As a kid, I followed my brother Sean in everything I did. He made up the rules to all of the games we played, I listened to the music that he liked, and I followed him to the same grade school, high school and college.
Sean had already blazed a trail in pretty much everything I did, and he was always there to show me the ropes and act as a safety net. So, when he left home to go to college, I famously said to my Mom, “Now what am I supposed to do?”.
Three weeks ago, I lost my brother at the age of 46. And now more than ever, I am left to ask, “Now what am I supposed to do?”.
Sean was not only my brother, but my best friend. Even though I was three years younger than him, he never excluded me from anything. If he was playing with his friends, they had to accept that I was going to be included.
To be honest, I can never remember fighting with my brother. A fact that, now that I have kids of my own, boggles my mind. I believe there was a disagreement once over me reneging on a Han Solo for Greedo action figure trade, but that is the worst I can come up with.
For me growing up, Sean was the coolest kid I knew. He was stylish (for the 80’s), he listened to “cool” music, he had tons of friends and girls liked him. He was everything I wasn’t. I would never tell him that, of course, but he was the kind of guy that when we walked into someplace together I was proud to say, “I’m with him.”So much of what I am, my likes and dislikes, were shaped alongside Sean. We both loved movies, TV, comic books and music. Supposedly, being a nerd about all of those things is cool now, but it was anything but cool when I was growing up.
Knowing too much about “Star Wars” or being able to talk at length about something like the British TV show “The Young Ones,” was something that I kept to myself when I was younger in order to fit in. But with Sean, all of those things that we loved were like a secret language that only he and I knew.
We could have entire conversations in obscure movie quotes and we would be so excited to share a new song or band that we discovered. I could hear something and immediately think, “Sean will love this.”
It is that relationship that has caused his loss to leave such a hole in my soul. There will never come a day that I discover something new in which sharing it with Sean will not be my first thought. Hiding just out of sight behind all of the things we loved together and all of the happy memories we shared will always be a twinge of sadness.
As we got older, and started our own families, our contact with each other became less frequent. Life always seemed to get in the way. So much so, that my last contact with him was barely a blip, weeks before his death.
I will forever be filled with regret for not forcing our relationship to remain strong, and for not looking after him and being the best friend that he always was to me.
Maybe the sadness and regret I feel every time I think of him will gradually turn into something new. I don’t know. But I will never forget him.
“What am I supposed to do now?” I have no idea. But I will start by keeping my memories of him and the love that he showed me alive for the sake of his family, my family and me.
I love you Sean.