Owning Every Minute Is Not Enough

I’ve been neglecting the blog this summer.  When we are raw, sometimes words don’t come readily.

In July, we lost our 17-year-old nephew, Brian, in a car accident.  He was driving home from a friend’s and crashed within hearing distance of home.  We assume he swerved to avoid a deer.  Because he was close to home, his parents and sister heard the crash and were able to be with him until the helicopter arrived to take him to the hospital.  We are eternally grateful that he knew he was not alone.

I thought I was experienced at grief.  I thought I knew what to expect, and how to handle it.  Funny how life can always prove us wrong.  Losing our babies so early, one of the hardest things is how little of them we ever had.  I never understood, and still don’t, why anyone has to lose something without ever really getting to have it.  It seems easier to find meaning in a life lost later.  It seems easier to have more to hold on to, rather than less.  Maybe it is, in some ways.  But it certainly isn’t enough.

Brian’s football coach gave his eulogy.  He talked about how Brian embraced life.  How he lived every minute to the fullest.  That’s true.  All of it.  And it was meant to comfort us.  And it did.  But it wasn’t enough.  This beautiful, loving soul will never get to touch enough lives, no matter how many lives he touched in those seventeen years.  He won’t get to fall in love, to get married, to have children.  He won’t get to see his sisters get married or have children.  He won’t get to be a funny, fantastic uncle.  He did the summer before his senior year.  He won’t win another championship.  He won’t be Homecoming King.  He won’t get to wear a cap and gown.  He won’t become more of whoever he was destined to be.  He won’t get to drag his Grandma to his senior prom, as he insisted he would.

There’s a song by One Republic that makes me think of Brian, every time I hear it.  The first time I heard it after his death, I was in the ladies’ room at an IHOP on the way home from a trip.  I’d spent the weeks since the accident waiting for it to feel real.  I was more deeply in denial than seemed possible.  We had discovered the news via a cousin’s Facebook post of the news article the morning after the accident, and firmly refused to believe it until we were able to contact my grief-stricken brother-in-law, who was still trying to figure out how to tell us.  Despite attending the largest funeral I’ve ever experienced, and hugging over a thousand people, including the entire football team, it still wasn’t real.  I simply could not absorb that this little boy (yes, I know he wasn’t little anymore) was no longer in this world.  But it hit me in the IHOP bathroom, where I sobbed through the song and returned to the table looking like a blotchy wreck.  And it hit me again in a convenience store on the way to work one day, when a local magazine about high school football caught my eye.  I’m pretty sure high school football will hurt forever.  That’s okay.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It will always hurt that Brian isn’t here.  It will always hurt that he didn’t get to grow beyond that handsome football player in his high school colors, no matter how fully he lived while he was here.  And this song will always make me think of him:
I Lived

Hope when you take that jump
You don’t feel the fall
Hope when the water rises
You built a wall
Hope when the crowd screams out
It’s screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay
Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
You give it all you have
And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain…
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say
I…I did it all
I…I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived
Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup
Oh, oh
I wish that I could witness
All your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes
I’ll say
I…I did it all
I…I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

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