25 Burnt Out Candles

Not only had my brother disappeared, but– and bear with me here– a part of my very being had gone with him. Stories about us could, from then on, be told from only one perspective. Memories could be told but not shared.

John Corey Whaley, Where Things Come Back

Dear Harry,

I’m sitting here looking at pictures from when we were younger. Some days I try to avoid looking at them, but on days like today I can’t stop. I wonder what we’d be doing to celebrate, what I would get you as a gift, and what funny birthday card I’d write for you. Mom would’ve caught your expression on camera, and we’d roll our eyes at how many photos she’d take. But despite what we should be doing and what I wish we were doing, I’m writing you a letter I know you’ll never read.

You were my best friend. We spent every minute together. Growing up, mom always told me how alike we were. We always had the same expression in pictures; typically a goofy grin where you could almost hear the laughter in the moment– a freeze frame of our youth.

After losing you, I was always envious of my friends who had siblings. Seeing pictures of their family vacations together, driving them to school, even watching them argue; I knew those were things I’d never get to experience. Holidays and big life events that you should be there for aren’t as meaningful. There’s always a void. There’s no anecdote to missing someone.

You never got to see me learn how to play guitar. When I was 6, you recorded me singing songs I made up and created CDs. You made me feel like a rockstar. You never got to see me run track in high school. I was never that great, but I loved it. All I wanted was to see your face in the bleachers cheering me on. You never got to see me graduate high school early, despite all odds being stacked against me. You never got to see me follow my dreams of joining the Navy after working relentlessly to get here. I’ll never get to have my big brother walk me down the aisle, and my future children will never get to hang out with their favorite uncle.

I never had a choice in this, but I hope you know that I would go to the ends of the earth to have saved you if I could. I’m so sorry I couldn’t.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Love always,

Alex

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