The back story: For those of you who do not know, I lost my little brother on a snowy night in a car accident on 2/19/14, and my Dad on 4/29/14.
A week before my little brother’s celebration of life, I went home to help prepare for the party. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend time at my parents’ house—it was always my shelter from the world. I would go there when I was in college to get away from the stress, or during weekends in high school (I went to boarding school) to hide from boy drama. When they owned a dairy farm, I would milk the cows because it felt like it was my own form of meditation. After the dairy farm was sold, my Dad built a new house on the same property, and I have so many fond memories of us just sitting around and chatting about business or our next creative project. We were always making something—sometimes it was a crazy prop for a photo shoot, sometimes it was a piece of furniture, and sometimes it was something more practical, like an addition to the house. Even though there were no more cows to milk, there was always something to work on and my Dad to keep me company. I am sure there are many brides out there who know the feeling of having their Dad around. Even if Dads can’t fix what’s wrong, they can somehow make everything better.
My little brother’s celebration of life was planned Easter weekend in 2014. Easter was late that year, and spring was, too—it was a really long winter. One of my last memories from that week was picking pussy willows on the way to visit a neighbor with my Dad. It was Good Friday, and we had gone to borrow something for the party. We stopped along the side of the road to pick some pussy willows for my roommate. When we got home, he was working outside, and I was cutting down the pussy willows on the back of his green GMC pickup truck. I can’t quite recall the conversation, but even in the darkest time in our lives after my brother passed, it was enjoyable.
The next day, the celebration of life for my brother went very well. We welcomed 100 of his friends and other people who cared about him, and we all told stories, traded memories, and just raved about the wonderful person we knew Tony to be. The following day was Easter, and we had the biggest Easter dinner I have ever had because of all of the people in town. It was a sad time to be without Tony, but it was a great melding of families, and surely one of the best ways to feel like he was near. We feasted on roast beef and mashed potatoes, two of Tony’s favorite foods, and made a toast to him with fresh milk. We said grace for all that we had left in the world, we told more stories of the wonderful memories we had of him, and we learned to appreciate life more fully than before. That evening, everyone headed home, and the only people left were me and my parents. I’d planned to leave the next day.
The next morning my Mom left for work as usual, and I spent the morning puttering around getting things together, packing, and just enjoying being back to peace and quiet with my Dad. Everything seemed normal—then suddenly, it didn’t. I recently had dinner with an inspiring woman and her husband who helped me grasp these kinds of definitive moments in life. She said God is always with you and always around, and sometimes when you pay attention, he sends you messages. You know when you get a feeling that you just can’t explain? Some people call it listening to your gut, but for me, I think it’s more than that. For me, it is listening to God giving you information. In my case, he was giving me my first warning about what was going to happen to my life. You see, I had left my parents house hundreds of times before, and I generally had no problem leaving. I’d pack up my car, give my hugs and say “I love you,” and then head out. But that day, I just didn’t want to leave. I packed up and went back inside. I spent more time chatting with Dad about things I don’t remember. When I finally decided I really needed to go, I gave him a hug and tears began to stream from my eyes. Things just didn’t feel right. I had a terrible feeling about leaving that day. Little did I know that when I drove away, it would be the last time I ever talked to my Dad in person.
So why am I sharing this story? I am sharing this so that we are reminded to listen—to be open for God to touch our lives. I am writing this story because it is Easter, and Easter is such a bittersweet holiday for me now. It holds so many good and bad memories that I have to remember to look to my faith and remember each day is precious. I am writing this for all of the people out there on holidays who miss or have lost a loved one, so that, hopefully, they are reminded of their faith and to enjoy the time we have. I hope that even if you haven’t lost someone, you remember to be open to God’s presence. Faith is such a powerful thing—it reminds us to appreciate all that we have, and allows us to believe in the greater plan. I don’t often write personal things about politics or religion because I love working with many different kinds of people, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to believe as I do. But, this Easter, I wanted to share to help those who might be like-minded, and, honestly, to remind myself to continually work on my relationship with God so that someday I can join my loved ones in heaven.
The photos in this post were taken by my dear wedding photographer friend Russell Caron.