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I am honestly afraid of memories that are only mine. I don’t trust my mind to remember, and I could never possibly scrapbook every meaningful thing that’s ever happened. I can barely remember anything from last week — how the hell can I expect to remember, years from now, decades from now, the inside jokes I had with my brother or the funny things Zoey or Danny once said? I won’t. I could scrapbook 24 hours a day and never catch it all. Having my brother gone breaks my heart, but scares me too, because that means it’s up to me to remember as much as I can… or else it might as well never have happened.

And since I know I won’t — already can’t — remember everything I wish I could, does that mean those things never really happened, or don’t matter?

After someone you love dies, you believe time will help. The more chronological distance you can put between yourself and the loss, the better off you expect to be. You can’t speed up time, but you figure if you hold on long enough, it will get easier.

And for the most part, that’s true. But there’s one thing that only starts to dawn on you as time goes by, and it’s this: the person is really gone. I know, this doesn’t sound very profound, but stay with me. You learn the real meaning of permanence when you go through one birthday and holiday after another, and they’re not there. You learn it when football season starts and everyone else goes to the games, but they’re not there. You learn it when your relatives move from one house to another, and you’re saddened when you realize that one more thing you shared with the person you’ve lost is being relegated to just another memory.

Life keeps happening and memories keep being made… and the one you lost is just not there. And you suddenly realize that time is phasing them out. It’s not intentional — it’s inevitable. You are the one who kept going.

It’s been almost nine months since my brother had to go. Milestones and new perspectives and periods of upset come and go, and with each one I’ve dealt with it and tried my best to move on afterward. But I don’t know if I will ever get accustomed to having my wonderful little brother phased out of my everyday life.

I would never have understood this if I didn’t have to live it. It seems obvious, but even if you know it’s coming, you don’t get it until you’re in it.