Another July 3rd


Sitting next to Bear Creek.

6 July 2018

Dear Turdel, 

I’m sitting by a river in Minnesota.  I don’t know much about it.  It’s called Bear Creek (according to my phone).  That seems fitting.  Haven’t seen any bears yet.  I’ll let you know.

The Minnesota part: As of two days ago, I live here now.  Rochester specifically.  I never thought of Minnesota as a place I wanted to live.  A good opportunity came along that I couldn’t say no to.  It was hard.  It was also time.  A year ago when I was writing you I was at the end of my rope.  And out of desperation or fear or a messy combo of both I kept going.  Turdel, there were some dark days.  Dark days when I questioned just about everything.

But at the end of May two opportunities finally came up and I chose the one that brought me here next to Bear Creek.  I suppose I’ve done crazier things.  Eight years ago I had been in Chicago for almost a year.  You knew I was in Chicago and called or texted me countless times.  

A new place, a new job, a new life: one that you will never know me doing.  A fully new and blank chapter.  I suppose stories and memories of you will be present here and your picture is already sitting on my floor but that is not the same.  

The world is a crazy place.  I wonder if you would recognize it.  I suppose I am grateful for the past year—I’m also very glad that it’s over. 

Sometimes people ask me how grief is after 8 years: Is it less?  Where does it go?  It’s just different.  It’s seeped into my bones and my soul.  It’s both a part of who I am and a weight that I carry.  I do know that I still want to call and text you.  Maybe that impulse will never go away.  I heard a podcast once about a telephone booth where people could go to sit and have conversations with their dead loved ones to say the things that were still important to say.  The idea isn’t that the phone booth worked in any real way but that there would be space reserved for the important conversations and the grief.  Makes a lot of sense to me.  

So stay tuned for more stores of my Minnesotan life.  Oh, and there’s a bike trail next to Bear Creek so if anyone in this town is up for a bear sighting, it will be me.  




Wristwatches & Time Passing

Friday, April 20th
Late Morning

In high school, I remember a teacher explaining to our class that she hadn’t worn a wrist watch since her mother died. My 17-year-old brain was really mystified by that. How did she know what time it was? How did she get anywhere on time? Didn’t she need to know what time it was while teaching? (Keep in mind) that I am old enough that cell phones were not widespread when I was a high schooler. I was puzzled by this statement and also by the implied to connection to her mother’s death.

But 8 years. Or 2,920 days. Or 4,204,800 minutes. These I can measure by the date on the calendar.

Zoom forward a chunk of years: April 20th, 2018. 8 years ago today and possibly about this time of day if memory serves me correctly that my brother got a call that he would receive his long-awaited double lung transplant. While that day itself was anxiously joyful, the day is now bittersweet. His transplant ultimately did not have the results we wanted.

I no longer wear a watch except maybe when running. I have a cell phone always in my pocket. But I get now what my teacher was saying to us. I live much more in the present now. I struggle often to get places on time but I care much less than I did before 2010.

So much in this life is out of our control. And the clock just keeps ticking forward. I no longer measure life by the arms of a watch as I pathologically did before. It is hard to believe that it was eight years ago and yet it also feels like a lifetime ago or at least a long chapter.

I sit here typing, thinking, and I want these thoughts and feelings to resolve or have a nice closing. But they don’t. Losing my brother is simply the hardest thing I’ve done and mostly survived in this lifetime so far. Grief is messy. Even remembering is messy. Another day, another memory, another year.


Note: I wrote this a couple months ago.  I found this in some unfinished drafts.  Two days ago—November 4th—would’ve been my brother Ryan’s 31st birthday. He continues to periodically appear in my dreams. I hope he continues to do so.  I share this in his memory.


I have dreams. Not the world-changing eloquently spoken and proclaimed to change a nation kind. Actual dreams.

I have dreams. About a dead person. Specifically, my brother. I suppose over the past
7 years since his death I’ve dreamed of him over different periods of time. The dreams are not new. Months after his death I had a few genuine nightmares. They were very vivid dream versions of some events that did happen (and I witnessed) during his hospitalization after his transplant and before he died. Those weren’t good times.

Recently, I had a few more vivid and significant dreams. Both were again related to the months he spent in the hospital post-transplant. One was pretty awful and involved a lot of anxiety, worry, and ultimately, heartbreak, which is not so far from what really happened. The other dream explored a different outcome for my brother after his transplant. He was up and walking, doing physical therapy, moving around without oxygen and better than he had in years. He was walking down the hall and talking with people. This was a happy alternate ending to what is now history.

For a long time, I dreamed of my brother mostly in scenarios that were rooted in things that previously happened. As time goes on, more often he appears in whatever crazy, mash-up world my mind has concocted during the night. We’ve taken an intensive theology course, he’s been to Chicago, we’ve mountain biked again.

These are things he never got to do post-transplant and in real life. He didn’t even make it home.

I’ve had to make sense of these dreams. For some time, I didn’t’ know what to think of them. They partially creeped me out and they also continually dredged up a fresh and sometimes raw grief around my brother’s death. I also didn’t want to sound some sort of crazy when going on about these dreams.

At this point though, I don’t mind these dreams (minus the nightmare-like ones) and sometimes am even grateful for them. This side of eternity I have no more time left with my brother. But it seems he’s still alive in the world of my dreams and imagination. I don’t have any strong opinions on dreams, their origins, and if/what can be understood or concluded from them.

I do know that sometimes, at night when I’m asleep, I get a little more time with my brother. And for that, I am grateful.