I don't often share my personal life on social media. There are some things that I save just for me. But after my summer from hell, I thought I'd break my silence. There are things I need to say, words I want to share. I'm sorry if there are errors in my writing. I didn't take the time to edit or make sure everything was grammatically correct. I just needed to blurt out my feelings and explain to you, my readers and friends, what my life has been like and a VERY valuable lesson I learned recently.
Earlier today, I was sitting at my computer, writing like usual when a song brought me to tears (Cole Swindell – You Should Be Here). The lyrics summed up my entire summer in under 3 minutes and compelled me to write this post.
We take a lot of things for granted.
Time is one thing we pay little attention to until it's too late. We figure there will always be more. It takes something catastrophic and life altering for us realize that there isn't an infinite supply of seconds that we or someone we love will have in this world.
I thought I had forever. Not in the truest sense of the word, I know I'll die someday, but I always figured there would be tomorrow.
I've been living in Florida and away from my big Italian family in Cleveland since 2007. I would visit when I blew in and out of town for book signings, always making sure to put Cleveland on my list for that very fact. Last summer, I told my parents to be ready because we were going to spend the entire summer of 2016 in Ohio to spend time with our family and get back a little time that we'd lost in the last eight years.
I thought it was going to be a trip of a lifetime.
Something that we could remember forever with smiles and laughs. It was supposed to be epic. I was giddy as June approached. We'd packed our bags, planned our summer rental and had everything in order so that the four of us could leave the humid summer of Florida and head back to Ohio to make those memories a reality.
My parents hadn't seen my brother since 2008 and they were most excited to finally be able to hug their son again. With my dad's health issues and money being tight, they weren't able to do it before. But I wanted to give them that chance. The chance to see their parents, my brothers, and all the aunts, uncles, and cousins they missed. My parents were beyond ecstatic. It was almost like the feeling I get at Christmas. You know that whole thing about giving is better than receiving. And I was going to be able to give them some time to spend together.
Our clothes were packed and we were ready for the trip we'd never forget.
But 5 days before we were scheduled to leave for Ohio, my phone rang and changed our lives forever.
My aunt said, “I have bad news. Bad bad news.”
I clutched my chest and replied, “What happened? Is it Grandpa?”
Never did I expect what came out of her mouth next.
“It's your brother. He…he died.”
The next few moments were a little fuzzy – I know I was in shock. My brain didn't wanted to process the news. I started to hyperventilate and asked her over and over again if she was sure or playing a sick joke. She started to scream and cry and begged me to go tell my parents so they didn't have to hear it over the phone.
Brian drove as I sat in the passenger seat, rocking back and forth in tears. I just remember trying to figure out how I was going to tell them that their only son, my only sibling, had taken his last breath.
I'll never forget this summer. Not for the reasons I'd planned, but for the soul crushing sadness that has engulfed me and stolen my breath at times.
Over 90 days have passed and the pain is as real and raw as it was the moment I heard the news.
I've lived with regret, guilt, and sorrow for over 2160 hours and it consumes me at times.
Guilt that I didn't text him back quick enough or that sometimes I silenced his incoming call because I was too busy. Regret that I didn't spend the last 9 years of my life living closer to him. Why didn't I call him more? Why didn't I tell him more often that I loved him?
Why did it have to happen a week before my mom's plane was to land? Even if she could've had ten minutes with my brother before he passed, it would've been something more than she had.
My parents and I weren't the only ones to love my brother. He had one of those personalities. He was that guy. The person everyone wants to be friends with. The one everybody loves. At his funeral, almost every ex-girlfriend he ever had showed up – even those from high school. Friends came out of the woodwork to pay their respects and tell us stories that gave us some brief solace.
My brother wasn't a perfect man, but he was still mine. There's not a moment of the day that he isn't on my mind. Every morning I wake up and for just a second everything is normal, but then it hits me. The new reality that I am now an only child.
But there are two people that will never understand the awesomeness of my brother. He has a son – Mason – he's eighteen and a spitting image of my brother. Everything about him reminds me of Kevin. The way he talks, he acts, he sleeps, and even the food he likes. Then there's Winter, his three year old baby girl. I can't explain the sadness I feel for her. She'll never remember how much my brother loved her. She'll never see the way he looks at her. She was Daddy's Little Girl and she had him completely wrapped around her finger. He won't be there to walk her down the aisle or chase the boys away that had bad intentions. My heart is more broken for them than for myself – I had thirty nine years with him.
I'll never be able to see my brother again. No matter what I do, I can never get back what's lost. I'll cherish every memory I have of Kevin. I'll save everything piece of him I can find. I've shed more tears than I thought was humanely possible over the last three months. I finally understand how people die of a broken heart. It's a real thing, I have no longer doubt that.
Why am I telling you this? I want you to understand how precious each moment your life is and the people that surround you. Don't wait for something horrible to happen before you realize what's important.
So savor everything around you. The people. The moments. The things that are most important in life. It's not the furniture in our homes or the latest fashion piece hanging in our closet. I'd give up every thing I own to have another day with my brother.
Things are just things and in the end, they don't matter.
No one will remember us for what we owned, but how we touched their lives.