Today is July 26th. Today, if my brother Micheal were still alive, he would be thirty-three years old. I am thirty. When I meet a man who is three years older, the first thing I think about is how he is the same age as my brother. The thirty-three year old man seems familiar - as if he and my brother are part of the same club. Maybe he knew Michael or has a friend who knew him. Maybe they both played Mario on Nintendo or listened to Sublime. A part of me thinks I will always see a bit of my brother in these men who are young enough to be my best friend and still old enough to be bigger than me.
I remember my nineteenth birthday how it felt strange to be older than Michael. I was defying laws of physics. How can a little sister be older than her big brother? I felt burdened. I didn’t know how to be nineteen, because Michael hadn’t done it yet. I needed to wait for him. I wasn’t ready.
During my 20's I started writing and making art about Michael. I wrote about experiencing his death. I wrote about longing and memory. I painted from a personal place, and finally began to process his absence.
This year, when I turned thirty, I realized that I have lived half of my life without Michael. It doesn’t feel natural. It feels like learning to live in a world where the rules don’t make sense. Life without Michael feels somehow less real, and it’s a hard feeling to shake.
I measure life in eras: the before Michael era and the after Michael era. I have friends and family who have lived in both eras. They feel important - like fellow time travelers. They know about the world I come from. We have a secret together. People who don’t know Michael can’t understand, but we know. We feel his absence in the world. I feel it especially on his birthday.
I don’t know what kind of woman I would be if Michael were still alive. But I do know I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without the friends and family who have stepped up along the way to be my big brother. Over the years each has helped me learn how to navigate this world without Michael’s massive arms to feel safe and at home in. Thank you.