David, Felicia, and I
David, Felicia, and I

I was thumbing through my notes from my book I started, looking for where I talked about my brother. And for some reason, I guess I hadn’t gotten to that part just yet, and I don’t know why it bothers me but it does. Well, today would have been his 38th birthday, and I can’t believe it’s been 17 years since he was killed in active duty in the Air Force. It happened 8 days after his 21st birthday, and finding out he was killed was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. We’d only gotten close about 2 years prior to his death because we had the same mom but different dads, and we didn’t really get to grow up together. Losing a family member is always difficult, but something about losing him still deeply pains my heart to this day.

I remember hearing how the day our mom was killed he sat on the front porch waiting for her to come pick him up. I guess it was her time to see him and she never made it, so he sat there until it got dark because he didn’t want to believe she wasn’t coming for him. It broke my heart when I heard that, he was 9 when she died so he was a little older and probably more aware of how tragic the situation was. Our grandparents had his birthday party for him that year in lieu of her absence, and I still remember how unenthused he was to open presents without her-birthdays were her favorite thing, she always did something special for us no matter what.

I saw my brother here and there throughout the years, but we never developed a deep friendship because we didn’t live together. It wasn’t until I was in 8th grade, when his grandparents took my sister and me in as foster kids that we really got close. She loved us being there because she got to see him more, and we got to spend time with him that we’d missed out on. I remember him talking about how much he’d wanted to be a big brother and how excited he was to finally be getting the opportunity. He started dating a girl my age and she and I hit it off right away, we’re still friends to this day. I would give anything to be able to have my kids know him, he would be the best uncle because he loved kids so much. I actually got pregnant with my oldest a few months after he passed away and prayed she would be a boy so I could name her after him, I guess God had other plans.

I have so many random memories of my brother, but I think my favorite is the fact that he taught me how to pray. He had my sister and I kneel down on the floor with hands folded in prayer position on our bed, and had us repeat the well-known, “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. I remember asking him if we could tell God anything else or if it had to be that, and he kind of chuckled and said, “Boo Boo, you can tell him anything that’s on your mind”. I was really excited because it felt like such a grown up thing to me to be able to pray. As I got older, he told me how disappointed he was that I wasn’t a boy. That when I came out a girl, he cried because he just wanted a little brother to play with. Makes sense now why he tortured me as a kid, and tied me up as the “Indian” when he and my sister played cowboys & Indians. One of my other favorite memories now, not so much then as a little kid, was that he used to make my sister and me cereal, but would always make sure he took at least one bite as payment for having made us our food.

One year he took my sister to her winter formal because her date backed out at the last minute. He intimidated a boyfriend I’d had one time because he was being mean to me and there was no way David was going to stand for that. One year, my sister and I spent the summer with our father and David sent us a mixed tape of music he knew we’d like because he missed us and wanted us to have ”good tunes to listen to”. He took my sister and I to see Scream when it came out because he knew my grandparents never would, rocked out to Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping any time it came on in the car, snuck us in to play pool at his favorite billiard’s place, and just showed us how to have a good time no matter what. He used to tease my grandma endlessly about a time she misspoke at his high school graduation party. He said to her as she was leaving, “Now grandma, don’t be drinking and driving, okay”? She laughed and said, “David, I don’t do that no more”. Now anyone who knows her, knows she never did, but it was something he never let her live down.

One of my last memories of him was shortly before he went into boot camp. He’d come over to see us and we’d just gotten a video camera so he was playing with it. I was making boxed macaroni and cheese and he decided to record me doing it. I was somewhat annoyed that he was and asked him to stop. But we all know brothers, especially older ones, so he kept recording me. Well, unbeknownst to me, I was making it all wrong. I didn’t particularly care because I was annoyed he was recording me in the first place, but I also didn’t want him telling me how to cook. After I stirred together all my ingredients, he promptly explained to me how I’d done it wrong and then explained in detail the correct way to make it. Let me tell you, 17 years later and I still make macaroni & cheese the way he suggested, which is apparently the “correct way”.

The day I found out he was killed hit me like a ton of bricks. I was attending the high school he’d attended, per his suggestion, and it was Career Day, so I was dressed in a nice black skirt and a blue button-up shirt. My grandparents were apartment managers so having the phone ring early in the morning wasn’t always surprising. I heard my grandpa talking low so my sister and I went out to see who he was talking to. He never looked up until he hung up the phone. By this time my grandma had stumbled down the hall and into the front room as well and asked who was on the phone. He looked stunned, sad, in disbelief, and said, “It was David’s dad, David was killed”. I was so dumbfounded, I didn’t know what to do or think. I looked at my sister and we just started bawling. My poor grandma wasn’t even fully awake yet and looked at my grandma asking repeatedly if he was serious. He hugged her and she cried, we all cried, in shock and not wanting to believe the tragic news. My grandma asked if I still wanted to go to school, and I really didn’t, but I didn’t want to miss my presentation so I thought I could pull myself together. I got to school and sat in the cafeteria with my friends, telling them what had happened. Most of them knew him because he’d gone to the same school. I just kept picturing in my mind the horrific car accident that killed him, over and over, like a broken record. I know I shouldn’t have, but the images wouldn’t escape my mind. I ended up leaving and spent the afternoon at home with family.

The viewing was a couple days later, and I’m still amazed at how at peace I felt going to see him. It didn’t look like him really, he was pretty thin person but the accident caused him to look swollen. I didn’t care though, it was the closure I needed and I didn’t want to leave his side. I just wanted to stay with him as long as I could. I was blown away by how many people were there, he was truly loved by so many. The day of the funeral was harder than the viewing, and I suppose it’s because I knew I wouldn’t be seeing him anymore. My sister sang what is still one of my favorite songs, “On My Knees” by Jaci Velasquez. (And as I just said that, I’m realizing how perfect of a choice that was since he taught us to pray on our knees). The family room was filled, and as my sister sang, the room was incredibly silent. I tried to hold back tears, but I just couldn’t. I started crying, then the rest of the room started crying. That pain still pierces my heart at times, sometimes I still can’t believe he’s gone. I know that day was so hard for everyone, and I love that I still have a relationship with his siblings from his dad’s side. They both have parts of him that I loved, and they resemble him a lot so that keeps his memory alive.

After he passed, I had several vivid dreams of him. I’d never dreamt of anyone else like that, but I was glad he was still in my thoughts. The first dream I had was actually pretty dark. It was supposed to be the day of his funeral and it was night time. A bunch of our family and friends were scattered on the steps in front of a church. I’d glanced over and saw my brother in his car with his head rested on his hands on the steering wheel. I’d asked someone what he was doing and why he wasn’t getting out of his car. They said, “Because he doesn’t wanna be gone”. I woke up right after that and felt really sad. The second dream I had was him, his girlfriend at the time and myself, were walking down a hallway of the high school we went to. She was between he and I, and they were holding hands. I asked why I couldn’t hold his hand and she just said, “Because you’re not allowed to touch him, only me”. I woke up sad from that as well because I just wanted to hug him or touch him somehow and tell him how much I loved him. The last dream was by far the worst, and the last one I had of him. This time he and I were in some building with an Olympic sized swimming pool. We were on the highest diving board, hand-in-hand, walked to the end without looking at each other, and I looked in his direction and said, “I miss you David”, to which he replied, “I miss you too, Boo Boo”, and I woke up. My heart hurt so badly and I woke up sobbing. I tried to go back to sleep and pick up where I left off, but it didn’t work. I cried for a while, wishing it weren’t real, but I just ended up crying myself to sleep.

Losing my mom at the age of 5 was difficult, but I didn’t understand death at the time so it didn’t break my heart the same. Losing my brother has been one of the hardest trials I’ve ever faced in my life. I gave my second son his name as a middle name so I would have a part of him forever. My aunt says my son reminds her a lot of my brother when he was a kid, and that warms my heart beyond measure because I feel like it was God’s way of giving me a part of my brother to have around. My brother had a wild, yet kind and gentle spirit. He was liked by pretty much everyone who knew him. He was funny, loved to have a good time, and make people smile, a lot like our mom actually. He loved Garth Brooks and most country, but he also loved Metallica and some of the most unlikely music-I think that’s one of my favorite things we have in common. He was such a fun person, and I guess that’s what I miss most about him. He always loved criminology and his childhood dream was to be in the Air Force, he was in ROTC as preparation for the day he would leave his family and embark on something that meant the world to him.

The Dance (by Garth Brooks) will always remind me of David, it was one of his all-time favorite songs, and it’s applicable to any situation in which you lose someone. I cry every time I hear it and just think about all the memories we’ve missed out on making together. But I do have some really special memories of him, and they’ve created what I have to keep with me now that he’s gone. Though I miss him all the time, I’m thankful for the time God did give us. They’re, for me, “the dance” we shared from childhood and up until God took him home. I think ultimately it is best that we don’t always know when our loved ones are going to pass away, because I don’t think even the knowledge is enough to ever fully prepare you. But part of me wishes I’d known him leaving for Kuwait would be the last time I saw him because I would have hugged him a little tighter, perhaps convinced him not to go. He and my mom both passed away incredibly young, and though I miss them both terribly, I know they’re in a better place and I’ll see them again one day. And, as Garth says, I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.

Happy birthday David! I hope you’re celebrating with Jesus!

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