Most people have a hero. Or at least someone they admire. Someone who makes us want to be better, be fearless, be who God designed us to be. Our pastor says, "Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better."
For me, that person was my brother Chris.
- He wasn’t afraid of anything.
- He was the first person ever to tell me he loved me--my family didn't say I love you; you just "knew"--and he told me all the time.
- He took me to Cedar Point with lifts in my shoes so I was tall enough ride every roller coaster.
- He taught me to drive automatic and standard.
- He bought me a trampoline so that I could be as good of a gymnast as he was.
- He drove my best friend and me to cheerleading practice in his Corvette and laughed as all the girls whispered and blushed and said, “Who’s that???”
- He made me drive that Corvette on the highway when I only had a permit. “I’m scared!!” I said, and he replied, “You should be—you’re going 25 on the highway. It's a Corvette! Put your foot on the gas before you get us killed!”
- He took my best friend and me to see INXS, my favorite band, and bought us wine coolers.
- He dated beautiful women, who became my big sisters and trusted friends.
- He was the coolest person I knew.
- He jumped out of airplanes and promised me that when I was 16 he would take me.
The last time I saw him he gave me a card congratulating me for getting my driver’s license and reminding me to go at least the speed limit on the highway. He hugged me and kissed me and told me he loved me, and I never saw him again.
I’ve heard lots of stories about who other people thought he was. I have heard negative stories. There is truth in them. But he will always be the big brother I adored and admired. I see glimpses of him in my kids every day and wish they could have met him. Chloe has drive and determination. She pushes herself harder than anyone I know. Peyton has his feet, hitchhiker thumbs, the same curls around his ears, an adventurous spirit, and the ability to make me smile regardless of the circumstances. Lily is fearless. She does flips off the end of the couch and makes my heart stop on a regular basis.
When he died, my heart shattered. But God has slowly healed it using the love of my family and friends to fill in the cracks. Often, I wish I had told him how much I loved him and admired him, but I always thought I'd have a lifetime to do that. I hope he knew. For the past 24 years, I have dreaded my birthday because it reminded me that in five days it would be the anniversary of his death. This year, I got my birthday back. Even though I will never forget him or the pain his death brought our family, this year the love and joy finally overcame the sadness and grief.
I've wondered many times what I learned from Chris, and there were many lessons. Don't let fear stop you. Live every day like it's your last. But the most important is definitely: Always say I love you. You never know when it will be the last time.