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Making Meaning in Sorrow, Grief and Loss: A letter to my late brother, his community and beyond

written on 8/28/22

Dear Nathan,

Today is your birthday.

You would be 32 earth years today.

It’s the first birthday since you chose to leave your body, so suddenly, so shockingly… almost one year ago.

The body, as you’ve been teaching me, was merely the clothes your soul wore for a short period of time. As temporary as these human lives are, as short as yours was, I find myself in awe of the human experience, witnessing the depth of this raw ocean of emotion. The deep yearning I have for this story to be oh so different.The shock and devastation that has rocked my world since our last conversation we had. Deeply complex grief.

And yet, somehow, the path forward that feels so unbearable at times, has been lined with precious gems that shine with a brilliant beauty, sometimes hidden, sometimes blindingly bright. I wasn’t expecting this.

I’ve never known such depth of feeling: depth of knowing how precious life really is, how love is actually everything, how hard it is to be seen and vulnerable, how profoundly we impact each other, how much we really need each other - we need community.

The depth of sorrow I can hold in my being, while still accessing unbelievable amounts of joy. All this - in this one body, our temporal vessels where therein lies a multitude of worlds in each of us.

Nathan is with me, constantly. His spirit is constantly making jokes to make me laugh. And we do, laugh a lot together. He makes his dead-fish face at me, becoming a cosmic comic of sorts. Saying: Hey! We get to hang out WAYYY more now that I’m not in a body. I’m with you always. That lil goober! Such little brother energy.

The amazing thing is when I do tap in - he’s there.

Helping me and others near and dear to him heal. Ready to poke fun at the dead flowers sitting by a photograph on his altar.... "dead flowers, eh? Real nice... :)"

After he left this plane of existence, he came to me and made me promise not to blame myself or regret any of the ways I showed up. I told him I would try.

It’s hard - there are times where my heart can’t help but to travel back in time and insert itself into different timelines. What if I had asked him those deeper questions? What if I made myself more available? What if I told him my true feelings about certain choices he was making? What if I loved him harder, better…? I’m so sorry, in so many ways, that I didn’t do all those things, that I didn’t know how, and that I didn’t know how badly they were needed.

The most interesting truth of the matter is that it’s only after losing him, and in processing his death and the seemingly tragic way that he went - that I am able to love in a way that is so unconditional and compassionate.

Only now do I have the patience to be with someone and know what questions to ask.

Only now can I show up for myself, my loved ones and community with a presence that I could have never quite managed before.

Only now can I celebrate each passing moment, truly relishing each breath I’ve been given.

For our breath is the ultimate gift.

And all this - this is a gift Nathan has given me, and it’s the gift that all sorts of loss can give to any of us, if we are open to it. It’s only through knowing ourselves intimately in the reactions of anger, rage, regret - through moments of hyperventilation and panic attacks, and oh - the deepest well of sadness and despair. These unpredictable waves of difficult, complex feelings in the face of loss are part of the journey.

What I’m learning is that through honoring these very human reactions - taking quiet time to FEEL what it all is… with support, with help, with so much love… eventually Grace emerges. This solid center inside of you that is both soft and strong. And over and over again - choosing JOY, choosing LIFE, choosing LOVE - in spite of it the caves of darkness that seem inescapable. There always is the other side, and with grace - we can choose to walk towards it.

Sometimes it’s a constant mantra of:

I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me. I forgive you. I thank you. I love you.

If you’ve lost a loved one you know.

If you’ve lost a loved one tragically or unexpectedly, you know.

If you’ve lost an immediate family member to suicide, you know.

Deep, complex grief often hyper sensitizes us. Our world slows down.

Entering into the death portal with Nathan on his last night deeply changed me. My whole being dropped an octave. The bass line started. I often feel I walk half in this world and half in the underworld, the otherworld…

There’s no way I could have known all of this, had my heart blown to smithereens and then, carefully, slowly, putting all the pieces back together, allowing my tears to grow a soft moss over the surface of my heart, smoothing it back into one piece.

My life means so even more because I’m living it for Nathan too.

Dearest Nate, Nay Nay - Thank you for allowing your life - and most certainly your death - to be my greatest teacher. I thank you, dear brother, for these lessons. I would an instant, trade it all to have you back here, to hug your sweet self and get into a debate about something stupid. Thank you for your unbelievably sweet, open, caring, sensitive heart.

Thank you for the way you allowed Mom and I to hold your hand on your last night.

Thank you for giving us that gift of being together in your final moments.

I honor you with my songs, prayers and tending to all life around me, including my own, in the best way I can. You are remembered and cherished every day, in so many hearts, especially mine.

I love you so fucking much Brother. Always missing you. Always loving you.

I know I’ll see you in the next chapter of our soul’s journey. We are forever bonded by that silver thread of the great universal web of creation.

With you through all time,

Lumi, aka Chelsey, your sister.

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