Few people know how difficult the last year has been for me. Losing my brother Will was the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with. It became even more difficult when we learned he had lost his battle with PTSD and other health issues due to an accidental drug overdose. I’ve struggled with the knowledge that I’ve lost my first best friend and must go on living a life we had planned to enjoy together.
Because he passed away during the Christmas season last year, I thought it had forever ruined my holiday spirit. Every twinkling light reminded me of when my world shattered. Every cheery red bow bled with my pain and grief. Even the sweet sounds of Christmas music had soured and filled my nightmares. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t reclaim my favorite holiday and all the childlike wonder, magic, and joy that used to always come with it.
I've lost loved ones before, and some of them were difficult to overcome. Losing my father was particularly hard. However, we grow to understand and cope with the fact that old or ill people eventually pass away. It’s still hard, but it’s the cycle of life. There isn’t anything we can do to change it, and we eventually learn ways to cope and heal.
Sudden, unexpected death is a whole different story. It’s brutal. It pulverizes your whole existence. It shreds your hopes, your dreams, and your sense of security. It batters your very soul and leaves you with wounds so incredibly deep that you wonder if you will ever heal. And losing a younger sibling in their prime is a special hell that sends your world both careening out of control and shuddering to a screeching halt.
I've spent the last year of my life assaulted and thrown about by a swirling storm of raw emotion. Anger, regret, sorrow, sadness, disbelief, doubt, self-hatred, and confusion (and everything in between) have tossed me about and beaten me sore. Although I’ve come a long way, even now, the wounds run deep and break open every now and then.
It’s difficult to find sense from such senselessness. Too many questions remain unanswered. No matter how much time has passed, the restlessness still remains. It feels like closure will never come -- at least on this side of heaven anyway. Even now the pain runs so deep that it's hard to talk about. Even a year later, I still can’t believe the darkness and evilness of this world could steal my little brother away.
Despite all of this though, I knew coming into December 2015, I couldn’t lose faith or hope in Christmas and all the wonderful things it represents. That is why I’ve spent this month going a little over the top for Christmas this year. I like to think of myself as a down-to-earth, simple girl. I do like my little creature comforts, and I must admit that I sometimes can be easily distracted by glittery things. However, big, loud, flashy, and over the top aren’t words normally words that appeal to me.
Nonetheless, I decided early on that I would put my heart and soul into this Christmas, no matter how pained or sad I felt inside. Yes, I ended up going about as crazy as you’ll ever see me. Every single strand of holiday lights (that could pass off as Christmas appropriate) is in or on my house this very moment. You can literally see my house from the next block over, and people stop in front of our home occasionally to marvel at it all.
Normally, I have big plans for Christmas, but I never seem to have enough time to follow through with even a quarter of my ideas. But this year needed to be different. I needed to reclaim the joy of Christmas. I needed to chase away some of this darkness, even just for a few weeks, and shine some new light into this world. I needed to remind myself that life wasn’t always this difficult and that evil can’t erase the good my brother left in this world.
Each one of those lights is a reminder that no person’s life is worthless...that we all have the ability to make this world a better place, even if we fail to see it. Each one is a declaration that my brother still remains in my heart and my memory and that nothing can take that away. Each one is a promise to my brother that I won’t give in to the darkness and sorrow. Rather, I’ll continue on, shining as brightly as possible: remembering the good times and honoring his memory with a life well lived.
© 2015 Amanda R. Dollak
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/candles-light-lights-evening-897414/ by geralt
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