Tiny baby with the cutest cheeks – always a goof (far right)
Front left with so many cousins – look at that face!
His favorite outfit since age 2 – always smushed by cousins
My high school graduation – Macbook pictures while visiting him in college – accidental matching at Thanksgiving – after watching me play in a field hockey tournament
Last Christmas before moving to SLC, he had perfected the soft smile – my wedding in May 2014
On September 16, 2016, my sweet, goofy, Jesus-loving brother breathed his final breath on Earth at just 25 years old.
It has now been 11 days since then, and it has taken me that long to put my feelings into words.
Having studied psychology in college, I know the stages of grief by name: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It isn’t until something like this happens that a person really understands these stages & they don’t come in stages. It’s not as though you spend five days in denial and then switch to being angry for a month and then bargain for a week, etc. Sometimes you can feel all of these things in one day. It’s incredibly overwhelming and then someone asks, “How’re you doing?” and you want to say “When? Right now, or in 30 minutes? Because it will probably change.” Grief is an umbrella term for unstable, emotionally wrecked confusion and devastation.
I am grateful to have seen my brother after he passed so denial was not a factor for me. While incredibly difficult, this made it real and solidified in my mind. The first stage I experienced was more like shock.
From finding out he was in the hospital to him passing was about 24 hours. We were in the car driving to the hospital in Cleveland from Columbus when it happened. This was terrible at the time, not being there. Guilt was the most powerful emotion I felt at this moment and sometimes it still hits me – living in Salt Lake, we hadn’t made it in time and I was devastated. 11 days later, I am developing a different perspective.
I know from Scripture that God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and this has been applied to my life to handle many difficult circumstances. It is incredibly important for me to know in this present one. I’m not entirely sure why it would be good for me to not be there, but I can speculate. It may have been too much for me to handle, being in the room. Maybe Quinn would have felt pressure to not be at peace, for me, if I was there. I wouldn’t want that for him. Maybe there is no explicit reason, it just happened that way and I have to move past it.
When you’re grieving, it’s a battle to not think of what could have been. I have to fight this daily. I don’t give in to thinking what if I had been there. I am very grateful that I was put on speakerphone when he was breathing on his own after the ventilator had been removed, and I prayed my big brother’s “last rites” prayer. I will hold that memory dear forever. I ushered my brother into Jesus’ arms. That is special. Instead of entertaining thoughts of frustration, I instead combat with ways this moment was made special for my brother and me. I knew he could hear me, and he knew I was there.
Today, I am back in Salt Lake City after more than a week in Ohio and I find peace in reflecting on my favorite memories with my older by two years brother. All of the Christmases, birthdays, Easters, childhood family vacations, and little memories I have with him are so precious.
We were always very different – I was strong and stubborn, he was more gentle and kind. He was always confident in who he was, completely unconcerned with what people thought of him – wearing gym shorts under his jeans because that was most comfortable, and dressing up was his least favorite thing. I, on the other hand, struggled with what people thought of me, and still do. Appearances mean more to me than they should. I always envied that freedom in him. He wore flat bills with his messy hair and these huge red Nike shoes with the reference to his favorite verse written on the backs – Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” He was bold and brave even if he didn’t know it. If you spoke to him, he made you feel like you were the only one in the world that mattered. He just wanted to know people and let them know they were loved. As little sisters do, I thought certain things (like his clothing choices and how he’d push my buttons all the time) were annoying, but secretly, I learned a lot from him.
Quinn went through a lot in his life with an amazing amount of courage. He had two liver transplants, needed constant hospital visits to draw blood, and was required to take anti-rejection meds his entire life. He was allergic to milk (not just lactose-intolerant but seriously allergic- can you imagine?!) but he never complained. He lived his life loving people completely and unconditionally. I feel truly blessed to be his sister.
My favorite thing to think about now is my goofy brother in Heaven with Jesus and my Grandpa Frank who died on August 2nd at 94 years old. I imagine them playing golf (my grandpa’s favorite activity) and Quinn learning to golf in his gym shorts and cut off t-shirt with a flat bill hat sitting on his ruffled hair. This image makes me giggle because of how different they were on the outside, but how endearing their relationship was and how similar they were at the heart level. They both loved so genuinely.
I know the next year will be a process, as will every day after. I have always found it helpful to work through things by writing, whether it’s on a laptop or a journal. Having a blog has been massively helpful for my emotional health. My desire is for people to read these things and know about my brother, but also so they can know if they are dealing with grief, they are not alone.
When you lose a close family member, you realize how important community is. The community we have in Ohio among family & close friends and the amazing people we have grown close to in Utah have been the most amazing blessing during this difficult time. The group of girls I have in SLC sent flowers to Ohio for me. The number of people that showed up to the memorial was overwhelming. The company I work for has allowed me to take as much time off as I need and sent flowers to my home. My husband, he has been my rock. I cannot imagine having to go through something like this without him. God has blessed me abundantly and continually reminds me that it is okay to not be okay. Especially right now. But even when people have moved back to normal life and I spend a whole day crying – I am sure this will happen – it’s still okay.
This scripture has been on my mind and has helped me process the past two weeks – there is a time for everything.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”