Reset

We’re Not Going to Change the World. You Are.

17139584230_5cf47081bc_z I’m not sure where to begin, or really even what to say at all.

I just wish I had done more to stop it. I’m not very political, I’ve never given to any candidate. I’ve always voted but never registered with a party. I’m not one of those mythical “undecided voters," but I certainly am independent.

Still, this election was the easiest voting choice I’ve ever made. I know it’s naive, but I was genuinely amazed when I met or heard from people who thought differently.

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Thirty-Three

After traveling on an all-night flight where I stayed up for hours, only sleeping 90 minutes or so in the final portion before landing, I landed in Bangkok. I hadn’t been to Thailand in years!

It was genuinely good to be back. There’s something strange and bittersweet to be here, but I can hold both feelings simultaneously.

I was in town for two days, and I spent both afternoons working from the coffee shop in Terminal 21, a big shopping mall across the street from my hotel. I was in a jet lagged haze per usual, but it took me a few minutes to realize what else was wrong. Finally it hit me: Bangkok was a place I’d thought about bringing Ken on the big trip we never took.

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Let the Wave Crash Over You: One Year Later

Readers: One year ago today I lost my brother, Ken. This new post contains my one-year reflections. Like the first time I told the story, it’s written as a direct letter to him.

***

Dear Ken,

I’d say that it’s hard to believe a year has passed, but the greater truth is that it’s hard to believe it happened at all. When I think of it now, as I do every day, my mind still runs to the same place of shock and disbelief.

There were days during the year when I thought about it less than others, and maybe some days when I began to look forward. As today’s date approached, though, I reverted to that place of disbelief where everything feels suspended in time.

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Letter from John Wayne Airport

Dear Ken,

It’s been nearly ten months since you went away. Still, every day I think of you, I miss you, and I wish we could get you back. I started making a list of memories we shared, and I’m trying to learn more about the parts of your life that were unfamiliar to me.

I’m thinking of you more than usual this week, because my new book is out and I’m on the road every day. You and I didn’t really travel together that much, but whenever we did, it was a lot of fun.

Looking back, I wish I’d taken you to Bangkok or Dubai. I remember one time when you were traveling in your army uniform and got upgraded on a short domestic flight. You texted me to say how excited you were. I laughed, because flying First Class on a short U.S. flight isn’t much to rejoice over. I used to send you photos of me jetting around the world on much nicer airlines, and you’d always reply with a thumbs-up or an enthusiastic comment.

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Visiting My Brother at Quantico National Cemetery

It’s been five months since my brother’s death, and I’ve been back to his former city of Washington, DC several times since then. Until last weekend, though, I hadn’t visited his gravesite.

Quantico National Cemetery is about an hour or so from my usual hotel in Arlington, and once you get off the freeway, the drive isn’t unpleasant. I visited on a Saturday when the offices are closed and there are no services, just a few other people coming to say hi to their loved ones.

I arrived on a bright day, thankfully not a very cold one even though it was November, and I parked at the entrance where a computer is set up to help visitors find the location of a specific gravesite.

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The Uneventful Days that Affect Us Forever

"Do human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?” -Emily, from Our Town by Thomas Wilder

This past weekend I went back to the city where my brother and I both lived for a while. In fact, I stayed in the small hotel where I saw him for the last time. That visit was a year or so ago, and when we said goodbye he was returning to his home in Washington, D.C. and I to Portland.

Ken had an appreciation for good whiskey, but on our last evening together I discovered that he had never heard of bourbon and ginger ale, a very basic and common drink. Following my lead, he had his first one that night at the hotel restaurant where we were staying. Then, the next morning, we had breakfast together in the same restaurant before going our separate ways.

It’s funny how experiences like those seem so trivial at the time. Imagine writing a story composed of such details: two characters meet in a bar for a drink and talk about nothing terribly important. The next morning they have breakfast together and then fly back home. There’s no plot, no conflict, no life-altering decision to be made. What a boring story!

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Thirty-Two

One of the things I have yet to come to terms with is: what are the consequences of losing my brother? That is, what will be different now that he's gone?

Obviously I am still grieving, and even still largely in shock. I wake up every day remembering him, disbelieving for a moment that he could possibly be gone. But these are short-term circumstances, not long-term consequences. The bottom line is that I don’t fully know what the loss entails for me and for everyone else who was close to him. In my case, I just have no doubt that my life will be different, not only now but always.

Today is Ken's birthday. He would have been 32 years old. I probably would have texted him to say “Happy birthday, bro!”

And to be honest, that’s probably all I would have done. I might have sent a bottle of whiskey or a copy of a new book I liked, but in most years I usually just called or wrote. He was always better at birthdays and other holidays than me or anyone else in the family.

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Let the Wave Crash Over You: A Letter for My Brother

Chris & Ken in the early years (ages 7 and 2) Dear Ken,

When I look back at all the memories we shared together, there are so many that stand out.

I tend to think of our childhood, which was not particularly a happy one for either of us—but my memories of you and me are consistently happy. I remember when we lived in different states and sent things back and forth to each other in the mail every week. We talked on the phone a lot then, too, but having something physical arrive in the mailbox was a fun thing that we each enjoyed.

I remember all the video games we played together. Well, I probably don’t remember all of them, since there were so many. But I remember going from console to console as we both grew up, sometimes competing against each other (you were always better at Sonic; I could usually beat you at Street Fighter) and sometimes cooperating.

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“There’s Nothing You Could Have Done … But What If There Was?”

15812627982_fe477f8cce_z Last week I wrote about the unexpected loss of my brother, Ken. I mentioned that when terrible things happen, people tend to say, “It will all be okay,” but unfortunately this isn’t always true. What’s okay about a premature death? There’s no way to bring back a loved one, and that’s just not okay.

Another thing people say is “There’s nothing you could have done.” But just like saying, “It will be okay,” this isn’t necessarily true either.

When you come to a situation you can’t change, it’s only natural to look back and think, “What if?”

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