For Alex

When someone has passed away you don’t really celebrate their birthday in the same way anymore, you take the day to remember. You remember the beauty that was their life, but you also recall the hard times, you mourn the birthdays and moments that won’t be. Today would have been my brother Alex’s 21st birthday. Today I remember him, I miss him, and I also try my best not to remember or miss him too much, because grief has an uncomfortable way of pressing in the longer we linger on memories. It’s a hard balance to sit in the space where grief intersects with everyday life, and although it happens more infrequently with the passing of time, grief still often slips in like an unexpected shadow across the sun.

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It's harder to sit in grief nowadays, I tell myself it’s been enough time that grief shouldn’t have a hold, tears shouldn’t fall freely; but regardless of how much time has passed the fact remains that Alex, today is your birthday, and you are not here, but you should be.

I will try and embrace the bittersweet waves of grief and to sit in the melancholy that days without you sometimes bring. I will remember that grief is not bad; loving someone enough to miss them all the days of your life that you now have to spend without them, is not a negative thing; tears are not a sign of weakness, but a form of healing. Growth happens when we let go of trying to control how we should feel about things and trust that our community will carry us, our family will love us, and God will strengthen us through the grief. I’m trying to grow, I’m trying to press through the growing pains because I believe in all of this there is a plan, and if I sit stagnantly and close my eyes I may miss out on where I am supposed to be.  I will hold onto the uncomfortable moments because I see glimpses every day that show me I am not forgotten, my family is not alone in our grief, there is hope for the future.

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In our family we have a tradition for 21st birthdays, everyone is given a key. Mine is the key to the family, Ethan’s is the key to the city, for Alex’s 21st birthday we are getting the keys to our family cabin. My parents purchased the cabin earlier this summer and asked to have the keys as soon as possible so we could spend some summer weekends enjoying the cabin and the lake. Without knowing anything about the significance of today, it was suggested by an external party that July 19th would be a good day for my parents to take possession. So today, on your birthday Alex, we get the keys to the cabin, which really symbolizes so much more. The keys to the cabin are also the keys to a place of rest, refreshment, and a place to escape and be together in our grief and fragile joy. Alex, you should be coming to the cabin with us, you should be fishing on the lake and laughing at the taxidermy we inherited, as always you should be here.

Life will never be the same without you, I miss your sense of humour, your bright smile and that mischievous glimmer in your eyes when you were about to do something you knew would make us laugh.

Happy 21st Birthday Alex, love you always.

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