Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.
CW: This piece discusses the aftermath of suicide.
By Emma Tait
December 31, 2016
I know you know this holiday season is hard for me. But still, I need to tell you how I’m feeling, how I’m feeling about how the holidays this year, the third year since you have been gone. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I know you are looking out for me, in the good big brother kind of way.
I am always catching glimpses of you out of the corner of my eye, seeing men that look just like you, sometimes I even hear your voice. Every time this happens my breath catches in my throat and for a split second I glance around hopefully, as if I live in a different world where there is a possibility of us running in to each other on the street on our ways home from work. In a parallel reality this would be our life. You would have lived. You would have stayed in Vancouver and we’d see each other all the time. This parallel reality still lives in my head, and sometimes when I “see” you I pretend with all my hear that it is so.
“Don’t look too long Em, I tell myself. It’s not him. He wishes it was, you wish it was, but it isn’t. So don’t look too long because it will hurt too much”
And then I remember what you said, and I walk slower, afraid to lose the precious moment with you.
You were telling me how lucky we were. How I had no idea how lucky we were to have the parents and the life and family and friends that we did.
You said we were lucky to be so loved, supported and cherished. Lucky to have strong people who would be there for us no matter what. You spoke of how
important it was for us to all keep in touch, to spend time together whenever we could, to hold space with love for everyone that we met. To appreciate the little things and never lose site of the bigger picture.
I think I was rolling my eyes at you at the time, another lecture from big bro to pick me up because I was down. But I knew what you meant and I cherished every word. You hated it when I was down and you made it your mission to pick me up.
We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be one of our last conversations. Two months later the storm came for you, we never saw it coming, I wonder if you even saw it coming, and, if you did, if the conversation in my kitchen was your way of preparing me for what you feared might be coming next. As hundreds gathered at your funeral, people none of us even knew echoed the same sentiment; you had touched their lives and lifted them up at some of their darkest times. We said our goodbyes on a sea of tears, because, none of us actually got to say goodbye.
I was so aware of the approaching holidays and going home for Christmas. Feelings of joy and fear at the thought of going to that place again. “Home.” Is it though? Will it ever be home again? The place where all our family and friends are, to the place where we gathered to send you on your journey, where your ashes are buried and your grave carefully tended to daily by our mom. To the place where your photos are all over the walls and a lifetime of memories is held in a house we used to call “home.”
I know you know how really fucking hard it is to go home and do all the holiday things we used to do with you but now without you. A place where your presence and your absence are equally and strongly felt. Where you are so obviously missing and all of us are so obviously struggling to get through it without you, maybe even silently wishing we could skip it all together. But we do it anyway, because its important to keep at it and keep moving forwards. To keep facing our fears, lifting them up, releasing them and replacing them with joy.
Actually, nothing is more important than that. Thank you for always reminding me.
By coming together and spending time doing things we enjoy we are honoring you. To avoid this would be a dishonor to everything you were. We can never replace the love that you gave us, never change what happened, but we can pay it forwards and continue coming together as a family, feeling your presence and your absence as a source of encouragement, a reminder of what’s important, and as a source of strength to draw from when the fear gets too big.
And so, in those times of fear, in glimpses of you on the street, in the desire to skip the holidays are hide out from the events, I always come back to the words from that conversation in my kitchen. “Em, we are so lucky, you have no idea how lucky.”
What I am learning by facing these fears is that these moments when I think of you, see you or hear you, are actually reminders to stay so so so present because in these moments you are with me, right in front of me, jumping up and down waving your arms (in spirit) and saying “hey! Em, I’m right here! Chin up sis! I never left you, go do your thing and live your life and bring me with you but don’t be sad!” Fear and sadness would have me push this moment away, but, if I can offer my presence, my peace and my love, and if I choose to accept these moments as you bringing me back to peace and love, I am uplifted; by your spirit and by your presences and by your persistence towards the positive.
These people and this place, it is home, I don’t need to fear it for the memories it will bring up because it’s where we feel you with us the most. It is not just the place where our sadness lives. It is also the place where we come together and lift each other up in honor of you, in honor all the amazing times we shared in this lifetime. To remind ourselves how lucky we are to be surrounded by so much love.
Knowing you was the privilege of a lifetime and your love and constant reminders are the buoys that keep me from sinking, keep me finding joy in simple moments, catching that joy and surfing it for as long as I can, and, in harder moments, your spirit keeps me floating along, looking up and finding your light in every place that it shines.
All my love, all the time.
Happy New Year, big bro.
Emma Tait is a 26 year old Vancouverite, yoga teacher, health coach, and budding writer who draws on her journey from childhood in a small town, to the pressures of university, a life changing month in Costa Rica, too many years in the fast-paced life of a night-club bartender, and from big love and big loss. Her hope is to inspire others to reach for their health, their happiness, and their lives in a way that serves their purpose in the highest, most authentic way, whatever that looks like to them, no matter what molds they might have to break along the way. Emma can be found on Twitter @etait25 and on Instagram @mettatait.