Today is my brother Luijoe’s 19th birthday. Or it would have been, if he lived to see today.
Believe it or not, it still hurts to think about him after 11 (12?) years of him being gone. No matter where I go or what I do, he’s always in the back of my mind, as is the guilt I sometimes feel for not being a more caring, more watchful older sister to him (this is part of why I don’t want to have children of my own – there are times when I still feel responsible for his death).
I feel his loss more profoundly on his birthday more than any other day, because birthdays make me think of what could have been if he were still alive. After all, a birthday marks the passage the time and offers the promise of growth, of new adventures, new life experiences. It’s a celebration of the things you have accomplished thus far and the things you want to do in the months ahead, with the people you have learned to love and who love you back. Dead people don’t accomplish things, and they will never grow older, nor will they experience anything more than what they have already experienced in their lifetime. But they leave behind the people who loved them, and birthdays give them a chance to get together and celebrate their memories. I don’t feel very celebratory today; only sorry that I wasn’t there for him when I should have been.
In this photo, Luijoe turned 6 and celebrated with a small birthday lunch at his kindergarten, which happened to be attached to the all-girls high school I was then attending. I don’t remember this party, because I wasn’t there. There are a lot of things I wish I could have done when he was still alive, and right now I wish I thought to stop by to give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him I loved him, because I would no longer have the chance to do that next year and for the rest of my life.
Right now I’m too sad to try to end this in a positive note or with some pithy inspirational quote, as all depressing blog posts must end. But if you must take anything out of reading this, take this: there are many ways to let people know that you love them besides saying “I love you” (which I feel uncomfortable saying to anyone I’m not romantically involved with). Take time out of your busy schedule to spend a few quiet moments with them. Give a quick hug or a kiss. Be there for their birthdays, graduations, or any important milestone. Be there for the hell of it. Everybody dies, and you’re going to wish you hadn’t taken their presence for granted when they’re gone.Google+