Tag Archives: death of a loved one

Let’s just be honest here…


486574_3979162991807_1112941746_nThis is my brother. He is dead. I MISS HIM! I cry… a lot. 90% of the time it’s because I’m missing my brother, and the other 10% of the time, it’s because of something else that seems 100 times worse because I miss my brother.

I’m a positive person, and I’m doing everything I can to keep living my life and not let Joey’s death be the end of my story, so people say, “Look at how great you’re doing. You lost you’re brother, but you’re ok.” But I’m not ok. I’m not “over it.” I am working through it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I would give anything to have one more hour to talk to Joe about all the things that I’ve discovered about myself, about life, even about him. But that’s not going to happen, so I just have to keep moving, keep living, keep trying. Read the rest of this entry

Who am I?

Photo courtesy of Susan Peck Photography

Photo courtesy of Susan Peck Photography

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am, and how I can be me – better. After all, that’s what NEVER BETRAY is all about. The hard thing about being totally true to yourself is that sometimes it means that you no longer fit in the places where you had made yourself fit. This is where I find myself now as I tentatively stretch my limbs to occupy the space I was created for. (As I type this, I’m remembering seeing Joey stretch, and being awed by the amount of space he took up – not just physically but with his entire essence).

I’ve written about how I came to recognize my limited understanding of what it means to follow Christ, and as I continue to explore my thoughts about death, heaven, God, and living a life of purpose, the question of who I am seems to be central to the conflict within me.

I know the answer at least begins with “I am a person who loves generously and honestly.” This is something I’ve always known about myself, and it is the thing I’ve struggled with most. I’ve been hurt over and over again by friends who weren’t all in. And it made me start withholding myself. In the last few years, there have been many friendships that I have kept at arms’ length because I didn’t want to be be rejected again. I’ve avoided whole conversations rather than be the one who thinks differently. Read the rest of this entry

She did it! Sarah did it!


joey-thumbsNo, I haven’t run my first 5k, yet, but I did reach my first major fitness achievement of walking a total of 100 miles!

Maybe that doesn’t sound like much to some, but to me it’s an indication of sticking to something for once in my life. It’s about making good choices for myself, feeling strong and capable. It’s about doing life better.

As it happens, I hit my goal on Sunday, December 9th, which was also my 35th birthday. It’s certainly not the first birthday I’ve celebrated without my brother, considering it often fell during finals week while I was in college, and Joe had lived in Austin for the last 2 years. But there was no phone call, no text from him – even the next day, as he was apt to text me after I’d already gone to bed. I miss him terribly, but every day, I strive to live that much more purposefully because of him.

If I’m really honest, I must admit that Joey’s death knocked me down. I feel as though my worldview has been shattered in a way, and yet, as the pieces have fallen, they’ve found a new way to go back together that oddly makes much more sense and stands stronger against the winds of trial and tragedy.

Bad stuff happens. It happens to everyone – even me. I can let it kill my spirit, or I can choose to be stronger, to live better.

I choose to be better, to live fuller, and to love extravagantly. 

For me, getting fit is part of loving myself so that I have more love to give away. In January, I plan to join the local YMCA and start running and training in earnest for my first 5k. I know Joe would be proud of the physical accomplishments I’m making, but I think mostly he would be proud of the way I’m growing as a person. My 35th year saw the biggest challenges of my life so far, but I see year 36 getting better and better. Maybe by my 40th, I can take Joe for that sky-dive I’ve always dreamed of.



Joey loved music more than anyone I know, and not just listening to it or writing it. He loved to research it, analyze it and absorb it. His tastes ranged from classical to punk and everything in between. He could find the musicality in almost anything, and innovation where others might just hear noise. He could even appreciate that different people required different soundtracks. That’s why even though we liked very different styles, he’s responsible for most of the music in my itunes library. Read the rest of this entry



I never used to be the type of person to worry much or imagine worst case scenarios, to fear death of myself or others. But that was before.

The summer before Joey turned 15, we went to visit some family in Texas, and our cousin’s boyfriend had an extra four-wheeler he let Joey ride while we were there. One morning, I woke to my aunt yelling for my dad to come out to the garage quickly. Joe had gotten up early to ride up and down the country road before we met up with some other family. At some point, he got off the road going faster than he intended and when he tried to maneuver between a steel tube fence and a large oak tree, a low-hanging branch nearly scalped him. Amazingly, he didn’t lose consciousness, and was able to get off the four-wheeler and jog back to our uncle’s house, but he was bleeding profusely and ended up being life-flighted to the nearest hospital. The damage was all superficial, and the surgeon managed to give him a relatively smooth horse-shoe shaped scar from ear to ear.

It was probably the scariest moment of my life up to that point, but afterwards I fell into the belief that my brother was invincible. The next time we visited my uncle, that oak tree was dead. We took it as a sign that he was unbeatable.

Maybe that’s why I had such a hard time believing that an idiot driver was the cause of his demise.

And in the weeks and months since, I’ve been consistently struck by the fragility of life. What I had seen before as a great chasm between life and death now looks like nothing more than a thin veil. I’m reminded of the lyrics to an Ingrid Michaelson song,

Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts?
Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts.
So it’s fairly simple to cut right through the mess,
And to stop the muscle that makes us confess.

And we are so fragile,
And our cracking bones make noise,
And we are just,
Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.



Today, I went to the doctor because I had another cold I can’t seem to shake. It turns out I have allergies, which sucks, but maybe now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can start feeling better. The thing is: I hadn’t been to this doctor before, so I had to fill out the new patient paperwork.

When I got to the family history section, it asked for ages and physical health status and cause of death where applicable for each of my immediate family members: father, mother… brother.

In my mind, “deceased” has always been a word for grandparents and other older relatives. It’s not supposed to apply to your baby brother. I managed not to completely lose it in the patient waiting room, but the ripples of loss never seem to end.

Will I ever be able to answer the question, “So, do you have any siblings?” without crying? I’m not supposed to be an only child again. It feels like I am always just one question away from tears.

The loss of one of my favorite people on the planet just keeps on hitting.



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)

Love is…


I have always loved my brother, but there were times when I really didn’t understand him. I never let those things get in the way of my love for him, but it did bother me that I couldn’t understand things like why he didn’t bathe regularly.

Now that he’s gone, I wonder why I didn’t try harder to understand. Because it’s pretty obvious that his whole life was about breaking free from cultural norms and saying, “Hey, I don’t have to look (or smell)  like you to be awesome and successful at life.” Read the rest of this entry

I Miss You


I haven’t written anything in a few days because every time I sit down to write, I feel the complete and utter deficiency of words to express my feelings of loss or to adequately describe the magnitude of significance of the life lived by Joseph Carroll.

I write…I delete…I try again. And then I cry. Because you’re gone, because so many people will never know how special you were, and because I’ll never get another chance to tell you how much I admire you.

You lived your life to the fullest, never letting others hold you back and always pushing others forward to do the things they’d only dreamed. I want to be like you… only like me, and I think that’s all you’d want.

I got another tattoo on my arm, a rose to remember. I think you’d like it. It’s extremely conspicuous right there on the top of my right wrist where anyone who shakes my hand is bound to see it. It’s not on my neck, but to me, it says, “Never Betray.” It says, “Stop being afraid to stand out.” It says, “I’ll never be the same again.” It says, “Don’t wait to live until you die.”

Chumps Stay Home


One of Joey’s friends said that he was always the one who did stuff and inspired other people to do stuff. He’d say, “I’m going on a ride.” And they might whine, “I’m tired” or “It’s too hot” or some other lame response. And he’d say, “Stay home, chumps. Chumps stay home.”

He challenged people to be better, but he didn’t push. He just had this essence that made you want to be more like him. I often found myself doing things with my little brother that I’d never consider doing with anyone else – like strapping myself into a metal cage attached to 30-ft cables and catapulted into the air like a slingshot (a ride at an amusement park), but somehow he made the decision to DO something the obvious choice. You always wanted him to respect you, not just because he was cool (although he was) but because you knew you would be a better person if you attacked life the way he did.

Over the last few years, I had grown sedentary in my life. Jobs I’d worked had required me to sit for long periods of time, and I’d gained quite a bit of weight as I’d become “fat & happy” with my husband and 3 kids. All attempts to lose weight for me had been about conforming to cultural norms, being accepted, or fitting in. But something happened to my thinking after Joey’s death. Read the rest of this entry