Living a Lost Year

This July I became older than my older brother. It’s odd now that I’m older than him I don’t feel any more grown up than when I was younger than him. That has made me really look at my life and what I’ve done, what I want to do, and what I’m scared to do.

My brother passed away ten years ago. He had cancer and he lived almost three years with a terminal diagnosis and still looked pretty much like he always did. It wasn’t until the end that things got bad he became a shell of his former self. I am grateful for those three years because I valued and treasured all the time I spent with him during it. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him or wonder what he would think of me now, but that’s not what’s been on my mind lately.

He died at 34. I turned 34 this year. Our birthdays were exactly ten years and eleven days apart. When he died he had a three year old and a six year old, both boys. I have a three year old and a six year old, as well as a ten year old, all boys. I remember thinking that he always seemed like such a grown up and like he has everything together, even when he was sick. I don’t feel like a grown up even now. I don’t know what I’d do if I got sick, and I don’t know how I’d carry on being a parent knowing I was going to die. But he did. One of the last memories I have of him was explaining to his three year old why he has to be respectful to his mother. His last year was a brave year, braver than I will ever know. So now I ask myself, why are you so afraid? What holds you back? You have a year he never had do something with it.

So I have vowed to live this year my brother never got by not being afraid. I realize that’s a broad statement, and it’s meant to be. I’m not going to be afraid of new situations at my job, I’m not going to be afraid of being the parent that isn’t in the PTA, I’m not going to be afraid of speaking my mind to people. I’m going to stop being afraid that I’ll get cancer and die too. I’m not going to be afraid I don’t measure up, physically and personally. Those are the little things. I’m also going to learn to ride a motorcycle (I was always afraid of it). I’m going to get a tattoo with my best friend (I’ve always wanted to but guess what? Yep afraid). I’m going to let myself realize my dream this year of owning a business and working with my husband. We may not get it started this year, but we are not afraid to plan and to begin any more. I’m going to not be afraid to move far away if that’s where it leads us.

Basically, I’m going to stop giving myself limitations and excuses. My brother only had 34 years to live, and he did a lot. Hopefully I have a lot more to live. But his death gave me the gift of knowing how quickly that can change. It’s cliché to say “life’s short”, but it’s so true and so real. This is the year I owe my brother and myself. I’m ready to live a life without fear.

-Kelly Albrecht