Dear Brian,

Three years ago last night, on the Fourth of July, we were together as a family for the last time and we watched the movie “Up.”  I spent last night watching that movie again… for the first time since I saw it with you that night in 2010.  I really loved it the first time but watching it again last night there were so many things that stood out to me and seemed more fitting to my life now than I could have ever possibly imagined when I first watched it with you just 3 months before your death.

Carl was heartbroken after Ellie, the love of his life, died.  He was hanging on to pictures, their house and their belongings so tightly as if letting them go meant letting go of her as well.  When Carl and Ellie met as children, Ellie had shown him her “Adventure Book.”  It contained pictures of things that excited her and places which she planned on visiting.  Following the page that said “Stuff I’m Going to Do” was nothing but empty pages she had saved for documenting all the adventures she was going to have.  Upon getting married, Carl and Ellie had planned on visiting those places together and finishing her book; but things (and life) got in the way.  They continually had to dip in to their adventure money to fix the car, fix the house, etc… things always seemed to come up and push their trip off further and further.  Carl had always wondered if he let Ellie down by not getting her to South America for their adventure and helping her fill those empty pages.  That is, until he took a look at her book one more time and saw that after the “Stuff I’m Going to Do” page she had added pictures of their life together; pictures of their wedding, shared birthdays, shared laughter, them holding hands in the park and of them sitting side by side in their comfy chairs in their living room.  No adventure to South America but yet she didn’t regret a single thing because she had loved Carl and she had so treasured her life with him.  Knowing her time was coming to an end, she had written him one last note and ended the book by signing, “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one!  Love, Ellie.”  It was that note that seemed to finally allow him to see that he hadn’t let her down at all and that it really was OK for him to let go.   As he looked around the house you could intensely feel him coming to the realization that it was now only a shell of what it used to be… after all, they were just things. He’d been hanging on to something that was holding him back.  The pictures and furniture and house he shared with Ellie were not Ellie herself; she now lived in his heart and his memory and by letting go of those things he was free to continue living his life without her.

I have so much trouble letting go of things that belonged to you because some small part of me feels as though by doing so that I’m betraying you or letting you slip further and further away from me.  Unlike Carl, I’m not ready to completely separate Just as Carl had been burdening himself with the thought that he had let Ellie down by never making it to South America, I’ve been burdening myself with the thought that I let you down by not being able to save you. And while I know that you want me to continue living and have new adventures, I’m still finding that I’m holding back yet.  There are times yet when I find myself feeling so guilty for enjoying myself or having a good time or even smiling… because a tiny part of me feels as if it is a betrayal.  I know in my heart that it isn’t, but it feels that way.  I’m getting better… just very slowly.

Want to know something amazing?  When we finished the movie we turned the TV to a channel broadcasting a 4th of July concert in Philadelphia.  Literally a second after we clicked on that channel I we saw Grace Potter on the stage strapping on her acoustic guitar saying, “This is a song for a friend who left us too early.”  I knew immediately that she was about to sing “Stars.”  I had posted that song on this blog a while back because it has been so meaningful to me since losing you.  When she finished the song she said, “That goes out to anyone out there that is missing someone on this 4th of July.”  And I sure am missing you, Brian.

Love,
Laura

p.s.  A very special thank you to John Tyler and Lindsay for letting me borrow their copy of the movie “Up.”  Meant the WORLD to me to see that movie again! 🙂

Sitting at our campsite in Bed Bend National Park looking up at the bazillion stars in the sky this song, and Brian, kept running through my head.  It’s true– each time I look up at the stars I wonder where he is now…

“Stars”

Written by Grace Potter

I lit a fire with the love you left behind,
And it burned wild and crept up the mountainside.
I followed your ashes into outer space
I can’t look out the window,
I can’t look at this place,

I can’t look at the stars,
They make me wonder where you are
Stars,
Up on heaven’s boulevard
And if I know you at all,
I know you’ve gone too far
So I, I can’t look at the stars

All those times we looked up at the sky,
Looking out so far,
We felt like we could fly.
And now I’m all alone in the dark of night,
The moon is shining,
But I can’t see the light,
And I can’t look at the

Stars,
They make me wonder where you are
Stars,
Up on heaven’s boulevard
And if I know you at all,
I know you’ve gone too far
So I, I can’t look at the stars

Stars,
Stars,
They make me wonder where you are
Stars,
Up on heaven’s boulevard
And if I know you at all,
I know you’ve gone too far
So I can’t look at the stars.

While Brian and I never had a special connection to this song when he was alive (aside from growing up listening to Jimmy Buffett with our Mom) it now has a very powerful affect on me and can bring me to big tears in mere seconds.

On Saturday, October 16th, 2010 we were headed from Red Wing up to Brooklyn Park to clean out Brian’s condo…  only 3 days after I’d learned of his death.  In the car with me was my Mom, my Dad and Brian’s good friend Chad… he had graciously offered to help us out.  It was only an hour drive but it felt like it was taking forever… but on the other hand I was grateful for that as I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get there.  We had no idea what we would encounter there– after all, the last people to have been there were the police and the coroner.  We didn’t know if Brian had already packed his things up (we half expected that), if there would be any visible signs of the decomposition or, honestly, what his home would smell like as he’d been found a week after his death.  I was absolutely terrified of what we would see, smell and feel.

Chad was working hard to keep us all distracted and decided to play DJ for a while.  He plugged in his phone and started picking songs for each of us.  I don’t actually recall what song was picked for me, but he played a John Hiatt song for Dad and for Mom he chose “Come Monday” because she always loved Jimmy Buffett.  The song started and soon enough we were all singing along and fighting back the tears but yet smiling in the great moment we were sharing.

To this day, heading this song brings me right back to that moment in the car and I find myself crying pretty quickly.

Tonight I will be going with my good friend Marcy to see Jimmy Buffett in concert thanks to her sister, Tamara, who has given us all tickets.  I’ve never seen him live and can’t wait!  While the concert is sure to be an absolute party I know there will be a 4 minute period at some point in the concert, when “Come Monday” is played, that I won’t be able to help but be transported back to that day in 2010.  Like then, I’m sure I’ll shed a few tears but will also be smiling at how even on that day, just for a few minutes, we were smiling.

There are many days when words fail me… songs like this help me along.

“To Where You Are”

Songwriter(s): Richard Marx, Linda  Thompson

Who can say for certain
Maybe you’re still here
I feel you all around me
Your memories so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You’re still an inspiration
Can it be
That you are mine
Forever love
And you are watching over me from up above

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn’t faith believing
All power can’t be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
‘Cause you are mine
Forever love
Watching me from up above

And I believe
That angels breathe
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up
To where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile
To know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

I know you’re there
A breath away’s not far to where you are

 

“Goodbye”

Music and Lyrics by Patty Griffin

Occured to me the other day
You’ve been gone now a couple years
well, I guess it takes while
For someone to really disappear
And I remember where I was When the word came about you
It was a day much like today the sky was bright, and wide, and blue
And I wonder where you are
And if the pain ends when you die
And I wonder if there was
Some better way to say goodbye
Today my heart is big and sore
it’s tryin’ to push right through my skin
I won’t see you anymore
I guess that’s finally sinkin’ in
‘Cause you can’t make somebody see
By the simple words you say
All their beauty from within
Sometimes they just look away
But I wonder where you are
And if the pain ends when you die
And I wonder if there was
Some better way to say goodbye

Beautiful. 🙂

WHY

Songwriters: Shamblin, Allen / Mathes, Robert

You must’ve a been in a place so dark, couldn’t feel the light
Reachin’ for you through that stormy cloud
Now here we are gathered in our little home town
This can’t be the way you meant to draw a crowd

[Chorus]
Oh why, that’s what I keep askin’
Was there anything I could have said or done
Oh I, had no clue you were masking a troubled soul, God only knows
What went wrong, and why you’d leave the stage in the middle of a song

Now in my mind I keep you frozen as a seventeen year old
Roundin’ third to score that winning run
You always played with passion no matter what the game
When you took the stage you shined just like the sun

[Chorus]

Yeah, yeah, yeah

Now the oak trees are swayin’ in the early autumn breeze
The golden sun is shining on my face
The tangled thoughts I hear a mockingbird sing
This old world really ain’t that bad a place

Oh why there’s no comprehending
And who am I to try to judge or explain
Oh, but I do have one burning question
Who told you life wasn’t worth the fight
They were wrong
They lied
And now you’re gone
And we cried

‘Cause It’s not like you, to walk away in the middle of a song

Your beautiful song
Your absolutely beautiful song

Sweet Old World (written by Lucinda Williams)

Album: Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris

See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world
See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world

The breath from your own lips, the touch of fingertips
A sweet and tender kiss

The sound of a midnight train, wearing someone’s ring
Someone calling your name

Somebody so warm cradled in your arm
Didn’t you think you were worth anything

See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world
See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world

Millions of us in love, promises made good

Your own flesh and blood
Looking for some truth, dancing with no shoes

The beat, the rhythm, the blues
The pounding of your heart’s drum together with another one
Didn’t you think anyone loved you

See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world

See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world

Dear Brian,

I haven’t written you in a while. Certainly not for a lack of things to say, I assure you. I know need to write more often; these letters seem to help me put together my thoughts more easily than just talking out loud to you when I’m alone.

My birthday was last week and I experienced so many mixed emotions about it. The most prominent thought being I should feel guilty for ‘celebrating’ another birthday without you. You won’t have any more birthdays so I just can’t shake the lack of desire to acknowledge my own.

I also find myself, at age 39, comparing myself to others and where they are at in life and am seeing my own accomplishments—or lack thereof—as supremely inferior. I didn’t finish college. I’m divorced. No children to brag about. Barely make enough money to sustain myself let alone provide any excitement. I’m merely in a survival mode—fighting each and every day to not succumb to the same fate as you. We were so similar that I feel even if I were to achieve the same academic success you had… where would it land me? All that knowledge and experience didn’t bring you any more hope for your future so would it be any different for me?

My biggest hurdle is finding my way out of the depression. I had it before I lost you, as you knew very well. However it has only grown in the past 2 years. It makes seeking out new relationships so very hard! On one hand I very much would like to find a special person with whom I can share my life, but on the other hand I feel as though I don’t deserve that happiness until I “fix” myself first. I explained it to my therapist this way. If you’ve ever been to an animal shelter you know there are pets of all shapes, sizes and ages. The dog whose description reads: “still not housebroken, some behavioral issues, health issues, history of biting, etc.” will likely have less luck finding a home than the perfect-looking pet in the next cage who has already learned to pee outside and has yet to bite anyone. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t believe they won’t find a home; in fact, they would be the kind of dog I would be most likely to take home myself. But I do recognize that it takes an extremely special kind of person to open their home and their heart to a special needs animal. I feel like the 3-legged, diabetic 12-year old black lab who requires insulin and much patience while he learns to trust people enough to not bite. I’m sure my “person” is out there somewhere… but I am questioning whether or not I deserve them yet? Do I need to wait until I have fewer days where I can’t stop thinking about losing you and cry myself to sleep? Do I need to first get to a place where I’m less of an emotional burden? Every time I meet someone new, whether a new friend or potential date, I immediately begin to dread the time when some important things will be revealed: the smattering of scars on my arms, legs and chest are from decades of a crippling depression that resulted in (and sometimes continues to result in) self-inflicted wounds, I see a therapist every week and am on a cocktail of antidepressants oh, and by the way—I’m still mourning the loss of my brother who killed himself 2 years ago. Not a ringing endorsement of me I fear some would say.

If there is one thing I’ve learned since your death it is that people are not comfortable with grief, sadness or depression. All of which I have experienced in spades since you left us. That leaves me with a few options: I can hide away by myself where I am free to express my feelings as openly (and as often) as I want. Or I can try and force myself into the company of others where I am painfully aware of myself and filter what I do or say so as to not make anyone uncomfortable. I talk about you often—about YOU, not your death. I very much need you to continue to be a part of my daily life in this new form you have taken but I can see the look of discomfort appear in others’ eyes when I mention your name. It’s a look that seems to say, “Wow, still talking about this, huh? Isn’t it about time you moved on to something new?” Those looks are the reason it is far easier to stay home some days.

I will continue to go to my weekly therapy sessions and I always diligently take my medications and I am becoming better about expressing myself and about setting healthy social boundaries for myself as well. So while reading this might give the impression I am about to fall apart, I would like to clarify that it is a testament to my continued efforts to hold myself together.

I miss you, Brian.

Love,
Laura

p.s. this song from the TV show “smash’ keeps sticking with me.  most days, i feel just like the piano in this story– i might be “missing a few keys” and often be a little “out of tune” but i am looking for that one special person who sees past that and will take the time to find out that i still have something beautiful to give.

🙂

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