This is the day I turn thirty-five. Thirty-five is also the age my big brother, Tim, was when he died. In fact, he died only 19 days after his 35th birthday. It’s a fact I can’t forget on this day that is supposed to be a celebration.
Whenever someone dies “before their time,” they become frozen in time. We don’t have the benefit of seeing the arc of their life and the many changes they might have gone through. Instead our image of them remains forever frozen on the moment of their death. My brother is forever thirty-five to me. I can remember him as a rambunctious child, a rebellious teen, an energetic and artistic twenty-something, but thirty-five – the time when he was just beginning to figure himself out and settle into a life – is how I will always remember him. Today is the day I turn thirty-five, and from now on I will always be the older (but never the big) brother.
This is also the day – the date, really – that marks the mid-point between the anniversary of his birth (Feb 4) and that of his death (Feb 23). I don’t know if someday my feelings about it will change – if the impact of his loss will grow softer over the years – but it’s something I can’t help but remember today. It’s a period of mourning for me, but in the midst of mourning there is this celebration of my own life and existence. I don’t know how to feel about it, and so my feelings are a little confused and mixed.
I don’t mean for this to be a sad day, and it won’t! But these are the things I grapple with in the wake of the loss of one of the most important people in my life. It’s these things that make me continually undone – to borrow Judith Butler’s idea – by his loss, but only, as Butler points out, because I was – we all were – completely undone by his presence.