I have never really written about my brother and wanted to take the opportunity to do so on this very difficult day. I hope the story can shed some light as to why I feel it's so important to get out and live life to its fullest.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should - Desiderata
This quote was my brother Nick's favorite line of his favorite poem (Desiderata). Now that he has passed away, it takes on a whole different meaning. I can't help but think that God knew that we would need that quote to help cope with the loss of my brother. It helps us to move on with our lives in the best way we can and allows us to accept that what has happened is part of a greater plan.
It's tough to find the best words to share about my brother. He passed away 8 years ago today: October 12, 2004. Whenever this time of year rolls around, I can't help but be reminded (even more so than normal) of the terrible tragedy that me and my family went through. The smell of autumn leaves in the October air, especially when it rains, reminds me of the morning I heard the horrific news that my brother had died.
I was away at Ohio State, living in the dorms with my roommate Austin. It was way too early in the morning to be getting a phone call, yet both my cell and dorm phones were ringing. Austin and I rolled out of bed and I saw that I had missed a call from my Dad. I called him back immediately, with an intuition that something bad had happened. My grandfather had Alzheimers at the time (something I previously blogged about), so my mind went straight to thinking that he might have taken a turn for the worse. However, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to learn.
I don't quite remember the exact way in which my Dad told me, but he let me know that my brother Nick, freshly out of college at the age of 22, had passed away in a car accident. I dropped to my knees, bawling my eyes out, letting Austin know through the tears what had occurred. My dad said my uncle would be coming down to Columbus to get me, as I did not have a car on campus and was 3 hours away from my grieving family. Plans soon changed, however, thanks to my great high school friend, Kelly, who lived down the hall in the same dorm. She immediately offered to drive me to my hometown of Hubbard, no questions asked.
The car ride was surreal. It was gut wrenching to not be hugging and holding my family members. But, thankfully, I could find solace in Kelly, as she was practically the one and only person in my dorm and on campus that personally knew my brother. While I knew that everyone in Columbus was overwhelmingly supportive, the condolences weren't the same coming from people who had never met my brother. It was quite the opposite in my hometown. Everyone knew Nick - and I mean everyone! He was an amazing person who touched so many people's lives - so much so, that I had learned that his funeral broke records in our hometown in terms of how many people attended. He affected so many people in such positive ways, that it was actually a joy to see the overpouring of compassion and sympathy from the community.
Being reunited with my family at this time was one of the most catastrophically beautiful times in my life. Over the next few days, which were a giant blur, I found myself surrounded by love and sadness coming from the hundreds of people who were a part of my brother's life and my family's life. I remember putting together a photo board of pictures of my brother throughout his life to have displayed at the funeral. Going through those shoeboxes of pictures really helped me in my grieving process, providing smiles and laughs as my cousin Sara and I reflected on all of the good times in Nick's time on earth.
I was told that I was one of the strongest of my family members at this time. Losing my closest of kin was by no means easy, but I was able to be a rock for my other brother and my parents as we suffered through these days (and years) ahead. Perhaps it was because Nick and I shared such a special and close bond that I was able to handle the blow a bit better -- because, Nick and I understood each other and I knew that he wouldn't want anyone to be miserable due to his absence. It was my job to help people in this dark time. Nick wanted us to keep living our lives to the fullest. And he would want us to understand that this was his time - things were unfolding as they should, as the poem indicated.
I always have valued life and lived each day fully. However, Nick's death at such a young age (22) made me embrace life even more than ever before.
It made it clearer to me that there is no way of knowing when your time on this planet will be up, and being young doesn't mean you have decades more to live. It sounds morbid and depressing in a way, but I feel it to be encouraging and profound.
You can't hold off on living out your dreams, working to better yourself, exploring the world around you, and showing others how much you love them. You must always do good for others, create a legacy, and never stop growing and learning.
It is why I have taken the liberty to create a blog to share my passion of adventuring and scratching items off of my ever-growing bucket list. I want others to do the same, I want others to never cease to challenge themselves. I don't want anyone to miss out on the beauty of life.
I feel that whenever you are taken from this earth, whether you are 90 like my great grandfather, or 22 like my brother, you have lived a full life. Your purpose has been served, and your physical life on earth is no longer needed. Heaven will take over from there, granting you an eternal spiritual life.
My brother's soul lives on. I will always love him as the best friend I have ever and will ever have. Even 8 whole years after he has passed away, his message to me and to the world lives on as well:
Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should
RIP NME 9/10/82 - 10/12/04