From My Head to My Heart
Five years ago when my brother died suddenly from a drug overdose, everything changed. I knew from the moment that it happened that nothing would ever be the same. I didn’t know what that looked like, or how the days ahead of me were going to be. I didn’t know if I would even be able to survive. What I did know was that life as I knew it was over.
There was no warning. No one saw this coming. One day I woke up just like every other day of 32 years, thinking and taking for granted that life goes on—assuming that the people I love will live forever. I had just seen Will the Monday before he died. We had spoken on that Friday. We had made plans and then cancelled them to go to a NBA game in Charlotte on Saturday night. And then Sunday afternoon I got a call from my dad. “Your brother, he’s gone.” I’ll never forget those words. I’ll never forget the fear and panic in my dad’s voice. I’ll never forget the fear and panic that consumed my mind in the moments, days, weeks, and months that followed.
I immediately wanted to go back in time and change everything--change everything so this wasn’t true-- change everything so my brother wasn’t dead. And for some reason my brain allowed that kind of thinking. Like there must be something I can do to bring my brother back. It’s a panic and anxiety I can’t explain. Your mind and your heart are at war with one another. Everything around you seems to be suspended in time except for your mind and it’s going at record speed with thoughts but nothing makes sense. I thought if I could just calm down to think clearly, then surely I could figure it out and make it right.
But the thing is, you can’t. It’s over. He’s gone and there you are with a thousand questions and a million regrets all coming at you at the same time. My heart didn’t let me feel anything because my head had won the war in the initial moments.
But then the shock wears off and reality becomes clear, and eventually your head surrenders to your heart. Sadness doesn’t begin to describe it. A thousand forms of fear and sadness travel their way from your head down to your heart. And when sadness and fear not only make it to your heart, but when they settle on your soul-- it’s debilitating. It’s life changing.
I’d venture to say that when anything reaches your soul like that, it changes you.
It’s was 49 days after Will died that I found myself sober for the first time. I was in rehab and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the shower floor letting water run until it went cold because it was the only time I had alone. Everything that I thought was important was suddenly meaningless. No amount of money in the world was 1. Going to bring my brother back, and 2. Going to get me sober. I didn’t care about all the drama, gossip and petty bullshit that I was tangled up in back in Charlotte. I didn’t care about everyone’s problem-of-privilege of the day. And somewhere over the past five years, I eventually lost the ability to pretend that I care at all about all the meaningless crap we give attention to on a daily basis.
I often think of the girl I was five years ago. I was so miserable. I would often go out of my way to make life more difficult for the people around me. Why? I don’t know. Pick a reason: hurt people hurt people, ego, pride, self-centeredness, victim mentality, misery loves company…and the list goes on.
But the person I used to be didn’t serve me. She didn’t make me happy. I left rehab with a new outlook and a new hope. My brother’s death changed my soul. His death gave me perspective. And no, I don’t always get it right today. I have defects and sometimes they glare, but I am aware and I am sober and with that I can navigate my way to happiness and peace of mind.
If there is anything I know to be true from my head to my heart, it’s this:
Life is short and none of us have any guarantee. People die. Sometimes we get to say goodbye and tell them how much their life meant to us and sometimes we don’t. Be ready for both. Treat everyone like it could be their last day, because it will be one day. Don’t get caught up in meaningless drama. Learn to forgive even when someone isn’t sorry. Don’t place importance on things. Things do not matter. Family matters. Friends matter. Relationships matter. Stuff does not matter. And don’t be difficult. Life is difficult enough. Give grace; give it to others like God gives it to you.
We’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass
Let’s make this walk home a pleasant one.