Part of a series called Dear Andy, written as letters to my late brother exploring the issues of loss and grief. 

Dear Andy,

What is the meaning of a year in relation to forever?

It was one year ago today that you made the bold decision to end your life. It will be one year ago tomorrow that I pulled the car to the curb on the way to work as Mom delivered the news. I suppose it is natural to relive the moments with heightened acuity as we humans are trained to count our lives in 365 day increments.

Last week, I asked Dad if he anticipated extra difficulty in coping this week as the anniversary of your death approached and he quietly shook his head and calmly said something like, “No, I have my feelings about it in their proper place.” Luckily, I can mimic his sentiment. My credo of life has become “acceptance and grace” and I’m pleased to say that I have found some semblance of both in relation to your decision and your passing. This isn’t to say that I don’t find myself walloped with grief on occasion.

I suppose I am relieved to have all the “firsts” without you behind me. There is a significant amount of anticipation that comes with facing new experiences with the new reality of a lost loved one. Surprisingly, at holidays and birthdays, your absence was felt not only in expected ways but unexpected ways as well. At Christmas, I didn’t have the responsibility of shoring you up for group gifts or chipping in for your share. On my birthday, I didn’t anticipate whether you would remember or acknowledge it. When Mom and Dad were in Florida this winter, I wasn’t anxious about touching base with you or tracking you down, nor was I dreading an unwanted call. You wished to free yourself from mental illness and in doing so, you have freed us from it as well.

The night before going to Greece to visit my in-laws, I had a bad night of sleep. As my mind churned, I found myself sorrowful that you never had a chance to go to Greece with us to experience that side of my life. Longingly, I imagined us swimming and laughing together and sharing my favorite Greek foods. Abruptly, the movie halted as I realized those visions were impossibilities. You were too sick during your adult life to ever have come to Greece with us. Even in your healthier times, you didn’t have the means. Frankly, while you were alive, I never longed for your companionship on our overseas trip because of our circumstances.

I began to ponder how our minds create new realities about someone when they are gone. Do we most often remember the good times? Do we alter memories? How easy it is for us to craft our lost loved one into the person we wanted them to be.

While half asleep and half awake in contemplation, an insistent thought came into my head. Like a quiet radio that was slowly turned up louder and louder, I repeatedly heard “I am you and you are me. And that’s our new reality.” Along with the message came an overwhelming peace and an understanding that you are with me and will be always. You are with me now more than you were in life and that you would be with me while swimming in Greece and eating my favorite foods. Was that you? Did you come to me with such wisdom and assurance?

I am you and you are me. It is a new reality that can take me to forever.

I love you,