5 Years On, It’s the Small Things that Mattered Most

Today at 12:48 PM, my brother will have been dead for 5 years.

This particular day doesn’t feel any more special or worthy of note than any others, but here I am, making note of it. Probably more out of habit than anything else.

Five years on and I’ve realized it’s the small things that have left the largest impact on me since Phil’s passing. How people around me reacted at a low point has taught me a great deal about loving others.

Patti, the receptionist at work who heard me lose it on the phone when I got the news, who came over to me and rubbed my back with one hand back and forth slowly, gently as I cried at my desk. She cried with me as I packed my things to go be with my family.

Jeff, a good friend that was walking into the hospital as I pulled up to it, who simply sat with me in silence and waited patiently for me to say it was okay that he go home to his family.

Brandon, a dear friend that drove 4 hours to be there at the funeral and embraced me like a brother.

An uncle that, to this day, sends me “head check” texts on the anniversary of Phil’s death as well as on Phil’s birthday.

Seemingly endless amounts of people that showed up to the visitation and offered kind words and cooked meals for our family.

Almost daily messages in the weeks and months that followed of people talking about Phil and sharing funny stories.

Others reached out and offered sage advice on dealing with loss. One such friend even shared how he was able to grieve after he lost an infant to SIDS.

Loss, it seems, has the ability to expand love in this world as well as end it. I count myself blessed for having received an overflowing amount of it.

I share all of this now as a poor way of saying thanks to those that have lifted me up in low moments.

Having been shown such kindness and grace from family and friends, it further cements in my mind that it’s the small things that matter most in life.

A gentle hand. A warm smile. A strong embrace. Kind words. Being present.

These things matter.

A Death, A Loss of Faith, A Baby, A Divorce and A Wedding

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The Pratt boys from today’s wedding – Me, Dad, Masen and Jay

Today my father got married to a very nice woman named Gayle. Gayle’s a very sweet lady that adores my father and he, in turn, loves her dearly. By all accounts and from every way I look at it, they’re going to be very happy together and will serve each other well. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

But as I stood on stage with my dad, my older brother, Jason, and one of my father’s dearest friends, Mark, I was hit with a very sudden and unexpected crushing sadness. I was thrilled for my father and Gayle, but it hit me up there on stage, listening to my dad swear vows to a woman that isn’t my mom, that this was the climax and finale of the death of my brother.

If my brother dying suddenly on May 16th 2012 was the start of a new book in my life, today, with my dad marrying Gayle, was the end of that book. A final punctuation mark on a rather tumultuous 4 years summed up perfectly with, “You may now kiss the bride.”

After Phil died my immediate family, a once shockingly close knit group, was thrown headlong into uncharted territory which resulted in my mom hating my father, me losing religion and having a baby girl, begging my father to divorce my mother and finally with my dad marrying Gayle. (Certain drama left out because well….I don’t want to share it.)

The only constant in all of this is that my brother hasn’t been here for any of it. While I should’ve seen it coming, it was today, over 4 years after Phil’s death and a good 3 and a half years of being totally numb to almost all emotional pain that I was brought to tears and forced to again face the realities that Phil has missed everything and will always miss everything.

Would my parents have divorced if he hadn’t died? Would I still be a happy member of the Christian village? If my parents divorced, would my dad have met and fallen in love with Gayle?

Phil is both the missing component in all of these events as well as the very likely reason any of these things are happening.

So, it was with both great joy and sadness that I hugged my father and Gayle and wished them the best of luck in their new life together.

I just wish Phil was there to give dad a hard time and to take pictures with us again.

This is all probably his fault anyways.

The only picture of all the Pratt boys in existence – Me, Jay, Masen, Phil and Dad

 

Memory and the State of Things

bittersweet symphonyI heard Bitter Sweet Symphony on the radio today and it got me all reflective and sentimental. Not only because it’s a pretty damn great song from my youth, but also because it was played during a video slideshow summarizing the life of my brother at his funeral.

I generally avoid going “there” with my brother anymore because I’ve said my bit and have grieved and don’t feel the need to dwell or add more baggage than is currently strapped to me already. I loved my brother and he knew that. I’ve celebrated his life, but I’ve allowed myself to continue living. Continue reading

“Now I am Become Red Starbucks Cup, The Destroyer of Worlds.” – Satan

satanIf you think the title of this post at all resembles what J. Robert Oppenheimer said after the Trinity Bomb went off and he realized that we’ve created the capacity to end ourselves, you’d be wrong. This is what Satan was quoted as saying recently as his way of finally toppling the great majority religion of Christianity in America.

Confused? I was too until I finally googled why the hell I keep seeing fury flung at Starbucks over Red Cups. Continue reading

The New Normal

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Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. The death of my brother and best friend has had a larger impact on me than any other single event in my life. Even though the list of people more significant to me than Phil is limited to my immediate family of my wife and children, I don’t think any death will so vastly shape and change me again. I may be more devastated, but not so wholly changed.

Mother’s Day marks the last time I saw Phil alive. We went to the park where he was to be married and taught my son how to roll down a hill. We went back to my house and watched the sort of okay horror movie, Insidious. I remember not feeling well and when he, his fiance and my mom and dad got up to go home I didn’t hug him goodbye, something I always did. Instead I went to the medicine cabinet to get Tylenol. We discussed the Rammstein show we’d just seen and how awesome it was. We said goodbye and that we loved each other. I can still see how he stood and looked at me in front of my door just before he turned to leave. It’s all burned into my mind.

A new normal is something I’ve been looking for. The world doesn’t stop turning for the death of anyone. You have to press on. Take your licks and keep moving. Focus on what you can manage and deal with the emotions as they come. Cry. Drink. Talk. Weep. Breathe deeply. Shake your head clear and get back to living.

Mentally I feel like I’ve never been better in my life. The sad days are few and far between anymore even though there’s barely an hour that passes that I don’t think about Phil. It’s a numbness that I’ve welcomed and cherish. Not that I don’t have strong feelings about it, but it’s good to compartmentalize it to some degree. There’s a healthy balance of letting it out and keeping it in. Life goes on. People live. People die. Sometimes it’s the ones we love.

Am I mad? No. Not in the least. In fact, there’s much I’m thankful for. Like the fact that Phil and I were so very close. We purposefully shared a room up until the day I got married. We always hugged and said, “I love you.” We hung out and always laughed a lot. I’m thankful that if Phil had to die it was over as quickly as it was. I’m thankful I got to see him the day of the accident and hold his hand while he still looked like Phil. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love from people I both do and don’t know.

The new normal feels like it’s slowly happening on its own and I welcome it, but also feel guilt for it. To not mourn for someone as much as you feel they deserve does bring about some feelings of guilt. You feel this way even though you know they’d not want one single tear shed. It’s just human nature. We want to honor the ones we love.

The new normal also feels like a mess because, well, it’s new. Phil’s personality was very mellow and he was a great glue for my family dynamic and without him, much has changed drastically and I mourn for that as well.

Sometimes I feel alone in this and sometimes I feel the lift from my brother, Jason, who walks this trail with me. Two where there are supposed to be three.

Most days are great, but days like Mother’s Day and tomorrow are not fun days. They’re a reminder of what was lost and the hole in my heart that I’m trying to not notice all the time.

In an animated movie I saw last year there was a point where the narrator talked about hearts breaking and the truth in the statement can’t be overstated. He said, “When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked. It grows back twisted and gnarled and hard.” 

Sometimes I feel like the character he was speaking of. Still very much me, but increasingly numbed to many things I used to feel greatly about. It takes an astonishing amount of anything to get an emotional reaction from me anymore. It’s given me extreme tunnel vision. I worry about my kids and my wife. That’s it. That’s my world. So long as nothing happens to them I’m impervious to pain of any kind. I’ve actually grown to love this as it gives my life and tasking a laser focus. No distractions. There was recently another death in the family of someone I really cherished and I barely felt anything. Is my family okay? Good. I’m good.

All this thinking and reflecting about the living that I’ll never have with Phil, I’m always reminded of the great ending to the poem, Maud Muller, that states:

For all the sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Another day. Another year. Another normal. I’m getting there.

 

 

My Brother Doesn’t Age Anymore

Tomorrow would’ve been my brother’s 26th birthday. We’d be going to my parents house to have cupcakes and ice cream and sing the happy birthday song like a bunch of obnoxious 4 year olds. I’d be able to see the candles in the reflection of his glasses. I’d see that dopey grin of my brother’s that was just so….him. These are events that won’t ever happen again and I’m left with a memory that’s only sure to fail with time. Just thinking about the reality of it brings great weight that I’m eager to rid myself of.

It’s the most simple thing. When someone passes away they’re gone. The finality of it seems to always hit with the same sting. Of course Phil’s gone. I know that. My mind continually pushes against that idea and never fails to bring some form of pain I’d long ago hoped would leave me.

If I’m lucky enough to live to be a very old man my brother will still be 24 years old. Frozen in time as the young man I always knew.

I just wish that my heart could outgrow such terrors as to give me a moments peace.

I love you, Phil.

Happy 26th Birthday.