I find myself only days away from my brother’s one-year death anniversary.
He died on April Fool’s Day last year.
The morning started with a text from his new wife telling us he had been in a terrible car crash and was at the hospital. Scrambling to wake up, I called my parents in a frantic state as I shouted, “Oh my god, oh my god,” repeatedly until my mom finally picked up the phone and tried to calm me down enough to tell me it was an April Fool’s joke.
I was stunned. What? Why?
My mother explained to me that my brother thought it would be funny to send us that text. Of course, it wasn’t funny at all—and when he called on the other line, I made sure to tell him just that. He’d never made a sick joke like that before, and it was very confusing, but I eventually allowed myself to laugh it off and get on with my day.
Five hours later, he would die in a fatal car crash.
Grace is defined as “simple elegance” or “refined movement” and includes the synonyms: poise and honor. A year of grief has taught me how to find grace in the most horrific moments—the times when I felt my life was unraveling and that the sadness would surely eat me alive.
From deep down, a place of strength emerged that I had never accessed before. I thought I had struggled previously—that I had seen the darkest pits of my soul and had survived long enough to understand how my emotions manifested in the face of fear, depression, and sadness—but until my brother died, I didn’t know grief at all. I didn’t know how deep it could reach or what grace it would take to survive it.
Trevor was my best friend. He was my closest ally, and he was part of my heart. We had been side by side all of our lives. He was an alcoholic, and he had been battling his addiction and his darkness all his 41 years. We’d all imagined he could potentially die this way, but we didn’t know it would really happen.
As time went on, I processed the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. At times, I didn’t think I could get past any of the stages—but then I realized that I would never “get past,” but instead I had to fully get to know each stage, climb to the bottom of each stage, and explore it fully before I could gain any refinement in my emotions, poise in my heart, and honor in my memory of my brother.
A year later, as I sit here writing this, I can say that I’ve done just that. It hasn’t been easy—in fact, this has been the hardest thing I’ve ever have to endure. The pain I felt—and still face, grappling with the existential crisis which is death—is indescribable in a way. Words cannot explain the distance the mind and the heart can coexist in.
I still cannot swallow that I will have to live the rest of my life without being able to speak to my brother again. This is the hardest part I’ve had to deal with. I can accept not seeing him, but I can’t accept not speaking to him. I have so much to tell him; we were supposed to grow old together.
But then, I stop. I remember to breathe—and somehow, I regain that grace I mentioned before. The poise comes over me, and I vow to honor Trevor by living in happiness and not sadness. Despite his demons, he was the happiest person you could ever know. He met every day with a sense of hope and excitement.
I am surviving this grief with grace—but I can’t give myself all the credit for doing so, because I know I owe it mostly to my brother, who continues to teach me even in his death. I cling to the Tao of Trevor daily, and I read his journals slowly, as I know this is the last conversation we will ever have.
Author: Heather Aimee Land
Image: Flickr/Jem Yoshioka
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
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