Today I'm flying alone up to Minnesota.
Most trips home, I sit at the airport full of excitement and a full agenda on my mind. But today, as I wait to board a plane that will carry me home, I'm feeling more subdued.
The days ahead won't be filled with my usual Minnesota bucket items. My only goal: to soak up my brother.
The boy who played Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles with me in the washer and dryer, dressed me like a tiny skater in 4th grade, and saved me from all the dark and scary things in my childhood. For a few months after my parents divorce, we shared a room. We'd lay in our bunkbeds and pretend we were Brendan and Brenda from 90210. I took my cues from him on what was cool and what wasn't. Watched him be the nicest guy ever to everyone, even the kids everyone else didn't think twice about.
To know him is to love him, as is made so obvious by the outpouring of love and support and well wishes since he went into hospice this week. A Facebook page full of memories displaying how much of an impact he made. And not the kind that happens all the sudden when people know someone is dying, but a genuine, real life testimony of a life lived so well.
He's been my hero since I was old enough to know what that meant and I'm scared a my world without him in it.
It's been hard to be miles away with Life demanding to be lived, taunting me with the way it keeps passing no matter how much I beg the moment to freeze. The kids want to eat, laundry calls from the corner. There is little room for the crushing grief that looms right on the outskirts of my consciousness, which is a blessing and a bit of a curse.
My natural inclination when life hands my family a steaming pile of unfairness is to pretend that if I wait long enough, refuse to acknowledge the reality, the entire thing will go away.
Aaron will be healthy and we will be back to planning a vacation to see each other.
He will stay.
The ease with which I can ignore reality is what makes me the kind of person you want in the room when you get bad news. I can hold the world together while holding you up as you process the way your life was just rocked. Give you time to find your sea legs.
I've done that a lot this year, watched others get devastating news while my own emotions swim somewhere underneath.
But they can't be suppressed forever.
These feelings need to be felt and it does no honor to my brother and his incredible life for me to ignore how brave and graceful he has handled his lot.
I'm going home.
Not for the kind of trip that restores my soul, but for the kind of trip that will forever alter the very core of who I am.
I'm holding fast to the lessons Aaron taught me by letting me watch him live his life and chasing the light ahead.
That light will chase away the dark.