It's been a long time since we last spoke, since I saw you last. Has it really been 9 years? I remember February 21st and February 22nd, 2004 like it was yesterday; it surely doesn't feel like it's been almost a decade since I woke up on a Saturday morning to an empty house and the phone ringing. I went to work that chilly morning, completely unaware of how our lives were going to be forever changed. I will never forget the sound of Dad sobbing on the phone when I called him back, as he was at the hospital with you. I will never forget how many people were crammed into that waiting room at St Ann's hospital and stayed with my parents all through the night. And I will surely never forget how you woke me up at 4:42 am on Sunday, the 22nd, to tell me it was time for you to go.
I used to dream about you, but it's been awhile. The first time I saw you in my dreams, I was standing at the end of the hall and you stepped out of your bedroom doorway, looking just like a typical 21 yr old should. You were shirtless (as usual) and you flashed one of your signature smiles before I was startled awake. I was so surprised to have seen you, that I woke myself up.
The next time I saw you, it was almost a year later. Mom, Dad, Eric and I were sitting in church, at Central College Presbyterian Church (where Mom & Dad were married, where you and I were baptized, where Jason and I were married and where you were laid to rest) and we were all standing, singing a hymn. Eric leaned over, smiled and pointed to a few pews in front of us. And there you were. Singing along, with a book in your hand. You turned your head, and smiled at us.
Again, I immediately woke up.
When I moved to Florida, I used to smell you in my car, even though you never rode in it. In the mornings, in my apartment, there was a touch lamp that would always be on when I woke up. Sometimes, it felt like Groundhog Day, where a certain song that reminded me of you would always be on when my alarm clock would go off or would come on the radio on my way to school. I could feel you in the room.
You don't visit me anymore.
I like to think that it's because you have been reborn, to another place, another time. You used to answer when I asked for your presence. I could always count on you to be there when I was upset or scared. We used to talk and I could hear your voice inside my own head.
I like to think that you're not "here" anymore because you know we're ok. Because you know we miss you terribly, but we are not overwhelmed with sorrow or grief. I know you were worried mostly about Mom, as you had every inkling to be.
Mom and Dad are doing ok. I ask them all of the time how they are feeling, and they say "fine". But you and I know that everything is not fine. They lost their only son, to a senseless accident that shouldn't have happened. You can tell when they are thinking about you. Your friends still visit your grave and still post things on social media in remembrance. You are surely missed, but not forgotten, Paul.
The first year you were gone, felt like a dream, like we were stuck in limbo or stuck in shock. Nothing felt "real". I would find myself trying to bargain and deal your life back; I would think that sometime soon I would wake up from this nightmare and everything would go back to being the way it used to be. The second year was the toughest because reality set in. We realized that you weren't coming back and the evidence was in the lives you saved through your generous and selfless gift of life. One of the recipients was so moved by your donation, that he and his wife named their first child after you. Because had it not been for you, he and his son, would never have existed.
An awful lot has happened since you left. Jason and I bought the house you and I grew up in, and our children are growing up in the rooms you and I once called our own. Juliette loves horses (go figure) and Price was just born 5 weeks ago. They certainly have not replaced you, but they have definitely made it easier on all of us, sort of like welcomed distractions and another generation to love and spoil. We've been remodeling the old Price homestead to make it more of our own home, but it still has the memories preserved in its foundation. If you're able, you should stop by sometime to check it out. Uncle Bean has been hard at work, updating almost every room in the house. Remember when you kicked the hole in the wall in the front room? Or when you and Eric chased each other in a water fight on the roof?
If there's one important lesson that I have learned from all of this, and it's that time doesn't heal all wounds - you just learn to live with the pain. Every year you've been gone, it hasn't necessarily gotten easier. The pain just becomes that less sharp and consuming. Don't get me wrong, we still shed tears when we relive memories or wonder what you'd be doing if you were here with us today.
I know you'll never read this or fully understand the weight my words carry, but I can't help hoping that you might. That you might be hovering over my shoulder as I type this to you. That you might hear the words in my head. That you might, just might, visit us again.
Maybe I'll see you in another life, brother.