposite of so many ways. He's sentimental, a pseudo trinket keeper (just look at his collection of concert and movie tickets he's collected over the years!!!), and a whiz at remembering special occasions. However, some things I do remember - and I write them here so I don't forget...
Today is 5 months since my brother's funeral. I won't forget that date. July 29, 2013 - August 10, 2013 was the longest 2 weeks of my entire life. We had just returned from camp the Friday before the 29th. I missed a call from Stephen on Wednesday or Thursday of that week - but I was in a session and didn't hear my phone. There was no way to call him back. He said he'd talk to me later. So Saturday we recovered and slept a lot. Sunday we had church and were pretty exhausted. Monday, July 29, I was awake and helping Andy get moving for work. Dad called Andy. We figured it was a computer question honestly. I remember Dad wasn't making much sense to Andy. I took the phone and Dad told me that Stephen was gone.
To say it was surreal is an understatement. Those 2 weeks were. I was composed. I was together. I usually am in tough situations. Brace yourself and keep the weakness and tears at bay. But underneath it all was a current of disbelief, crashing with anger, and then washing away into unspeakable sadness. I immediately headed to Memphis without funeral clothes, without much of anything - without any idea of what would be involved.
Military stuff is annoying and structured but lacking in structure all at the same time. I wonder if that's what Stephen loved about it at its core. It challenged him but still gave enough room for unexpected results. Regardless, those two weeks I helped plan the funeral, helped be the point person for videos, picture slideshow, food afterwards, and was the media spokesperson. I was the shoulder for his friends, his girlfriend, and his relatives to cry on. They grieved, sobbed, blew snot bubbles - the works. I shed some tears, but basically held it together. Except for that one time in the funeral home. I felt like I was running and barely moving as I tried to get out of there.
One reason I think I didn't cry much was because I struggle feeling like I never knew my brother. As friends shared stories, some I recalled fondly but most I had no idea about. My brother and I weren't close. We didn't not like each other - we just didn't talk much. I always wanted to impress him from a young age. I think he found that annoying as children. As I grew up, went to college, moved out, got married, had a kid Stephen would make comments that he was proud of me, that I was doing things the right way. That meant more than he'll know. I hate that. I wish he had known. I wish I had told him. But Stephen was never much of a talker. He didn't like mushy stuff so I never pushed it. I can count on my hands the number of times he told me he loved me in my adult life. He meant it, but it just wasn't his style - just like actually ending a phone call by saying "bye" wasn't his style. He told me once he didn't like goodbyes.
I do remember as a kid playing with the neighborhood kids (all boys & all a few years older than me) one day. I wanted to play with them and they told me I couldn't. One kid said something rude and pushed me. Stephen went postal. He stood up for his little sister. It was awesome. It was one of two times I remember him doing that. Many times he was impatient. He was reckless. He was quick-tempered. I'm still processing my anger-stage grief over that. But Stephen could also be patient. So patient that sometimes you'd forget he could be a real jerk. :) I remember Stephen trying to teach me how to draw with perspective. I drew a mailbox on my picture of a house. It was very flat on the page, facing the wrong way but the best my 7-8 year old brain could figure out. He took the time and tried to show me how to get it. I still never fully got it (my art professor in college would readily agree!!) but I'll never forget him trying to teach me...and me wanting so much to get it right because I wanted to be like him. I remember him teaching me how to ollie on his skateboard. I was terrible at it but I remember being so thankful he took the time to teach me - I wanted to be like him. I remember in college Stephen went on ski trip with Andy and I and the college ministry at our church. It was an awkward trip and he only went because he loved snowboarding so much. And even though he loved snowboarding and I'm sure didn't really want to, he was so patient we me as he spent hours trying to help me snowboard. I was awful at it and never could do it. Eventually I sent him on his way to go enjoy the slopes. But I remember being angry at myself for not being able to do it - I knew I wouldn't be as good as him, but I wanted to be like him.
I remember him taking me to a concert one night. He stepped outside to take a phone call and missed the "no reentry" sign. When the bouncer
kindly made mention of rudely got in Stephen's face over the sign, Stephen was there looking up at him - standing toe to toe ready to rumble. But then I came out. I was kind of terrified and excited at the same time. The stories of Stephen fights were epic and I wanted to witness one! But Stephen stepped back, told me we were leaving. I never got to hear the band. I remember Stephen telling me he didn't fight him because he didn't want me to see that. I never told him I appreciated that.
It's funny you know. He was proud of me for "doing it right" and in many ways I am probably more responsible by the world's standard than he ever could have been. However, I wanted to be like Stephen - willing to travel or impulse buy at the drop of a hat. He worked so that he could play. He knew how to have fun and surrounded himself with quality people.
As it sinks in more and more, as it's 5 months since his funeral, I grieve silly things that no one else would get. I grieve for big things that I will probably only share with Andy. I grieve that Reed won't get to know the crazy, reckless, patient, loyal friend, of an uncle that he had for just a year and only saw two times. I grieve that he most likely won't have any cousins to play with. I grieve that I never got to see my brother finally settle down with someone who'd love him the way Andy and I love each other. I grieve for all the things unsaid. But I am so thankful for the memories. Some I haven't shared because they were just ours - whether he remembered them or not.
Don't leave things unsaid. Say them. Awkward or not. Tell those you love that you love them. That's how I'm going to commemorate 5 months since Stephen's funeral...by hugging my guys a little tighter and making sure they know how much I treasure them.