Yesterday was Nate’s and Nash’s second birthday. For anyone who doesn’t know, they are my identical twin sons. The last time I saw Joey was when he came to town for my older son’s third birthday back in May. Before that, I hadn’t seen him since he was here shortly after Nate & Nash were born.

The boys had a great day, between the cake, presents, and a trip to the pumpkin patch, and I enjoyed it with them, but somewhere in the back of my heart, there was an ache. I couldn’t help thinking that this is how birthdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas will be now – no Uncle Joe coming into town to make it extra special. I keep thinking about how much fun he would have had with them. He never got to see how their personalities have developed, how funny they are in their own different ways.

I see glimpses of Joey in my boys – Nash’s whole-body commitment to getting a laugh, Noah’s outrageous imagination, Nate’s comforting hugs. I try to hold onto the joy of remembering the great things about him, but it doesn’t make the missing go away.

Before Joey’s death, I’d never lost anyone other than older relatives whom I loved but didn’t really know well. I was sad at their deaths, but never so lost. Joey was almost 7 years younger than me, but we had a close bond. We understood each other in some ways that no one else could. That I will always miss.

But there’s more to the missing, too. Missing the Joey he was becoming. Before his last visit, Joe had told Mom he was tired of being angry, and I think he had come into a new era of his life. When he came to visit, I saw that there was a lightness to him that I had not seen before. He seemed to just really be present in the moment. I wanted to ask him what had changed, but the opportunity never availed itself. Probably I figured there was plenty of time, time to see what came of the change. So when I say that I miss him, it’s not just the things I remember; it is also the things that were to come.

Joey lived his life to the fullest for over 27 years, but 27 years isn’t all he had in him. We’ll never know what else he might have done, where else he would have gone, how he would have changed (though I’m sure much would have stayed the same – his passion and loyalty and his zeal for life).

The worst part of this missing is its interminability. Despite my belief that I will see Joey again, the rest of my life on this earth will be lived without him. The missing hurts so much, but it also spurs me to change myself. Because the other thing I’ve realized is that in all of my 34 years, there has been so much living that I have been missing. So much I could have done if I just believed in myself.

Joey would never want to be an excuse not to participate in life. Missing him isn’t a reason not to live. In fact, it’s a reason to squeeze all the juice out of life. It’s a reason not to miss a single drop.

(Seriously, I think I’ve seen Nash strike this same pose)

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