I went to your tree again this weekend. My dear friend Whitney came to visit me and one of the first things she asked me about her trip was, “Will you take me to see Brian’s tree?”
I can’t quite express how loved that made me feel. Whitney is one of the most caring and expressive people I’ve ever known in my life; she has been following my letters to you since the very beginning and it meant so much to me to be able to share you with her. It was peaceful and reverent and heart-breaking. While I’m still learning to truly share my grief openly (outside of these letters) it is hard for me to really let the emotions flow in front of others; that’s why writing to you has been so therapeutic– it’s more comfortable for me to express myself that way. I voraciously fought back tears as I stared up at the tree and remembered slowly circling it as I scattered your ashes around it’s circumference.
This time there was a mailbox at the edge of the trail leading up to the tree and I was instantly moved by the thought that now I can bring you “real” letters. I have been writing these public letters for over 4 years now and the idea of bringing a handwritten letter to a mailbox just might fool my heart into believing that you will get it wherever you are.
I am always amazed at how I feel sitting in that tree’s presence. Part of me feels hollow and empty because for me it is your “grave” that I visit and it is a tangible reminder of your absence. Another part of me feels so small and insignificant when I think of how long that magnificent tree has been growing there– it’s roots must run so very deep and it’s branches seem to stretch out so high and so far that it’s hard to see where it ends… or if it ever does. And another part of me feels more connected to you there than anywhere else.
Whitney created a tower of balancing rocks next to where your ashes were placed and inside the stack of rocks she placed a heart-shaped leaf she found on the ground as we stared up at the tree. I love that she gets the symbolism in things like that and that small act of love for you, my brother whom she never got to meet, made my heart jump in my chest… though I wasn’t quite capable of expressing it to her at that moment. I’m working on that.
We sat there for a good half hour or so and I always feel so emotional walking away from it because, though I know you aren’t actually “there” it feels as though I’m actually turning my back on you as I turn to make my way back to the car; it actually triggers the exact same feeling I had at the airport 5 years ago as I turned to head inside after we hugged goodbye and I tried so hard to swallow the feeling that I would never see you again.
I can’t believe that in just over 2 months it will be 5 years since you ended your life. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made but I know I’ll continue to grow and learn from you for the rest of my life and it’s helping me become a better person.
I love you, dude.