We gathered yesterday to celebrate my Daddy’s 80th birthday. My sisters, mom, and I had spent weeks and weeks planning this celebration for everyone’s favorite Papa. We had cooked a huge variety of party food, ordered an amazing cake, decorated with balloons and banners, and were ready to host a huge invite list of family and friends. I had been so focused on crossing items off of our lengthy to do list for that day that I hadn’t really thought about the date. Of course, I knew the date – February 18th – but there was more significance to this date above and beyond my daddy’s birthday. Yesterday marked the two month mark since our brother had passed.
Two months. It has taken me two months to even try to write about my brother’s passing – and I’m certain that I will not be able to articulate all that I need and want to say in one post. My brother battled cancer for almost two years. Throughout that fight, he never lost his positivity. When I would go to visit him, I would feel anxious – not because I didn’t want to see him or spend time with him – but because I truly felt like I did not know what to say to convey what I was feeling. I would go to comfort him, but he would end up comforting me with the strength and grace in the way he battled. I am still walking through his death. I don’t think there is ever a timeline or roadmap for what an individual’s grief looks like, and sometimes I ask myself if this it really what it looks and feels like. I find myself smiling one moment about happy memories, and crying the next because he is no longer on this earth.
So yesterday, as we gathered for pictures to celebrate our daddy’s birthday, I was not expecting it to hit me so hard. My oldest brother, and two younger sisters posed wearing our new t-shirts with our favorite daddy sayings on them. Even as we had spent the morning choosing which quote we each wanted on our shirt, it didn’t hit me. Even as we smiled for the camera, it didn’t hit me. But later, as I sat scrolling through the hundreds of pictures from earlier in the day, it hit me hard. The four of us stood with our arms wrapped around each other, smiling and laughing. It should be five. He should have been here with us with his very own Daddy-saying across the front of his shirt. Five of us should have gathered with our parents for pictures at the end of the night. Five of us should have been singing happy birthday and watching daddy blow out his candles.
The day was filled with so much laughter and love. So many family and friends came with cards and gifts. We looked through old pictures of my daddy. We ate and drank and just spent time together. It really was a fun day. But just under the surface of all of those happy emotions, sadness and tears were dwelling. Yes, it was great to see everyone and be together, but we weren’t really all together. And we never will be again. We are so blessed to have our daddy still with us and going strong at eighty years old. But right next to that thankfulness lives sadness and anger about the fact that our brother is not here with us.
I am learning through my grieving process that there will always be these conflicting emotions. And that is okay. It’s okay to smile and laugh and enjoy life and be sad and angry that my brother is not here to enjoy life with us. I stepped out on the back patio yesterday during the chaos of the party to catch my breath and settle my tears. Perched on the railing of the fence surrounding our pool was a red cardinal. In my heart, my brother was with us yesterday, and that cardinal was my sign that it’s going to be okay. That I’m going to be okay. That its okay for me to feel all of the things I am feeling in every moment.
There are so many more thoughts and memories that I have to share about my big brother, Todd. Today was the first step in that process. I look forward to being able to process all of those emotions through my writing. Stay with me!