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.

“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

Christianity, Marriage, Logs and Cherry Picking

SCOTUS has now made gay marriage legal in all of the USA. This is a wonderful thing. Feel free to shout ‘MURICA’ at the top of your lungs or shoot your semi-automatic rifle in the air in celebration at this momentous moment in history or….you know….don’t….because….bible.

Over and over and over I see conservative and fundamental Christians, the ones opposing same sex marriage, posting the biblical definition of marriage and the short version is this: “It’s Adam and Eve not ADAM AND STEVE!”

adam1 Continue reading

Two Years Later – 10 Things I’ve Learned

lessonIt’s been well over two years now since I first admitted to myself that I no longer believed in a god. Two years. Wow. That isn’t a massive amount of time by any stretch of the imagination, but when I look at all that has transpired in those two short years, I’m astounded at what I’ve learned, how I’ve grown and what I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Continue reading

Why Being a Dad is the Shit

Here’s a rather cynical yet hilarious poem by Philip Larkin that I’ve loved for years:

“This Be The Verse”

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

While that poem never fails to make me laugh and there’s truth to be had in it, I think that even Larkin could agree that if we all stopped having kids….well….we wouldn’t last very long as a species. Think Children of Men, but done purposefully.

My wife and I have been a couple for over 12 years now and I vividly remember our discussions of never wanting to have kids. Why would we want to do that to ourselves? Lose our time, freedoms, sleep, money, sanity etc. Who wants that? Having kids is great and all, but it’s not for us.

Eight and half years later we welcomed our first child, a boy, into our lives. It was a very stressful period of time. Not only because we were new parents, but because Masen was born 8 weeks premature. The nursery wasn’t ready. My wife and I weren’t ready. We hadn’t even had our typical new parent freak out that comes before the baby was due. Oddly enough, our “new parenting class” came and went while we were in the hospital for over 3 days trying to keep Masen from being born so early.

I remember him coming out. I remember Lori holding him for about 1 minute. I remember barely being able to touch him before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It wasn’t until the next day that I was finally able to hold him.

I remember the nurses very gingerly putting him in my arms. He was so tiny and had wires and hoses and tape all over him. He looked so frail. It wasn’t until I put him back in his bed with the help of the nurses that I completely lost composure and wept like a person of his size. Here’s my son. This little man. Helpless and cold and unaware. And there I was completely powerless to help him.

It was at that moment that I felt love in the most powerful way. It was a love that I didn’t know was even a possibility. I know my heart didn’t grow in size like the Grinch, but I did feel as if it would explode. At that moment I knew what life and love was all about.

Ever since that day I’ve experienced more revelations in love, patience and gentleness than I could ever put to paper and I freely admit that my son has taught me much more than I could ever teach him, but I try to be a good man for him, or at least, what I think a good man is. This is possibly where some of Larkin’s poem comes to light.

Almost everyday that I’m around my children my heart seems to grow ever more with love and awe. When I pull in the garage and Masen opens the door and yells, “Daddy!” He smothers me in hugs and then we proceed to have a wrestlemania the likes of which even the Undertaker hasn’t seen.

If something breaks around the house or a toy’s batteries die Masen makes sure to set them all aside for daddy to fix. So almost everyday I’m a superhero. Can you even comprehend how awesome that is? To be a friggin superhero! To my son there’s nothing I can’t do. Nothing I can’t fix. Nothing I can’t lift. Nothing I can’t overcome simply by being his dad. What other avenue of life gives you such misguided praise? I can’t tell you who will be more devastated when he realizes that his dad can’t get something done: him or me?

I’ve always liked to think, rather narcissistic I know, that I’m a pretty selfless person, but it wasn’t until I became a father that I realized how little I care for my own life in place of my son’s. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect him. There’s no pain, shame or act of bravery I wouldn’t perform, even if knowingly futile, to protect him. I’m his dad. I’m Superman. I protect. To my dying day that is my purpose.

I once heard a person say that when you have kids you realize that arms and hands were meant for hugs and I couldn’t agree more. The simple warm embrace of my son with the smallest of pats on the back is all it takes to transform even the worst of days into a good day. If he really wants to slay me he merely says, “I love you, daddy. You’re my best friend, daddy.”

My son, and now my young daughter as well, have transformed me more into the man I’ve always wanted to be more than any other aspect of my life. I’ll live to my final moments working to make sure they feel loved, accepted and protected.

I can think of no greater cause or charge in life than that. I just hope I don’t ever prove Mr. Larkin to be fully true.

Lunch With My Brother’s Killer

It’s a very odd feeling, staring into the eyes of the man responsible for killing your brother. It’s odd hearing him talk when my brother no longer can, but there I was, sitting across from an 86 year old man at Arbys, listening to him tell me about the accident.

I’d invited Donald out to lunch after much of the legal mess had settled in the wake of Phil’s death. I had a yearning to meet him. I didn’t want to berate him or yell at him. I just wanted some peace by meeting him. Some morsel of closure.

You see, Donald never reached out to me or my family after Phil died. He didn’t send a card or show up in person to apologize. He never gave the police any regards to send or called on the phone. Nothing. It was my longing to see if he’d gone through any pain that urged me to call him. I wanted to know if he felt remorse. Had he cried? Did he lose sleep?

He was already at a table when I showed up. He stood up to greet me and I gave him a big hug. I told him I loved him and appreciated his meeting me for lunch.

He told me how very sorry he was. How it was his fault. He asked me if Phil had any kids. He cried.

I told him about how funny Phil was. That he was my very best friend and was deeply loyal. I told him about Phil’s high intelligence and how much he truly loved serving people. I told him how happy I was that his death was instant. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry.

At the end of our lunch I thanked him again for meeting with me. He thanked me profusely for calling and inviting him out. We hugged and said goodbye and then I left.

I sat in my car in silence for about 30 minutes trying to digest what had just transpired. I felt no different. I didn’t feel any release or closure. All I felt was emptiness at what had just took place. I’m still glad I took the initiative to meet him, but I’m not really sure why.

I guess that Donald was probably the last person Phil ever saw and I felt I owed it to my brother to see him with my own eyes. To be someone to tell Donald how this earth is less of a place without Phil in it.

I guess I just miss my brother.