Eight years ago today, my big brother, Jeremy, left this earth. He left before I had a chance to say goodbye. He left before I really had the chance to get to know him as a person, as a friend. In some ways, I think he left before he really got a chance to know himself and all he could be. I mean, he was only 26. That’s just 2 years older than I am now. He had a difficult childhood really, with a lot of heartache and ended up choosing the wrong paths early in life. But he was just turning things around and finding success when his life was cut short.
It was a car accident. My brother was the passenger and his friend, John, was driving them home from a night out. It was very early in the morning and John fell asleep, leaving the truck to veer into a turnout and hit a tractor-trailer parked on the side of the freeway. John survived with a few cuts and bruises. My brother was killed instantly. It’s the type of thing that makes you question life. Why did this happen to him? To me? You ask a lot of “what ifs?” And then you realize you will never know the answer. Slowly, sadly, you move on. My friends marveled at my strength, but I didn’t feel strong. I felt broken.
I was only 16 years old when my brother died. I had never even had a boyfriend. I wish he could have been around for that. To be that overprotective brother that I know he would have been. To give my boyfriend a hard time. I would have hated it probably, but since I didn’t have it, I miss it. I think I was just getting to the age where we could have been friends and really talked. He was 11 years older than me, so it was hard to relate when I was younger. He moved out of the house when I was in elementary school. Sixth grade, maybe? I can’t remember. But I do remember him and his posse strolling across the elementary school playground, the yard duty approaching him to reprimand him and tell him to get off campus. And then me, running up to “save him” and tell the yard duty, hey, this is my cool older brother! I loved any chance I got to hang out with Jeremy.
When I think about my brother now, I have mixed emotions. Sadness, happiness. Not so much anger anymore. I’m sad about the facts of what happened, of course. The horribleness of this day, eight years ago. But I am more upset about what will never happen. My brother won’t be at my wedding. I won’t be at his. We won’t see each other grow old, have babies. Sometimes I dwell on these things and I cry, particularly on this day. Holidays are always tough, too, and not just for me, but my entire family—especially my mom. For the most part though, I think about my happy memories from the time we had together. The funny songs he would make up on his guitar, wrestling with me and my younger brother, Patrick, and giving us noogies, helping me with my homework, playing video games at his house, buying me a stack of chick flicks (on video!) for my birthday or the new Brandy CD, and picking me and my friends up afterschool in his brand new car. When I got older, he gave me my first driving lesson in that car—the same one I now drive. These are just some of the memories I cherish.I don’t usually talk about my brother much. There are people in my life who don’t even know I had an older brother. But time has eased the pain and I love talking about him now and sharing his life with others. It makes me feel like he isn’t totally gone, that his spirit still lives on in my heart. That somehow there is some purpose in him leaving so soon. I can honestly say now that, while I would give anything to have my brother back, I believe I am a better person for having endured such a loss. So I hold tight to my memories of Jeremy, the best big brother a girl could ask for. Though the years may fade the sharpness of my memories, I will never, ever forget.