Ten years ago today I was driving like a bat out of hell up US 81. I had talked to my mom ten years ago yesterday and she told me that she thought it was very important that I make the drive.

My brother was sick, had been for a long time. We left Raleigh at around 9am, things seemed serious, but still kind of okay. While I was driving I thought about how awesome it was going to be to see Rob and maybe play guitar with him for a couple of days. I was doing freelance work at the time and was totally stressed out about having deadlines and all sorts of people counting on me to deliver work; I needed a break anyway. When I left the house, these were my thoughts, that things would work out okay, because I wanted them to.

There’s a point during the drive that I’ve made so many times where I know exactly how long it’s going to be before I get home to my folk’s. Traffic is dodgy on 81 and you can never really judge it but once you hit 15 through PA it becomes easier to gauge. I usually call at this point to let everyone know that I’m on track, most times I get my mom and she says something like “You’re making really good time” even if I’m not making good time at all.

Ten years ago though, it was totally different. My aunt Tina answered the phone instead of my mom which struck me immediately as though “maybe they are having a barbecue or something, sounds like there’s a lot of people at the house..” I asked her what was up and while I didn’t know it at the time I was putting her in a horrible position. She really couldn’t say anything so I asked her to let everyone know that I was just a few hours out.

What I didn’t know, at that moment or thereabouts; was that my little brother was in the process of moving on from this world.

When we arrived at the house it was a nightmare scenario. I’d brought my dog Cooper, then just a puppy, with me to NY and I had to leave him in the car barking like mad while I walked up to the porch where everyone was sitting. Everyone was in some state of crying or consoling. My brother was already gone when I finally got home, his body already taken from the house.

There’s no good comes of holding on to grief. I learned it in the thirty seconds it took to work up the courage to hug my father for (what seemed like) the first time in my life. The following weeks were an avalanche of firsts.

Watching my brother in the time he had left where he didn’t know what the future would bring, the way that he kept playing and loving and pushing himself. The impact he had on me is greater than any other person I’ve ever met. To say that a day has gone by where I haven’t thought about him is foolish because in the end I know that I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for him. He showed me how to live a life.

I miss my brother.

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