Sitting here, 10 feet away from my older brother, I see a different man than I used to. He was always the quiet one, the soft one, the sensitive one. I always felt older.
But now I feel small, and young; like we’re 5 and 9 again and I’m looking to him for guidance. Like we’re lost somewhere in the woods after exploring for hours, and it feels okay because he always gets us back. Everything is okay because he has the answers.
But this doesn’t feel okay.
This feels like the time we went down the driveway too fast in our little toy jeep and ended up in the ditch. I remember thinking he had broken his arm; that sense of fear when you’re little, and you think that the worst has happened. But that time, he laughed at me. That time, we pushed that damn jeep up the hill again.
I don’t want to do this again.
For weeks, we avoided talking about the inevidable. We avoided talking about the fact that this is real, and it’s happening. And now, it’s upon us and I can’t get away from it. My big brother is going to war.
I could say those words a thousand times in my head and it still wouldn’t seem true. Even now that I’ve typed them, written them, seen them, it feels like a lie. I don’t know how to feel anything but sadness right now, and it’s a feeling I’m so unfamiliar with. I keep searching his face for the answers, but for the first time in both of our lives, he doesn’t have them..
He’s scared, and so excited all at once. Deployment is like cliff diving. You’re scared for your life, but you know the ride is going to be thrilling. You know it may only happen once, so you dive in, and you see the world whirling by in a way that you may never see again. These are the opportunities that I had always wanted for him. These are the opportunities that I prayed he would have. I want him to succeed, and see the world from a different perspective. I want him to remember where he came from, and how lucky that makes him. I want him to live. I want so many things for him that it hurts.
But what I want right now, in this moment, is to not watch him leave. To not have to wonder if he’s okay; if he’s going to be okay. I want him to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I want him to see the leaves change, and spring roll around again.
I don’t want to say goodbye.
Because how do you say goodbye? How do you let someone walk out your front door, and, forgive me, not know if you’ll see them again? How do you let go, of someone you love and all the fears you have for them? How do you do any of it, really.
We ask these questions but we know that no one has the answer.
So today, I say goodbye to my best friend, my partner in crime, my biggest fan. My brother. I say the things I don’t know how to say with reassuring nods and silent tears, and I give him all the bravery that I have so that he can turn around, and do his job.
And I pray. Because sometimes that’s all you can do.
“May angels watch over our protectors, for they are the servants of God.”