Still Kickin

Yesterday morning the kids and I flew back to Arizona after 11 days in Minnesota.

It wasn't our typical trip up north.  Where we hit all my favorite spots and eat all my favorite hot dish menu items.  We didn't stay up late playing cards or do much playing in the snow.  This wasn't the fun trip home that we had planned for a month ago, back before Aaron went into hospice.

We knew the end was coming.  In fact, the urgency of the last minute holiday trip came after a text from my sister in law.

"I wouldn't put off seeing your brother."

So I didn't.

We bought tickets knowing that this very well may be the last holiday I got to spend with him.  That we all got to spend together.

But that wasn't in the cards.

I'm thankful, God, am I thankful, that I was able to fly up alone a week before this trip to see him, because when we landed last Tuesday night and my Aunt was there to pick us up instead of my Mom, I knew.

He was gone.

I didn't cry.  Come to think of it, I still haven't cried much at all.  Losing your hero, your brother, the only one that gets your crazy right down to the start of it, well, I think that takes a while to set in.

We spent the week with family, remembering Aaron.  We were able to extend our tickets a few days longer than planned so that we could go to his service, which was an epic event where every detail was planned by my brother and I could feel him all around me the entire night.

As I watched Aaron's obituary literally take over the internet, from local news stations to NPR to Time, I finally felt the weight of losing him.  As his words spread from coast to coast and friends sent me link after link to different articles on him, I had the first, deep pangs of what missing him will feel like.

Each text, each email, yelled out at me, "he's really gone."

And I'm glad everyone in the universe got a glimpse of how funny and amazing Aaron was, but it felt vastly insufficient.  He was everything to our family and now he's not here and man does that hurt.  Most of the tragedy in my life has been self inflicted.  This kind is so much worse.

Writing is how I process.  

I usually don't know how I feel until I see it written out.

But so much has happened in the last 20 days that I can't seem to find my words.  There's just so much to unravel and sort through.

So I'm choosing to let it happen whenever my subconscious is ready.  Organically, naturally.  Because I can't force myself through this deep sadness.  It may be quiet around here for a while.  Or it may get really loud.  I'm not quite sure yet.

What I do know is I am beyond thankful for the love and support.  

For the random texts and emails and all the Still Kickin shirts I've seen floating around the internet.  For Kelsey flying 1200 miles to stand by me and help with anything I asked for without asking my permission.  You're right, I would've said no, but I needed you there.  A friendly face that I didn't need to say a single word to was a blessing I'll never be able to pay back.  But I'll try because what you did is what Aaron would have done and man do I want to be like Aaron.

You all loved me well and I felt it.

This trip wasn't our usual, but it was good.

And after all this I think Aaron was right.  I think we are all going to be OK.


Finding Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago, I planned a pretty typical Thanksgiving post.

I was going to share pictures of our first homemade Thanksgiving at the new house, list out all the blessing this year has brought me.  Type words that flew from a thankful heart.

But I can't write that post.

My entire world has shifted in the past few weeks.

Some of my blessings weren't what I thought they were.  Our little family, that's had such a great year to those outside looking in, is facing some hurdles I didn't see coming.  People I thought of as friends, were anything but.  My brother died and I'm struggling with trying to find my feet in a world where there's a God that takes people like him.

And I know all the catchphrases that follow someone saying that.  Really, I do.  But it turns out when it's your heart that's broken, that all sounds like a whole lot of made up junk.

This year has been hard.

Gabe's surgery, our cross country move, my brother dying.  It's a lot to fit into 10 months and I'm reeling from the resounding vibrations of it all.

What I'm thankful for today isn't the same list that I thought I'd be thankful for.

1) Family
2) Each tomorrow being a new day

It's short and sweet and covers it all.


Going To Say Goodbye


Today I'm flying alone up to Minnesota. 

Most trips home, I sit at the airport full of excitement and a full agenda on my mind.  But today, as I wait to board a plane that will carry me home, I'm feeling more subdued. 

The days ahead won't be filled with my usual Minnesota bucket items. My only goal: to soak up my brother. 

The boy who played Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles with me in the washer and dryer, dressed me like a tiny skater in 4th grade, and saved me from all the dark and scary things in my childhood. For a few months after my parents divorce, we shared a room. We'd lay in our bunkbeds and pretend we were Brendan and Brenda from 90210. I took my cues from him on what was cool and what wasn't. Watched him be the nicest guy ever to everyone, even the kids everyone else didn't think twice about. 

To know him is to love him, as is made so obvious by the outpouring of love and support and well wishes since he went into hospice this week.   A Facebook page full of memories displaying how much of an impact he made. And not the kind that happens all the sudden when people know someone is dying, but a genuine, real life testimony of a life lived so well. 

He's been my hero since I was old enough to know what that meant and I'm scared a my world without him in it. 

It's been hard to be miles away with Life demanding to be lived, taunting me with the way it keeps passing no matter how much I beg the moment to freeze.  The kids want to eat, laundry calls from the corner. There is little room for the crushing grief that looms right on the outskirts of my consciousness, which is a blessing and a bit of a curse. 

My natural inclination when life hands my family a steaming pile of unfairness is to pretend that if I wait long enough, refuse to acknowledge the reality, the entire thing will go away. 

Aaron will be healthy and we will be back to planning a vacation to see each other. 

He will stay. 

The ease with which I can ignore reality is what makes me the kind of person you want in the room when you get bad news. I can hold the world together while holding you up as you process the way your life was just rocked. Give you time to find your sea legs. 

I've done that a lot this year, watched others get devastating news while my own emotions swim somewhere underneath. 

But they can't be suppressed forever. 

These feelings need to be felt and it does no honor to my brother and his incredible life for me to ignore how brave and graceful he has handled his lot. 

I'm going home. 

Not for the kind of trip that restores my soul, but for the kind of trip that will forever alter the very core of who I am. 

I'm holding fast to the lessons Aaron taught me by letting me watch him live his life and chasing the light ahead. 

That light will chase away the dark. 

Love wins. 



You can read my brother's story at www.myhusbandstumor.com