Today is January 4th. It's my brother's 35th birthday. In years past, this would mean a phone call where I sing him the happy birthday song very crappily, he would laugh at me, and say "thanks jiiiiiilllllll" in that sing-songy half-falsetto voice. I can hear it in my head right now. We would all try to get together as a family, depending on the day of the week the 4th fell. Sometimes it would be a few days later before the clan could all gather. But we always did, without fail. We'd usually end up at the Red Lobster or Texas Roadhouse, birthday boy got to pick and those were his favorites - of course, this being after the Kahiki shut down back in the early 90's. We all loved that place.
This year...I won't get to hear that sing-songy "thanks jiiiiiilllllll" after I sing. I won't get to give Kevin his traditional "jillz cardz". I won't get to buy him a new baseball cap - he wears them so much, after a year he is usually in dire need of a new one. This year, that phone call will go unanswered.
For those that haven't heard, Kevin, my brother, passed away on November 30, 2014. I've really been meaning to write about it before now, but every time I try, the words won't come. What words can you say? One day he was there, the next...he wasn't. I spoke with him on that Friday, and that was it. we talked about inane things - Greg and I were driving down to Birmingham to go to the Iron Bowl the next day. As far as I remember, the last words I spoke to Kevin were "love you, bro. Talk to you later," I think as far as last words go, those are pretty good.
The month of December was pretty much a blur. We drove up to Ohio that Tuesday, Dec 1st to help my mom and dad get everything ready. His calling hours were Friday afternoon/evening, and the service was on Saturday. I remember a huge, overwhelming outpouring of support for Kevin, my mom, my dad, and me. There were flowers, pictures, videos, people coming in from out of state, it was phenomenal. It was also the hardest few days I've ever been through. Thank God for Greg, he was a rock for me. He helped chauffeur me and mom between Hilliard and Westerville, he hugged me when I needed it, he left me alone when I needed that. I love that man.
The service itself was very beautiful. it was done in our church in Westerville - the last time that many people we knew were gathered there, it was for our wedding in May. Such a stark comparison of conflicting emotions. The church was full by the time the service started, so many people from so many different parts of Kevin's life were there. Elementary, middle and high school friends, work friends from several different jobs, family, our parents friends and co-workers, my friends and co-workers. The amount of love and support in that room, it was such a blessing. I gave the Eulogy. What a terrible thing to have to write. Thankfully, my talented cousin Julie helped me piece it together and edited it for me to help with flow. I'll attach it at the end here, if you want to read it. After teh service, we invited people back to dad's house for a potluck. lots of good food, memories shared, and beers. Sort of a celebration of life.
Coming back to Alabama was also a blur. I don't remember much except for blowing my nose the whole time - sorry Greg. In the days since, I feel like I have been going through the motions. Christmas has come and gone, and it just wasn't the same. It will never be the same. There will forever be a piece missing from anything we do. Family gatherings will be incomplete. I'm sure after a few years the sting will lessen a bit (God, I hope so) but there will always be that ache around my heart.
My mom has invited the family over to her house today to celebrate Kev's birthday. She'll be serving his favorite foods, no onions or mushrooms anywhere in sight. We love you Kev. We miss you so much. I hope you're watching all the football you want up there, your Buckeyes are playing for the championship next Monday!