Ah, this is not an easy blog post for me to write, but I felt like maybe someone somewhere is going through something similar and somehow me writing about it could help. … That’s the thing about being vulnerable. It is SO hard. But when other people are vulnerable with you, it makes you feel like you’re not alone. Like you have someone there with you, helping you along. And that’s my hope. …That by writing this, you feel like someone else is going through it with you and you’re not alone.
In May of 2021 I found out that my older brother had stage 4 colorectal cancer. Through the summer, he went through chemo and by September they thought he was improving. … Right around Thanksgiving my parents called me and told me that his cancer was worse and he didn’t have long left. This brother lives in California and I hadn’t seen him for about a year and a half. My 2 other brothers who live in Oregon went to see him and his family for Thanksgiving and I was trying to decide if and when I wanted to go see him too. I called them to see how their visit was and they both told me the exact same thing — not to wait.
I booked a flight for about a week later when my parents and another sister were going to visit too. It was hard to see him, fighting for his life. He was really weak and couldn’t do much other than watch tv. It was so hard feeling so helpless. Like, I couldn’t do anything to help or ease the burden. By the end of the trip, I didn’t want to leave… It was really hard to say goodbye. … I got home and had to travel to Oregon for a wedding a week and a half later. While I was on that trip my parents called and told me that my brother had started in home hospice care. … So, we knew it wouldn’t be long. After my wedding, I was super sick with a cold or sinus infection or something. … Christmas morning my parents called and told me that my brother had passed away early that morning. … And I was just in a fog. I still wasn’t feeling good and it was like I couldn’t even process anything. I didn’t take any pictures on Christmas morning (which is crazy for me). And I pretty much just sat in bed all day.
I started feeling a little bit better after Christmas and we celebrated my daughter’s birthday on the 30th. Then the next day, I started having tingly in my feet and legs. … This has happened to me before and it was something pretty serious then so I was not okay. … At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong, but since have found out that it was a Rheumatoid Arthritis flare up. … We found out that my brother’s funeral was going to be on Jan 14th and I was so sick that I couldn’t go, which was REALLY difficult for me.
Now it’s been a year since he passed and it’s been rough. He was 36 years old, married with 3 kids. … And this Christmas just feels different. There have been times all year when I’ve thought of him and his family and just had to take a minute to process. But going into Christmas this year, I’m not excited like I normally am. People keep asking me if I’m ready for Christmas, and they mean well, but the truth is, I’m not ready for it. Yes, we have all our presents bought and wrapped and we have plans to give neighbor gifts and go sledding and look at Christmas lights. … But this Christmas will be hard. … I haven’t spent Christmas with my brother for over 10 years, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t miss him differently this year. … Our family is not the same without him and it’s so difficult to think that he won’t be here this year. … But all I can do is hold onto the hope and the knowledge I have that families are forever and that he is with us even though he’s not physically here. … Family means everything to me and I know this will sound cliche, but when I photograph weddings and families, it means so much more to me than just a paycheck. … It means that I get capture the most joyful and happy moments for your family to have memories of forever. … Before my brother passed, we got his family a digital photo frame and we all found as many pictures of him as we could. We put them all on there so that his family can constantly see photos of him in their home. So his life and memory can be honored and never forgotten.
So, if this Christmas is a little different for you too, if you’re missing someone, even if they haven’t passed away, or if you’re grieving in any way. … Just know, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you, and it’s okay that you’re not excited to open gifts or celebrate. It’s okay to feel how you’re feeling and it’s okay if this Christmas is just different. …
We miss Jake so much and think about him everyday. It’s crazy how life is. You can be here one day and the next day your gone. Hug your loved ones more and cherish every moment is the best advice. Don’t sweat on small things because that’s not what matters!!! Thank you for sharing your story. I made a promise to your brother and we will never let him be forgotten!! Merry Christmas to our Christmas Angel!
Thank you Jennifer. He is definitely one to remember!
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