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.


Impotent Rage


One of the most profound discussions I’ve ever had was with my father when I was 15 years old. I can’t remember what I did wrong, but I do remember I went to my mother to confess because I knew she’d go easier on me. The next day, while he was eating his lunch and looking exhausted from another long day at the mill, my father called me into the dining room and told me words I’ll never forget as long as there’s breath in my lungs. He said, “The next time you screw up, don’t run to your mom for shelter. You come to me and be a man.”

While he was very cross and had no intentions of imparting great wisdom to me, he had given me the single greatest lesson I’ve ever been taught in life. Be a man. Be unafraid. Not that that meant I couldn’t be afraid, it meant to never let fear sway me. Even when I’m scared or worried, stand against the fear and be more powerful because of it.

It’s something I’ve carried with me ever since that moment and I call upon it often in tough circumstances. It was one of the things that most helped me when my brother passed. I was the first to see his body, I took control of funeral arrangements, I called specific members of the family and made it clear that they weren’t welcome to the funeral, I was a rock for my family when they needed one and I would later breakdown quietly in my room. Someone has to be stable in moments like that and I was honored to do that for my brother, as he would’ve done if I’d passed.

For the first time in my 31 years of existence I’ve finally come to a spot where no amount of bravery or courage can win a task for me. The last 2 years have been astoundingly difficult with multiple loses of family members, loss of religion, loss of relationships, and a massive shift in family dynamic, but it’s all been relatively easily traversable when taken with a heaping amount of pragmatism and a level headed nature.

Now, I just find myself getting more angry and frustrated at a situation with which no good can come from. All options are a sure loss. The only question left to ask is: how much am I willing to lose?

I apologize for being purposefully vague, but I have to be given the situation. To be clear, all is wonderfully well with my wife and kids.

It’s just that these last few years have been extremely testing of my character, but this is the final one I didn’t need. The potentially largest blow coming when I’m already stretched thin.

I finally understand the plight of the cat. Hang in there, dude. Hang in there.