20 years. Twenty years. Somehow I didn’t think I was old enough yet to have a twenty years of something. Yet here I am, with last Thursday, August 18th marking the 35th birthday of my brother Daniel. This marks 20 years since his last birthday alive.
I confess over the years I’ve striven to focus only on life on this day. To focus on celebrating that he lived at all rather than on his mortality, his frailty, his vulnerability and the inevitability of what comes to all of us. No grief, no mourning the loss, but recognizing the gain. A gain that has outlasted his life here. I’ve striven to be positive in my careful approach towards the day. This an attempt to have some control, to make it seem worth it because I had learned, or grown, or something profound from it. But to be honest after 20 years, I’m not sure I can say with confidence every day that I think it was worth it. Worth him. Yet I have learned more about life from his death, grown more albeit excruciating from the absence of him. I now see life from a bird’s eye view, so to speak, because he isn’t in the midst of the mundane anymore but is in the midst of the eternal. And from this expanded viewpoint, it is ironically much simpler.
Looking back he did always seem fragile in a way, so mortal, so human to me. As if the seemingly robust life within him was one exhale away from vanishing. And it was. Yet for the brevity of the life he lived here, it really is just a simple game of leap frog. He got the first jump in by getting to heaven first. I’ll give him that one. Fine. But I’ll make my jump here at some point too and then we’ll get to play together forever.
So, after 20 years, birth, death, the life in between and the life after, is all one jump after another. And if we can exercise the courage to recognize the simplicity of that, it somehow diminishes our mortality and calls out the immortality in all of us.
A response to http://www.lanciaesmith.com/2011/08/daniels-birthday/