You've been gone for 8 1/2 years now. How is that possible? And is it really quite possible that I think about you at least once, still, every day? It seems that way, but sometimes, I'm not sure--it's like when you try to check to see if you've fallen asleep, but then realize that in order to do so, you have to actually be awake. Or when you realize you really are doing two things at once, like reading and singing the lyrics to a song at the same time. Am I the only one who does that?
Anyway....I can't be 100% certain, but I'm pretty sure that I still think about you at least once every day. For some reason, it's usually in the morning, on my way to work. It's become almost a habit, even, to have some random thought of you right around 8:15 a.m., right around the time that I've turned onto Jena Street--the part that's so potholed that you have to smile each morning, as you pass the "Go Slow or You Will Kill Your Car" sign that someone affixed to a telephone pole.
So, what do I think, when I think about you each morning?
I think about Emmeline, and how I wouldn't be able to function if I lost her, the way that Mom and Nick lost you. I think about how I don't think I could continue to live in the same house and walk by Emmeline's room every day. I think about how I'd be a basket case and most definitely have to move out of my house, at least for some period of time, rather than be confronted with memories every day. I think of you, and I think of how incredibly strong Mom and Nick (and Patty and Paul) must be to have lived through that.
I think about our brother Andrew and at how much he grieves at having lost you, whether he wants to admit it or not. I think about the fact that maybe, if you were still here, he wouldn't have felt the need to start a new life halfway around the world, separate from all of us.
I think about Kendra, and how much she grieved after you left, and the guilt she felt for not having spent more time with you, getting to know the person you were becoming as you left being a teenager behind and became an adult.
I think about blue butterflies, thanks to Kendra.
I think about Mom and Nick, and how much they love you and miss you. And again, I think about the courage and sheer force of will it must take to go on living after you've lost a child.
I think about Garth Brooks, and how much you loved his music. (And, to be quite honest, what a geek you were, sometimes, in your exuberance for Garth.) But still, when I'm missing you particularly hard, I put on Garth and, no matter how cliche it may seem, it's like a small part of you is there.
I think about our Friday night pizza and a movie routine.
I think about the Lion King.
I think about the poem that Nick wrote for you and Andrew, that I came across by accident during a google search. Did you ever see that poem?
I think about the tattoo that I share with Kendra and Andrew, "CEJ."
I think about you as a four-year-old boy, a nuisance who drove me crazy. A little boy who shadowed me everywhere, destroyed my personal belongings, and took great joy in tormenting me by mispronouncing my name.
I think about sailing on the Dawn Treader on Lake Hartwell with you and Mom and Nick.
I think about you as a nine-year-old boy, a little skinny boy with sun lightened hair, big, expressive eyes, a deep, dark tan, and a smile that could light up a room.
I think about a teenager who was so earnest, so kind, so sweet, so shy, who wanted nothing more than what every teenager wants--to be somewhat popular, to have a girlfriend, to be happy.
I think about the many, many hours we spent in my Jeep, with you behind the wheel. I think about how much I enjoyed being your "big sister," teaching you how to accelerate into a curve, interspersed with "this too shall pass" advice about the oftentimes agonizing world of high school.
I think about the time that the police called me to come pick you up, after you'd snuck out in my car. I had to take a cab, because you had my car.
I think about the first, and last, time we said "I love you" to each other.
I think about the time that you first went out with me and Andrew. You ordered a frozen strawberry daiquiri, and we all cracked up at your choice.
I think about the two of us driving to Gulfport to pick out a tree from the Christmas tree farm--riding the tractor together, picking out the tree, and bringing it home, just the two of us.
I think about the fact that I wanted to ask you to play the trumpet at my and Kenny's wedding.
I think about having introduced you to the world of '90s rock, like Nine Inch Nails and the Cult.
I think about you and that absolutely obnoxious "Beavis" laugh you had for several years.
I think about you and how much you would have loved being here for Katrina, irregardless of how weird that must seem to people who didn't know you.
I think about all of the pictures of you that were lost during Katrina.
I think about the person that you would be--should be--at age 31. I think about what we've lost with the loss of you.
I think about the red Jeep, the one that looked identical to the one I had that you coveted, that pulled out in front of me from nowhere, on the afternoon that you died, and within a split-second of my asking the heavens for a sign that you were okay, wherever you were.
I think about the last time I saw you, in the funeral home, and I often wish I didn't have that image in my head. I think about your last day here and pray that it was peaceful.
As weird as it may seem, I sometimes light a candle, put on some music, and do nothing but think about you.
I think about you every day--I do. And I miss you.