An Update

My brother is dead.

Sometimes I have to say those words to myself over and over again, just so I can finally start believing them. My older sister said, for her, saying them to herself wasn't enough. She had to say them out loud. She needed to hear them in order for their reality to full set in.

I'm getting to the point where saying them to myself isn't enough, either. I have to say them out loud too. And not just so that I can hear them, but so that others can hear them as well.

Just last night I was at dinner with an old high school friend who is also working in NYC this summer (I just moved here Monday). We talked for about an hour while eating our delicious NY pasta and sipping our wine. The conservation covered everything from boys to school to careers to study abroad and back...everything besides family relationships.

Which is odd for her, considering how important her family is to her. Every time we talk on the phone or grab dinner (when we're finally in the same city) the first thing she mentions is almost always her family. So you can imagine my surprise when we both went about an hour without saying a single word about our families.

Of course, however, I saw the fear and discomfort in her eyes. People keep measuring their words around me these days. They're very careful not to mention their families, especially any great things happening with their siblings or even their parents.

I don't blame them, honestly. If the tables were turned I'm sure I too would feel a similar fear and discomfort. I too would measure my words.

But since I am on the opposite end of the table, I'm doing my best to show everyone I've encountered in the past month that it's okay to be cautious. It's okay to be fearful or uncomfortable around me - but it's unnecessary.

I eventually mentioned Zach to my friend last night. I wanted to be the one to bring the situation up because I knew she wouldn't dare. When I gave her an update on how my family and myself were coping in the past few weeks, the fear and discomfort instantly left her eyes. "I didn't know how to bring it up," she explained, "I didn't - I don't...um...I don't even know what to say..."

If I've learned anything in the past month, it's that there really is nothing you can say. There is no magic word that will wipe away our tears or erase our pain for good. Because with all of those words, those magic words, none of them are magical enough to bring him back to life. And that's something that I'm forcing myself to realize more and more every day.

I think the thing that hits me the hardest is realizing that I will never see him again. Sure, I went a long time without seeing him when he was in college, and I was still in high school living at home. I went an even longer time without seeing him once I started school at Notre Dame, and he left college and was in and out of treatment centers. I went days with unanswered text messages and phone calls, weeks with unanswered letters, and months without so much as seeing his face for five seconds or hearing his voice. But now, as I'm sitting here in my new New York City apartment, the thing that hits me harder than a ton of bricks is realizing that I will never be able to see my big brother again.

But. And that's a huge but. But in spite of all this, I know that although I will not see him again on earth, I will be seeing him in another way. A way that many people on this planet do not acknowledge in the slightest.

I will see my brother in a place where "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain," a place where "the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). One day I will see my big brother, my best buddy, in a place which God has prepared for him, for my grandpa, for my uncle, and for all others who have passed away and will pass away - all of us. It is a place meant for each and every one of us, regardless of whether or not we know Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am."

I know my brother is with Jesus.

Zach, I know you're safe.

The past month has been the craziest emotional roller coaster of my life. I've never experienced so much sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, and everything else in between in such a short period of time.

What gets me through is what has always gotten me through - my parents, my grandma, my older sister, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and my best friends. Praying the rosary. Reading my bible. Journaling. Blogging. Reading a book. Working on some internship training. Reading the newspaper. Anything to distract myself.

Yet as I attempt to distract myself day in and day out, I realize that distracting myself can only get me so far. This morning I was dressed in business formal attire having coffee with a few of my bosses for the summer. This afternoon I was having lunch on Wall Street, sitting in a room full of undeniably intelligent, powerful, inspirational people. As I was sitting there, in a little cafe around the street from my new apartment, I took a look around at these inspirational people. I'm not sure if any of the people I made eye contact with in that cafe know God. I'm not sure if they believe that their departed loved ones are in a better place, or if they believe these loved ones are simply gone forever. Yet what I do know is that these intelligent, powerful, inspirational people have only gotten to where they are today because they do not allow obstacles to stand between them and their dreams.

And I will not either.

A lot of people have asked me, "Are you still moving to New York this summer?" or "What about your internship? You can't possibly focus on Wall Street when your brother just died a month ago, right?"

Wrong.

I'll be the first to say that if I didn't know God like I do and I didn't trust him like I do, then no I would not have the courage and dedication needed to continue with my internship this summer. I know it's just an internship, but if I didn't know Jesus, I would be curled up in a ball crying my eyes out, back in my bed, at my home in Dallas, every single day of the summer.

But because I know and love Jesus, there's something inside of me that says, Do not give up. There's something stirring within my soul that gives me the power to get up in the morning, thank God for another beautiful day, put on my business attire, grab my heals, chug some coffee, and head off to work. No curling up in a ball and crying for me. Yes, I have my moments. But overall, throughout this past month, God has given me the strength to push forward every single day.

And another thing, I mentioned earlier that there really is nothing any of you can say to take away my pain or my family's pain right now. There is no magic word that will ever possibly bring my brother back to life. But in a way, that's a good thing, because now Zach is finally at peace. He's where he wanted to be for some time. I've had a few very powerful, vivid dreams about Zach in the past few weeks that I'm excited to share with you soon, once I have the time to process them myself and decipher their meaning - if they have any meaning at all.

But all in all, I want to thank each of you beautiful readers, most of whom I know and love dearly, and some of whom I've never met but have been such faithful wonderful readers throughout my past three years of blogging. Thank you each of you for every kind word, every thought, every prayer, every loving action in the past month. No, the words don't take away my pain, but anything helps. Anything and everything you say and do gives me the strength to push on every morning and every long night.

And every morning you have a choice. Option A or Option B. Option A is to wallow in self-pity, to allow the weight of the world to cause you to crumble, to allow your obstacles to stand between you and your dreams. Option B is just the opposite.

My brother always used to tell me that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. You cannot control the 10%, but you are in charge of the much greater 90%. You have a choice between Option A and Option B. To crumble or to conquer. To cry or to stand up and push forward. It's all in your hands now.

Today, I choose Option B, and I hope you do too.

I love you for reading,
Haley

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