By Kristine Flores
It happens around the same time every year. Summer is in the rear view, and seemingly everyone is waxing poetic about the crisp air, the turning leaves, and the supposedly perfect weather. While the excitement for Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the headliner to many conversations, I secretly wish I could skip it. Skip it all.
You know, it wasn't always that way. During the holidays ten years ago, my family had reason to celebrate. My younger sister, who had been hit by a car and had been in a coma, woke up a few weeks prior. And my younger brother, who was in Iraq, was scheduled to come home in 2 weeks. We had lots to be thankful for.
The day after Christmas, a black car with government plates pulled up to the front of my parent's house. Two soldiers dressed in their Class A uniforms slowly got out of the vehicle and quietly made their way up to the front door. "The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret…." It is in that moment our lives changed for ever.
My 18 year old brother had been killed. It felt like someone had reached into my chest and grabbed my heart and just started squeezing. It hurt so much. I was in shock. I was in disbelief. I was numb. I think I cried more in those first few months than I had cried my entire life. It was all I could do to get through each day. Simple things, like going to the grocery store or to a restaurant were virtually impossible as they were hijacked by my emotions. Public meltdowns became the norm.
I wish I could say losing someone so close to me was the worst part. Unfortunately, it wasn't - it's what happened after that. It's the unbearable grief and fractured family dynamic. It's receiving self help books from well intentioned friends with inscriptions like 'everything happens for a reason,' or 'he's in a better place.' It's the helpless feeling and the realization things will never ever be the same.
Ten years later, my loss is every bit as painful today as it was then. It's just easier to manage. Every milestone I pass in my life is a constant reminder that I am getting older, and he is not. He will never graduate from college. He will never get married. He will never have children. And he will never see me do any of those things, either.
Every year at this time, with the crisp air, the turning leaves, and the perfect weather, I still secretly wish I could skip it. Skip it all.