Just got the invite for the annual cookout and balloon release for my little brother and the two other kids we lost that summer.
Most likely, I'm going to be out of town that weekend, but I will do my best to manage to release a balloon for them.
If I can't manage it that Sunday, I'll do something the day he died, which isn't for another month or so.
Two years. Two years of tears, joys, stresses, life. I still see his face in crowds sometimes. Just out of the blue I'll see someone that looks sort of like him and even though I know it isn't him, my heart skips a beat and I miss him all over again. Worse is when I hear someone laugh like him.
We miss him, and the other two. Last year probably close to two hundred people showed up for the balloon release. Everyone had a picnic meal at the park, and told stories on all the boys, and cried, and hugged. I chased R's youngest kids and made them laugh, hugged her oldest and got her to smile. Teased family and friends and remembered my baby brother.
He'll always be with those who knew him, because he was just that kind of personality. And he'll always be with me, in my heart and memorialized in the tattoo that R and I share. Whether or not I make it to the ceremonies that people have put together to memorialize him and the others, I honor all of them in my own way, in my own time.
The number of cracks on my heart for those that I've lost has grown the last several years. They haven't healed, I don't think they ever do. But I have gotten better able to bear them, and I'm proud to do so. Those metaphorical scars are proof that people have had an impact on my life and I on theirs. Those scars tell me that I learned things from those people that I won't ever forget. The pain of losing someone you love is horrible, but the knowledge that you are the kind of person to care enough about people to be hurt when they're gone can only make you stronger.
Some days, I'm pretty certain that I'm close to becoming She-Hulk from all the stronger I've been made. And some days I hear my grandpa's voice on the wind, or feel Sugar's hands on mine as I'm cooking. Sometimes it's Mamaw inviting the whole world into her home during holidays, if they don't have anywhere else to go. And sometimes it's Jeff, calling me a dork. And in all those things, what I hear or feel is always "I love you."
And I can't help but smile.