Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Birthday Angel

Bobby would have been 19 this year. It's hard to believe that the last birthday wish I will ever give him was a "happy sweet 16" to which he replied, "those are for girls!"

This year, Luke and I made a plan. We would celebrate Bobby's birthday by doing things he loved.

We started our day at my parents house where we barbecued some ribs, it wasn't even noon yet. Bobby was a self-proclaimed carnivore- it just made sense.

Then we made our way to Wahooz with dad, where the three of us waited in line with a bunch of 12-year-olds to play laser tag. After our glorious red team victory, we made our way to the Go-Karts for a few laps of "let's all pass Kayla." We had a blast, which is exactly what Bobby would have wanted. We walked out of there laughing, sighing and already reminiscing.

After our morning of goofing off, we headed home to pick up mom. We decided that Bobby would request his favorite meal on his birthday, so we made our way to Smoky Mountain Pizza for way too much teriyaki chicken fettuccine with a side of meat lovers pizza. How did this kid eat so much while somehow maintaining his notorious abs? Not fair.

Our next stop was the Nike store. If you knew Bobby, you'd know that his closet was a whole lot of Nike attire in every color. We were all sporting our Nike t-shirts on our way to the IMAX theater to see the Avengers. I know he must have loved this part of our day.

Once the movie was out (and mom woke up from her not so sneaky IMAX glasses nap) we drove home in Bobby's car blaring music the whole way there.

We ended Bobby's birthday with a little tradition we've started since September 2012. We climbed a ladder onto the roof of the home we all grew up in, and we lit 4 lanterns sending them off one by one until they were tiny flecks of light. These were Bobby's birthday candles sent with a tremendous amount of love. Happy birthday sweet boy, we will celebrate your life every day until we see you again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How the Holidays Changed For Me After My Loved One Passed Away

I've come across another seemingly relatable article written by a sister experiencing the same heartache. This article gives a glimpse into what the holidays are like for families who are no longer whole. Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers as we are making our way through the many types of holiday emotions.

How the Holidays Changed For Me After My Loved One Passed Away 

by Kaya Adler

It’s already the middle of December. Christmas music is everywhere, Santa Claus is in the mall and I am trying to use every ounce of energy to be strong this holiday season.
A couple of years ago, I would have been the one buying presents and skipping around Toronto at the sight of snow. But, after losing someone very important to me, the whole concept of the holidays has changed.
What once was a time of family and togetherness is now a time when emotions run high and the feeling of loss is more prominent than ever.
In April of 2012, my brother passed away in a motorcycle accident. I remember getting the phone call from my dad when it happened. Immediately, my world came crashing down.
All I remember is, in that moment, I felt paralyzed. I just sat still for a very long time, trying to comprehend how I could ever move forward without my best friend.
Since having lost my brother, I dread the holidays. I feel anxious knowing that at any moment, I could burst into tears. I look around and see so many happy families and think about the way things should be.
I sometimes find my mind drifting and thinking about what I will get him for Christmas, but then, I snap back to reality and remember he is no longer here.
During my brother’s last few years, he and I were in college in different countries. We spoke often; he talked to me about his golf team and asked me for relationship advice.
He always told me how much I meant to him. I always admired how loving he was.
Though for many years we lived apart, one thing remained the same: Every Christmas, we came home. We came back to the home in which we grew up, and it was like we never left.
My brother, sister and I laughed about our Christmas memories; how every year, we managed to find my mom’s not-so-clever hiding spot for our gifts and how she threatened to return everything. We listened to Christmas music, watched “Elf” and spent as much time together as possible.
My brother loved Christmas. Ever since he was little, he had the best Christmas spirit. Every year on Christmas Day, he woke us up early in the morning so we could open presents. As he got older, he became the ultimate gift giver and put so much time and energy into his gifts, just so he could see our reactions.
As my family and I approached our first Christmas without him, we all sat down and discussed how we wanted to spend the holidays. It just didn’t feel right for us to celebrate Christmas without him, so that year, we didn’t. We spent it like any other day in the comfort of each other’s company.
Our second Christmas without him wasn’t any easier, but we got stronger, individually and as a family. I added back a few traditions, like the annual secret Santa gift exchange with my best friends and a Christmas Eve yoga class.
It doesn’t seem like much, but in my mind, it is. I even bought a gift for my boyfriend at the time and put the same amount of love and effort into it as my brother would put into mine.
After spending two Christmases without him, I have learned a few things that help me cope and that I will take forward with me this year.
I’ve learned it is important to put myself first and that what helps me may not help other members of my family. I find peace in writing about my brother; whereas, my mom likes to talk about him. I sometimes listen, but am not ready to openly talk about my memories with him yet.
I’ve learned to be aware of my limits and to not put too much pressure on myself.
I’ve learned it’s okay for me not to be okay; this is isn’t something with which I was meant to be prepared to deal. I’ve learned I don’t need to fake a brave face, and even though I feel very alone, there are many people there for me if I need them.
The best way I’ve gotten through the holidays is thinking about how my brother would want me to be strong. I often think about if was reversed, if it was my accident; I would need him to be okay.
I keep his voice in the back of my mind, telling me to keep my head high, to lighten up and that it’s okay to be happy.
So, as I approach my third Christmas without my brother, though I miss him more than ever, I know I have to be strong. Although this is the hardest time of the year, I feel him all around me. And that is enough to get me through.
Here’s to all of our lost loved ones this holiday season.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 9th

Today is a day full of every emotion. How quickly the last two years, the last seven HUNDRED and thirty days have gone. It's tough knowing that these two years are just the first of many more to come without Bobby.

I've had happy days remembering him and laughing through memories of fun times. I've had sad and dark days where nothing makes sense and all I want is to understand the 'why'. I've had angry days where I question the bigger plan and wish the past could somehow be altered. There have been countless ups and downs, tears, celebrations and quiet days.

If I could revisit life before September 9th, 2012 I would sit him down for the mushiest big sister speech he'd ever get- he would try stopping me the second it started, most definitely.

I would start by telling him I'm pleasantly surprised as to how cool he turned out. As our youngest sibling, we had our doubts. He survived the early years of pestering and pranking, he adapted to sarcasm and bribery, learned how to deal with a big sister... the one who learned how to love his friendship. My goodness, he was cool.

I would tell him how inspiring he is. How his intelligence, his physical talent, eager spirit and his lovable personality would take him far. He was so easy to be around, so goofy and full of smiles. When he wanted something, he was determined to get it one way or another. His morals and his outlook on life made me look up to him.

I would remind him that he and I got the good genes. He would come to agree that we are alike in so many ways. The organized/OCD siblings, the ones who hate being late, the ones with a sense of style, the two who know forgiveness and who wear their feelings on their sleeves.

Lastly, I would explain to him how much I love him. How being his big sister is such a blessing. Watching him grow up and being a part of his life was an adventure that I will never forget. I would make sure he knew how much he means to me, how I won't live a day without thinking about him and missing him.

I know that Bobby is here. He's here in many ways and often when I have no idea, I'm sure. I'd like to think he knew all of these things... that I did my duty as his big sister and showed him along the way.

 The last two years have been full of challenges, along with some pretty great accomplishments. "Doing it for Bobby" has really encouraged me to take risks, push myself and overcome some big obstacles. Life is precious and as we've learned it can be taken away in an instant. My life will continue to be full of adventure in Bobby's honor because at the end of the day, he's right there with me.




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bittersweet Things You Learn When You Lose Someone You Love

The past few days have been hard on my heart. 

The heavy unexplainable feeling in my chest is difficult to describe. 

These days come and go, I try to appreciate them as they remind me that I have not and will not forget my brother. 

At times it seems as though I saw him just yesterday, yet the emptiness caused by his absence is always quick to follow. 

This morning I stumbled upon this beautifully written article. 

Each point is completely relate-able. 

There is a certain comfort in knowing that we are not alone in this, 

that others are surviving the same heartbreak every day. 

10 Bittersweet Things You Learn When You Lose Someone You Love

I have written about loss a lot over the past few years, I suppose as a way to “cope” with some things I did not feel prepared to handle. Coping is a strange concept. I do not think you ever really get over it. I think you live with it, as best you can. Yes, I have gone on, I have done things; I get up and continue on every day since I refuse to just give up. You get used to it, you go on anyway, but you are different because of it. These are things I learned from losing people I love. I still say love, present tense. And how I changed, for better or worse.

1. You join the club.

When you have lost someone you love — I mean really, truly loved — you start to notice grief in other people. I know I did. Even something as simple as uttering the sentence that you lost your person, the reaction you get can tell so much. I can tell from how people respond and the look they get in their eyes if they have lost someone too. You start to recognize each other like you are part of some terrible club. If I had to put the look in their eyes into a word — even though there really isn't one — it would be tired. Grief can make you so terribly tired. You get so sick of there being so much gravity weighing down your heart. You get tired of waking up in the morning and realizing after a second that what ever happened to you wasn't a nightmare. Sometimes I’m still getting used to being this person who has this truth, who wishes she knew what to do to with it, who wishes she never had to join this not-so-exclusive club.

2. Sometimes bad things just happen.

Science tells us that human beings long to see patterns, to recognize and categorize all we come into contact with. We want to see these patterns so badly that we manufacture them, make up cause-effects, and assign links where none exist. There is not always a reason things happen, which is a fairly terrifying realization. Sometimes, they just do. I understand that a lot of people disagree with me on this. No one can ever convince me certain events happened for a reason. I can find meaning around the situation. How it made me stronger than I ever wanted to be. How it gave me courage. How some of my friendships were strengthened from it. Maybe those things are just my way of trying to force reason onto something unreasonable. But the actual event itself…I cannot find any meaning for it. It has just become this horrible thing I live with. And quite dreadfully, it is possible to live with horrible things. Divine or otherwise, I do not think anyone planned for things to be this way; I think sometimes things just are and you have to navigate the wreckage accordingly.

3. Life keeps happening even if you need time to grieve.

I could not think in years after I lost him. Seconds, moments, minutes I could handle. Anything beyond that I did not dare to think I could control. I could get through the moment I was in. Then that one would pass and another would come, and I would get through that moment too. For a long time my life passed in moments. Then suddenly, it was months later. It did not feel as though months had passed. I still felt the same: still ached, still could not sleep, still held back tears any time I wasn’t alone. The entire universe continued to operate on days, weeks, and months while I operated moment by moment. Time just changed for me. Now I see days and months and years again, when I am at my best. But there are still an egregious amount of days I am forced to live in moments.
I have to say I think it is cruel that the world does not stop when one needs time to grieve. No one teaches you how to lose someone. No one tells your friends and family how to help you through it. No one tells you the 5 stages of grief do not come in order, and they do not have a statue of limitations. Work still has to be done, deadlines still have to be met, and the universe does not care one bit that you are only a fraction of what you were. It is not easy, it is not fair, but it is true.

4. The 5 stages of grief do not happen chronologically.

A while back, a lady named Kubler-Ross came up with the idea that there are 5 stages of grief people experience after suffering a loss. These emotional stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Of course, how and when these stages hit is different for everyone. You may experience only one or all of those, as well as a hundred other possible feelings. I almost wish they each happened, and they happened in a specific order. That way I could wait for one to pass and check it off the list, inching ever closer to acceptance, never set back and always pushing forward. A linear timeline I could point to and say, “this is what I have to survive, this is all that is left to get through this.” As one of my favorite authors John Green has pointed out, the world is apparently not a wish-granting factory. These feelings do not happen in order and on a schedule, they wax and wane as they please. There is no time period after which you will no longer feel these things, no statue of limitations on mourning, no way to know when they’ll hit.

5. The bad days do not ever really go away, and that is okay.

There are days my lungs refuse to take in air. The alveoli protest, and the muscles refuse to expand and contract and relieve me. Days where I gasp and ache for air that only comes in short insufficient bursts. Days when breathing is no longer the autonomous, thoughtless process it should be. Days where I plead with my head and heart to stop thinking long enough for me to inhale, exhale, and repeat. Bad days happen no matter how long I have had to grieve and cope and process.
Some days like that are marked on the calendar — anniversaries, birthdays, holidays. Sometimes I can even plan around them. I have learned it is okay to make time to miss someone on those days. It is perfectly reasonable to take a step back and be sad, because it IS sad. Even if it happened a long time ago it still matters. If it did not matter it would not hurt in such an almighty manner. It is a blessing to know this pain, to have had someone who made saying good-bye so impossibly hard. As the Doctor once said, “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

6. People do not always know how to act around you.

The first time I lost someone who was truly important to me, people just looked at me with sad eyes. No one really said anything to me. A teacher might pat me on the shoulder in what I am sure was an attempt to be consoling, but just as no one teaches you how to get through it, no one teaches your friends and family how to help you through it, either. It is incredibly sucky to understand and accept that, but even the best-intentioned people may not know what to say to you.

7. The universe is not messing with you personally.

I know the world can treat you badly. It is hard and cold and it does not care about you personally. It is hard not to take it personally when bad things happen around you. I lost a few good friends in a short time span and I could not understand how one person could be expected to cope. In fact, I did not know how I could be expected to not become a basket case under the circumstances. I wanted to blame the universe for putting me in an impossible situation, but I realized the universe was not doing this to me personally. I do not believe the grand ever-expanding universe is concerned with the temporary speck of dust that is my life. If you are alive then live, and take solace in the fact that everyone has moments where it feels like the universe has a personal vendetta against him or her. The universe may be screwing you, but I do not think it is personal.

8. You are never ready for big changes, even if you think you are.

You may think you are ready for a big change but I do not think things hit you the exact way you expect — even if you have had time to prepare for it. When the big moments come, I do not think it is possible to prepare. In fact, I believe a lot of times the big moments are not planned; they happen in a second that was supposed to be normal. There is no big flash of light or warning sign to make it distinct from every other ordinary moment. Then the moment that should have been ordinary goes wrong, and you adapt as best you can.

9. You do not ever get to be the same again.

When we mourn, we often forget that we did not just lose them, we lost part of ourselves too. The person we could have been with them, and the future that we now don’t get the chance to have are gone. It is hard to be left behind, a part of you buried with them. Everything changes in an instant you cannot control, and you are left to deal with the aftermath. You change and you long to keep them alive. It is why I write about them, because it helps keep them alive and with me. Which I know may sound crazy, but I do not think it actually is.
I want to remember the people I love and I want to keep talking about them because staying silent about their lives seems worse than death. I know staying silent is how some people choose to deal with loss, and that is okay. Everyone deals with it differently, and there is no wrong way to do it. I could not stand to let death take away the good memories I have of someone or make the time I spent with them seem less important. Even too-short lives can be good lives. I choose to remember them because I know that when I grieve it is because I got to love someone, and nothing can make that weightless. I learned it is okay that you do not get to be the same, because I am forever grateful, blessed, and honored to have been part of their life. I would not change being someone who got to know that love to be someone who does not know grief — even though there are days where the pain was so great I thought it would kill me, and a few where I hoped it would.

10. You become thankful for the days you can think of them and smile.

When you first lose someone, it is hard to imagine that it will ever stop hurting or that you will ever survive it. Mostly what I have learned is it does not get better necessarily, it just gets….less. But it will hurt less, and it can survive be survived. As irreparably broken, gutted, hollow as one may feel, it does not kill you. Which is actually almost cruel. While it may feel as though a dementor has sucked every last hint of happiness from your chest, you will have days where you think of them and you do not cry. There will even be days you smile while you remember them. I have learned to be thankful for those days, which fend off despair like my personal little patronus charm. I know that is what they would want for me, and how they would want to be remembered — with love and joy instead of pain and tears. I do my best to honor their life and remember them, and while it has weathered me I am stronger for withstanding the storm.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

We Miss You Bobby Lee

This weekend was one you would've loved. We talk about you, laugh about the ridiculous memories of you, and we miss you. We miss you terribly. Heaven better have some amazing snow.. or maybe cloud-boarding. I'll be anxiously waiting till the day we get to ride with you again. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Life Without.

The one year mark has come and gone.

Fourteen ever changing months without Bobby. As the days, weeks, and months have passed... things are different. We all still have our moments, those will never stop. But now there is a new pain that fills my heart. We are learning how to live without Bobby. 

He still crosses my mind every passing day. For that, I am thankful. It hurts knowing not to expect him anymore. To no longer wonder where he is, why he isn't at the dinner table or on the couch beside me. The confusion has somehow left my subconscious and I now know, he's not coming back. 

Getting caught up in the day to day routines and the simple struggles of life have distracted me. I can relate when my mom says she doesn't want to let go, and doesn't want people to forget. It's astonishing how quickly time has passed. How the heartache has slowly eased. How we can talk about him casually and laugh instead of cry. 

I hope anyone reading this will always remember the sweet boy who was taken too soon. Always remember his laugh and his signature smile. Always remember that he loved you, loved everyone he knew. And remember that life has and will go on... but he is forever with us. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Team BobbyStrong

The Dirty Dash has come and gone. This year we organized the first annual "BOBBYSTRONG" team. Doing something fun, messy, and challenging was the best way to honor Bobby with a smile on our faces. We've done so many wonderful events raising awareness and getting the word out- but this one was purely for the fun of it. He would have LOVED it. Our team dressed in a pirate theme thanks to some pretty great inspiration.

Bobby floating the Boise River- Summer '12

The BobbyStrong team filled up quickly and we ended up with 20 dirty dashers! We sported some pretty awesome team shirts, eye patches, and tattered shorts.

The siblings
An awesome day for our family

Everyone had such a great time at the Dirty Dash- my parents even ran with us! I can only imagine what Bobby would have worn and how entertaining he would have been barreling through the mud. This was the perfect place for us to have some fun, let loose, and have a reason to laugh together again... muddy teeth and all.

For those of you who might be wondering where "BOBBYSTRONG" came from, check out the letter below. Written by Conor Cook.