Thank you for all the kind words

A friend of mine from High School sent me a post on Facebook from a woman named Sheryl ending shloshim after her husband suddenly and unexpectedly died. Shiva is a 7 day period of mourning in Judiasm. Shloshim is the mourning period 30 days after death, which overlaps shiva. After shloshim, all mourning restrictions are lifted for a Jewish spouse. So after her shloshim concluded, Sheryl got on Facebook and shared her thoughts.

Sheryl had an observation about words. People are afraid to use them around you when you lose somebody. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know how strong or fragile you will be. She made a point about being appreciative when someone was savvy enough to ask her “How are you doing today?” instead of just “How are you doing?” The distinction, to her, was that the former recognized that you are barely holding it together and that every day is a struggle, and the latter is tone deaf because the idea of being ‘okay’ is impossibly foreign.

But I have a different take. I have friends that I haven’t talked to in years or even more than a decade reach out to me. I have had people I did not know write me because my words resonated with them. I have had friends and co-workers ask me, tactfully and not, what happened, or if I am okay. I have had plenty of people ask me “How are you doing?”. More often than not though, I get into a conversation with a friend, or a relative, and they start out by saying they are sorry. It’s usually one sentence. Then they are lost. Even friends who have themselves experienced profound loss. It’s just terrible. And believe me, I get it. And I thank you.

So whatever you have said to me, and however you have said it, thank you. People that talk to me have an overwhelming sense of importance to talk to me, given the subject, so their brain tricks them into thinking that they’ll have a lot to say. But they don’t. You won’t. You’ll get stuck after you say “I heard… I’m sorry.” That is because there are no words. Many people recognize that there are no words and they say so. But at the core of what everybody is saying, or at least is trying to say, is that it is so emotional, so awful, that all you want to do is communicate the emotion. Communicate the feeling. We don’t have words that communicate the type and magnitude of what we are trying to communicate. It’s hard to just say “I’m sorry.” or “It just sucks.” But I know what you want to say. And that’s enough for me.

Josh

A Eulogy for my brother Jeremy

It has been a month since Jeremy left us. It is still very painful.

On the morning of December 28, I led a service for my brother Jeremy with my family. We gathered at my grandparent’s Pond House, which was my great-grandmother Miss Lillian’s house. My grandfather’s father built a circular stone fire pit out back behind the house. It is large enough to sit the whole Carter family.

I sat next to Jeremy’s ashes and delivered this eulogy. I wrote it in the early hours the night before the ceremony in a log book that I bought in Plains. I did not know what I wanted to say, but I decided beforehand that I would write it in one take and let these words just tumble out.

I left the book out in the Plains Inn for family members to write whatever they wanted to say. Some have asked that I circulate the book. I will keep their words private, but for my eulogy, I want to share it with Jeremy and with you. I miss him.

Today we are celebrating Jeremy’s life. He was a son, a brother, a loving uncle. He was 28. There is no way around it–he left us way too soon, and I am just profoundly, desperately, and crushingly sad.

He was a good brother and he let me in. I helped him get into school so he could finish up. I helped him form a plan for success. I trusted him with Charlie and he loved being an uncle, probably more than anything.

He had been frustrated with school and career choices and his future for so long, and in the past year he was excited about his path forward. He had hope. He had a plan. It is this part of his future that I will mourn almost as much as I will mourn for him. I am going to miss him terribly. I already do.

28 years. That’s too young. But Jeremy did give us 28 years. I had 28 years to be his brother and I am thankful for that. I am thankful that I was able to grow up with him, and he me.

We took sibling rivalry seriously. We fought all the time growing up, mostly because we became each others’ favorite pastime. I was usually better at video games than he was and he was usually better at sports than me. He was always faster, so every game he made up for us naturally had to incorporate some sort of race. And when he won, he took gloating to an obnoxious level. He would smile the biggest smile. He would cock his head back and to the left and wear this big, toothy, ear-to-ear grin. He was very proud of himself.

One of the most random, ridiculous, and funny stories about Jeremy involved beating me in video games in a major way. One day when we were pretty little, we were playing in our driveway racing matchbox  cars or melting army men and Jeremy found an anthill where the driveway met our rock garden. Amongst the trail of ants going to and from the anthill, Jeremy found one carrying a diamond. Not a diamond shaped object, an actual diamond. I immediately tried to claim it, since I was playing outside too and was older, but he wouldn’t have it. He snatched it from the ant and ran inside calling for dad. “Dad! Dad! I found an ant carrying a diamond.” Dad was skeptical. Jeremy, if you actually found a diamond, if this is a real diamond, I’ll buy you a Sega Genesis. A week later, we–no, he had a Sega Genesis. At 5 or 6 years old, it was better than winning the lottery. Not only did we play hours and hours of Sonic The Hedgehog or Toejam and Earl, but if I started to beat him, he would often “pull rank” and turn off the Sega just as I was about to win. That would often start a fight that he was more likely to win. Win at any cost. Jeremy was nothing if not committed.

My parents kept the Sega Genesis diamond. None of their friends ever reported that they lost a diamond. They asked. It’s the most bizarre and funny diamond story I’ve ever heard. They mounted the diamond in a gold ring for Jeremy to present to a girlfriend some day. The one. I hate that he never got to do that. I hate it.

It is awful that we are gathered this way for this reason, but I am glad that we are all together for him. I am glad that we are in Plains. He liked it here. He liked fishing. He still holds the record for catching the largest brim I’ve ever seen or heard of. He kept the mounted fish in his room, but he was most proud that Papa keeps a board with the fish’s outline in his woodshop. (I have it now.) He cherished the chances he got to go out hunting with Dad and Papa here in Plains. In fact, I think that hunting in Plains was the only thing that would get Jeremy out of bed at 5:00 AM. Ever. But he loved Plains and he loved these family vacations because he loved his family. He loved refreshing his jokes that had gone stale with Jamie and me. He loved staying up until about sunrise talking with his cousins. He had a special bond with James and Sally through Georgia State, with Margaret through being almost exactly the same age, with Casey through a near identical taste and appreciation for the offbeat. He loved hearing stories and going around the room and catching up on Stephen’s and John’s film projects. He loved seeing me the next morning to get me up to speed. “You’ve got to get Stephen to tell you the story about him skateboarding through Israel.” He loved his family.

Above all, he loved being an uncle. He really did. In writing this, I scrolled all the way up in my text messages to the ones I sent him when Charlie was born. The day before, he texted me “GIVE ME UNCLE STATUS!!” Then he asked me if I was nervous. And excited. Then we texted back and forth and finally at 7:57 PM on May 2, 2013, I sent him a picture of his newborn nephew. He wrote “OMG IM SO HAPPY! AND TEARING UP!!!” and I Sent him more pictures of Charlie and he responded with “I have to change by background already?!?!” I told him that he might as well get used to it. He responded “:-) I love you bro”.

I love you too Jeremy.

As Merry a Christmas as possible

We are still devastated, but the newness has worn off. All of the adrenaline is gone, the shock is over. Disbelief • Devastation • Despair • Depression. Follow the Bouncing Ball. Merry Christmas.

Our family always spends Christmas in Peachtree City, then travels somewhere for a family reunion. This year, we were going to Plains, which is about a 2 hour drive from Peachtree City. For efficiency, my wife and I had an idea that we would pack everything for Christmas and for the trip down to Plains. I was lying in bed thinking about shirts. I didn’t want to get out of bed to look at the shirts though. Might as well have asked me to build a rocket to the moon. I couldn’t concentrate on a single outfit. I didn’t want to get out of bed to look at it. Plus I had almost no interest in going and no energy to do it even if I wanted to.

And my wife and I caught a cold.

…hey! Trouble concentrating, no energy, lost interest in fun things, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, irritability, GI issues without further detail… This one has a name too! Here enters the depression phase.

But at least with a name, I feel like I can handle it. Plus, I have a 2 year old that still needs a Christmas. That got me out of bed. I went downstairs and told Sarah that we needed to recalibrate. I could get us to Peachtree City, but I could not get us to Plains. I used every. last. bit of my energy to be happy around Charlie and keep him excited. I had Charlie help me wrap presents for Grannie Annie and Papa Jeff, grandma and grandpa, and then we loaded his presents and our clothes in the car. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. As I was going up the stairs with a basket of clothes, Charlie presented me with one of his cardboard Christmas blocks with a gold bow on top of it. “Here’s a present to make you feel happy, daddy.” Sweetest boy in the world. He broke my heart into a million little pieces. I needed a minute.

We packed for Peachtree City and left that night. Christmas Eve. We got to my in-laws, put Charlie to bed, and wrapped presents until about 2:30 AM, which may shock you if you don’t know my sleep schedule that intimately. In fact, that’s just about 30 minutes past my normal bed time. I know. I know. I’m working on it. But I’m not used to being interrupted. I dozed off around 3:00 and woke up around 4:30 to a supercell sitting on top of the house. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed right over the house. Charlie jumped out of bed screaming and literally leaped into my arms. He snuggled on my chest and went to sleep, and I really enjoyed the cuddle. But I was tired, so I put him down after the storm passed, which was around 6. (I’ll find out later that the Peachtree City airport 2 miles away recorded 8 inches of rain that night, which has no bearing on the story other than being incredible.) 6:20 I smell the awful, distinct smell of dog poop. Then as I am stirring back awake, I hear one of the the most rage-inducing sounds in the world–dog pee hitting carpet. I shot my arm out at the lamp, turned it on, and scanned the room. The dog had pooped in front of the bed, stepped in it, tracked it all over the room, then scratched the door and somehow got some on the wall. Jury was out if he walked on the throw pillows, but they got washed for good measure. I made no attempt to be quiet. Sarah, of course, shot awake amongst the commotion, saved the dog, and helped me get the carpet shampooer. I bathed the dog, then shampooed the carpet until 7:00 AM. I stood in the cul-de-sac yelling “Free Dog!” for a minute or two. First 10 meals, already paid. Time to sleep.

We pushed Christmas morning until about 10:30. Santa came and gave Charlie all the Duplo he asked Santa for. He got Duplo, trains, musical instruments, and books. He was very excited and very happy. My parents spent Christmas morning in Plains, and they drove up after lunch. In the evening of the 25th, we had Christmas at my parents house.

You know when you get a new job and you have no idea what you are doing? “When you’re designing this system for Qatar, remember it’s TEMPEST compliant.” On it. “I need you to work on the change order turning this project from general area to class 1, div 2.” You got it. “When the agency gets here, I’m going to need pixel maps and hex codes for all the assets we need for the  promotion.” Have it for you in an hour. Fake it ’till you make it. That was Christmas at my house. We put on smiles for Charlie at immense effort. We ate caramel cake and talked about it for an uncomfortably unnatural length of time. We had a light display that dad picked up for $20 that we watched, silently. We talked about trees. We talked about the weather. Thank god for the weather. It was so bizarre that we talked about it for a couple of hours. Or just 20 minutes. Time was largely irrelevant, except that there was a lot of it left until Christmas would finally end. We talked about Charlie’s presents, and mom said something about “Play Sand”. I heard “Play Stan”, and knew that was wrong, but thought it would be fun to look at my iPhone and see how many songs would come up if I searched my music for Stan. I start calling them out. Achilles Last Stand, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Don’t Stand So Close To Me, Get Up Stand Up, I Saw Her Standing There. It was pretty fun. Got to Emimem’s Stan, past Stankonia, then landed on Mr. Saxobeat (by Alexandrea Stan). Jamie looked her up and “WOW I forgot how hot she is.” But then I landed on Dirty Laundry, by Don Henley, on his I Can’t Stand Still album. Dad said yeah, the game was getting old, so I played it. Not thinking. We were all listening to the same lyrics we’ve heard a thousand times and let the line “It’s interesting when people die. Give us Dirty Laundry.” wash over us. Nobody reacted, but the game was over when the song was. Don isn’t wrong. But we’re not ready.

Charlie got up from his nap and Sarah brought him over. Charlie was front and center of everybody’s attention, of course. He got a slide, a ride-on toy with “some assembly required”, some more Duplo, maybe a train set. I forgot. The rest of us did Christmas for tradition’s sake. I handed out the gifts and just quietly placed all of Jeremy’s gifts to the side. It was weird. I just felt like he was just in Europe or something, and he’ll come back later. Then, after we were done, Mom asked if that pile was Jeremy’s. It was. We went through it. Jamie got Jeremy’s hoodie. I really don’t remember what happened to the rest. We all just wanted it over as soon as possible. It was the first Christmas without Jeremy, obviously. But we planned on him. Next year will be our second first Christmas without Jeremy. It’s just miserable.

Josh

Loosely Formed Plans for Jeremy

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When you lose a loved one, everything in you world has a macabre patina that is not welcome, not necessarily comfortable, but exhausting and persistent enough that it wears you down into accepting it. Wearing it, you are able to have a surprisingly normal day–once you’ve redefined normal.

I got a haircut today. I’ve been meaning to for weeks and actually had one scheduled for the 20th. I canceled. But today I went and sat down with my normal stylist and told her to move as quickly as she could. She did. I only broke down once, but I had the foresight to stuff my pockets with tissues. Success.

I spent this morning cleaning Jeremy’s guitar. I cut off the old strings and took it apart to shine up the brass. I polished the body, got all the stickiness and grime off of it. I had Charlie help. I told him it was Uncle Jeremy’s guitar and he could play it any time he wanted, once I put strings on, of course. I showed him the parts of the guitar, I showed him the tools I was using. I showed him the parts of the bridge I was taking apart, and how it went back together. Jeremy had push-button strap locks on his leather guitar strap and I showed Charlie how to use it. For the next 45 minutes, Charlie put the strap on the guitar and took it back off. His strap needed some TLC. I was fine.

I walked into Kroger to get leather cleaner, medicine, and some Coca-Cola Cherry Zero. Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas. It’s the best time of the year. Sure it is. I was fine. Then a clerk that sounded a little nervous and a little jaded came on the microphone to present a monotone reading sans punctuation. “dear loyal customers Christmas is the perfect time to gather the family around the dinner table a pork loin makes a great meal for the holidays they are on sale now for $1.99 a pound at the meat counter.” I smiled. I got the leather cleaner, to clean my deceased brother’s guitar strap. Damn, I wish they had saddle soap, but these wipes should work just fine. Time to get my Coke Zero. Ooh. 4 for $12! Then I glanced at the snacks and found my self staring at Jack Links Sweet and Spicy beef jerky. Jeremy would rip through his stocking on Christmas looking for his beef jerky. I nearly vomited right there in the isle. I abandoned my cart and ran for the bathroom and almost threw up between sobs trying to get it together long enough to break down in private. Luckily I had completely forgotten to eat anything today, so nothing to worry about there. Guy in the next stall probably just wanted 5 minutes of peace to himself. Sorry.

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Well, I promised you plans. Gatherings are not set in stone, but we are starting to form vague plans. We are honoring Jeremy’s wishes to be cremated. We hope to have him home right after Christmas. That was another conversation that we had that you can’t imagine you would joke about, but our reality is so twisted and bizarre and unreal, why not. All the urns in the funeral home were awful. Jeremy would have hated them. There are some with flowers all over it, some with hearts, some with balloons. There was one that had an LED light strip on it that rotated on a stand. Dad asked if there were any with a skull on it, or something Avenged Sevenfold themed. Jamie thought that we ought to get one with flowers and hearts on it so Jeremy would rise out of the ashes and break it. Dad picked a tasteful Cherry box. The comedy vanished. Laugh to keep from crying and all that.

Our family always has a huge family reunion for New Years and this year we just so happen to be going to Plains. After the cousins gather, we will have a small memorial for Jeremy with the family at my grandparents’ house or somewhere else special to Jeremy in Plains. Maybe my grandparents’ pond house. This gathering will just be with the family.

We are planning to have another service, likely at my parents house, sometime after the holidays. Mom and Jamie are coordinating with some of his closest friends that live across the country and we’re more or less going to work around their schedule to make sure they can attend. One of Jeremy’s best friends is in the Coast Guard. That’s as far as we’ve gotten on the second gathering. We’ll give everybody enough notice.

During one of many midnight conversations with my mom, Jeremy made my mom promise to play Avenged Sevenfold and not choir music at his funeral. So, we’ll do that too.

My parents have received many flowers and lots of food. Thank you all for the love and support you have shown so far. For all those asking how to help remember him, in lieu of flowers please donate to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. My grandmother’s organization supports the caregivers that often invisibly work around the clock in homes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices to bring compassion, companionship, and help to those in need. You can donate to the RCI here: http://www.rosalynncarter.org/support/

Josh

Random Memories of My Brother Jeremy

We’ve had an outpouring of support. The news has gone global. He was the number one trending story on Facebook for half a day. I’ve avoided most of it as you might imagine. I’m living it. No need to read it. But I’ve received requests for pictures, stories, interviews. I will say that all of the media requests I have received have been very respectful, and importantly, through email and not on the phone. People Magazine. NBC. The Associated Press. All very cordial. Some I have responded to. Honestly it was good to have something to do. I was already looking at pictures of him. I’m not going to do an interview.

But one interview request was asking what he was like. It’s not an unreasonable question, but hours after you lose somebody you love so much the question becomes troubling. You start thinking about him and you get a crushing panic that you don’t know how to answer the question. Oh god, what was he like? Can I remember what he was like? Can I remember his personality well enough? Dammit. I’ve never had to do that before. I’d always just call him up. Met him for dinner. I’ve never not had him. What if I can’t answer a question like “What was he like?” The question is brand new.

But of course I can answer. That’s a panic I’ve had and still have, my thoughts are in there, my memory of him will get better as my head gets clearer. Maybe as I write. How about the basics.

He was a goof. He was an ass, like all good little brothers. He was always playful with his unique and offbeat sense of humor. He loved his nephew more than anybody in the world. He was a brother. A very good brother. I am going to miss you so much Jeremy.

He was an oddball. He loved his comedy random. I have so many memories, as you do when you live 28 of your years with somebody as close as a brother. But my mind is so tired that even my favorite stories are hard to cohesively form. Memories. They’re coming in segments. Vague thoughts and funny times are coming at me like somebody took a hundred scenes from a hundred different movies and jumbled them up and threw them at me randomly.

I stole his shoe once. We were little. If I was 10, Jeremy must have been 7. We were going to go play outside, and in order to play outside, you put on your shoes. That’s what normal people do. But when you’re 10, you find opportunities to goad your little brother as they come. So I got my shoes on, stole one of his shoes and ran straight out the door. Jeremy was screaming for his shoe and tore out the door after me. Throughout our childhood Jeremy was always faster than me, but I had a shoe on him and a head start. He was wailing and lord was he furious. I smiled. I laughed. Perfectly executed brotherly asshattery. Then a damn hatchet flew by my head. He had ran into the garage, grabbed a rusty old cast iron 100 year old hatchet, and flung it at me. He missed, and I watched the hatchet tumble in the yard and the ancient hickory handle, the one that my great grandfather used, slip off the business end. It stopped me in my tracks and he was by my side at the next moment, shoe taken from my hand. He stared at me deadpan, right in my eyes, and said “Don’t take my shoe.” I ran inside to the arbiters and screamed “Jeremy threw a hatchet at me!” My dad wanted to know what I did, and I gave him the truth. “He threw a hatchet at you for nothing?” Well, I took his shoe, which is nothing, right dad? “You probably shouldn’t take his shoe.” For the next 20 years, I would reach for his shoe. It would freeze him in his tracks and he’d give me the same stare, just daring me to take it. And then we would laugh and I would call him crazy. It was probably our best inside joke. Instant ice breaker. I’d introduce him to my friends with “Hi Eli. This is my brother Jeremy. Don’t take his shoe.”

His best gig was to scream randomly. He loved to get me in trouble and he was very good at it. We would be sitting in the living room, eating cereal and watching cartoons, and Jeremy would grab his arm and fall over wailing and through his sobs “Josh…. Hit… M…m…meee!” and both my parents would come give me a stern lecture about being nice to my brother and that I shouldn’t hit him. Punishment might be doled out. Cartoons might be over. I might have to go to my room. I protested vehemently. But I didn’t hit him! Great. Now I’m in trouble for lying. All the while, Jeremy would hide behind the doorway, peer in, dramatically and silently giggle, while pointing and grinning from ear to ear. I begged my parents to turn around and catch him. He got away with it every time. Though he did get caught fork-handed carving the word “JOSH” into the kitchen table.

His favorite movie was The Lion King. Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba. Every single day. For about a year and a half. I’d walk into the room just long enough to see the VCR spool up and hear NAAAAANTS INGONYYYYYYYYYAAAA… And the first hundred times or so were fine buddy, but god I was tired of The Lion King. I think he knew that. That might be why he liked it. It’s Charlie’s favorite movie now.

He LOVED lobster. I don’t know if he started loving lobster because of the taste or because it was the most expensive thing on the menu. He loved to do that. Pissed my dad off so much. Jeremy do you even look at the left side of the menu before you order? I would jokingly order for him at a restaurant. “I want the most expensive thing on the menu stuffed with the second most expensive thing on the menu.” He’d respond, “You want lobster stuffed with tacos?” He was always good for a Simpsons reference. But he did love Lobster. He would make it at home. I’m usually the chef in the family, but he made a good lobster. It was a whole production, and he loved every bit of it. He would go to Publix and pick out the lobster. Then he would bring it home and promptly name it Frank. Then he would play with Frank as the water boiled and he would make a Mr. Bill “Oh Noooo!” as he put the lobster in the water. He had an oddball sense of humor, and no matter how odd he got, he had a way of letting you in on the joke. His favorite food was a joke. A bit of long form comedy. It was perfectly fitting.

If you didn’t laugh at his jokes, he would make himself the joke. Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side! And he would open his arms and put on an ear-to-ear, open mouth smile, freeze in space, and stare at you until you cracked. And if you didn’t, penis.

He did not like school. Well, that’s not true. He did not like classes. He loved school because school was where his friends were. He was not particularly interested in sitting through lectures. He did well in the classes where he got to do something interactive, but he was not somebody to sit in a chair and be yammered at. As such, he didn’t do that well at Georgia State. But the program at Clayton State interested him. Almost exactly one year ago, I helped him clean up his transcript from Georgia State to get his best foot forward going into Clayton State. He made it in. He was so damn proud of himself, and I was proud of him too. He was actually excited about school for the first time… gee… that I can remember. Oh god buddy. Last week we were talking about what laptop you should get for classes. Your Alienware was a little too old.

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He wanted to do “Computers”. I laughed at him. Jeremy, “Computers” is a large field. He knew that, of course. He was a very good artist. He would do amazing pencil sketches and he wanted to learn graphics design. He didn’t know if he wanted to specialize in marketing, publications, drafting, web design, UI, UX, or just become a Photoshop whiz, but he knew he wanted to do something graphics related. Something creative. Interactive. But he knew he could get me by playing the fool and saying he wanted to do “Computers”. He found a shtick that worked. If anything, Jeremy was committed to a joke.

He told me that the best thing that has ever happened to him was becoming an uncle. He was so proud. He loved Charlie. Every time Jeremy saw him, he would tell Charlie that he was his favorite person. The first time he met Charlie he was so afraid that he would drop him. Charlie was only a few hours old when he met Unka Jer-my. We had Jeremy sit down on the couch in the hospital and just hold him. He just stared at his nephew and cried a bit and smiled. I don’t remember seeing him that happy, ever. For the rest of his life (what a terrible statement. I hate it.) Charlie would light up Jeremy’s face. Charlie would run to him with his arms stretched out yelling Unka Jer-my!!! and Jeremy would pick him up and give him a huge hug. Jeremy would squeeze back. He would smile.

In a post on Facebook yesterday, I told everybody one of my favorite bits. When I would drive him around, every time we stopped at a stoplight he would crank up whatever song was on — could be some Outkast, could be a Honda Car Land commercial — and rock out to it staring at the guy driving in the next car. Wouldn’t break eye contact, he’d commit. He’d go nuts. Arms flailing, head banging, car bouncing, throwing up his fist and going for it. It would always bring out a huge smile and a laugh. Bonus points if the kids in the back seat saw it first.

And then I told everybody that if you want to remember Jeremy, do something ridiculous to make a random somebody laugh. Dance for no reason other than getting someone you don’t know to smile. Make a ridiculous face to a baby that’s looking at you over their parents’ shoulder. Seize opportunities to bring happiness, at the grocery store, at a stoplight, in a crowd waiting to go into class. Be the reason that somebody goes home and says “Guess what silly thing I saw today.”

So here’s a present for you buddy. Yesterday we went to Pike’s Nursery to pick out a tree for you. We didn’t pick the ugly False Cypress that you “wanted”. I know you would have hated it if we actually bought it. I know you’ll have much more fun bitching that we didn’t buy your “favorite” tree. We got you a Cherry Blossom tree. It’s the exact same kind of tree you and I were going to pick out to give mom and dad to celebrate their new house and their wedding anniversary. Now it’s yours. Nobody had an appropriate vehicle, but I had infinite headroom. So I wedged it in the passenger seat and drove it home. I got nods of encouragement and understanding from other Porsche drivers, and I got very confused looks from mini vans. I got a lot of laughs on the drive home. Dad joked that I picked the crappiest Christmas Tree in the lot. I told him that the tree had a lot more needles on it when I picked it up. I felt like you were with us the whole trip, and you made us smile.

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Dammit.

I love you. Josh.

To Jeremy, With Love, your sister Sarah

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I have known Jeremy since he was 11 years old. We met in the summer of 1998 when Josh invited me, as his first girlfriend, over to his house. I met his parents and his two younger brothers, Jeremy and Jamie. I remember them being rambunctious and loud, in the way only young boys can be. They had a fun, teasing, joking camaraderie amongst them. Always trying to “get each other’s  goat”, but they were a close knit three. I remember playing with Jeremy and Jamie and pretending to hide fake poo in Josh’s shoes over and over again one night. We thought it was hilarious, though the joke got old to Josh pretty quickly.
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Jeremy was dependable. When our car broke down on our way to a family vacation in Florida, Jeremy came back to get us in his car, hours out of his way. When Josh’s mom was sick and in the hospital a few weeks after Charlie was born, Jeremy took on the lion’s share of the responsibilities in helping to care for her and keeping things running at home.

Jeremy had a great sense of humor. He loved a good joke (and a bad one). He wanted to make people smile and laugh around him. He was quick to be a goofball or catch you off guard with a silly face or staring contest. He was particularly good at pulling off a deadpan face. He was constantly sending Josh jokes and funny memes, and Josh would share the particularly hilarious ones with me. When Charlie was a few months old, Josh, Jeremy, Jamie, and I had a group text conversation where we took pictures of Charlie and captioned them with what his baby thoughts must be. We were loving every minute of this game! Laughing at our hilarious comments and loving the sweet pictures of Charlie.
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Jeremy was a thrill seeker. He was braver than I will ever be. He loved roller coasters and any type of ride that spun, twisted, dropped, rocketed. He swam in the Georgia Aquarium with sharks. He even tried sky diving. Not to say he wasn’t scared, but he faced these fears head on and loved every minute of it.

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Jeremy was also a huntsman. On visits to his grandparents’ house in Plains, he would often wake up in the pre-dawn hours to go hunting for turkeys with his grandfather. Jeremy learned from his grandfather and was a great shot. He also loves to fish and shoot targets. He was so proud when his grandfather or dad said he was the best shot of any particular hunting trip, which he usually was. Josh learned woodworking and fly fishing from his grandfather. It is a special bond between the two of them that Josh treasures. I know Jeremy must have treasured his quiet mornings in the woods with his Papa as much as Josh treasures his afternoons in the woodshop.

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Jeremy loved being an uncle. He was so nervous the first time he held Charlie in the hospital but did a good job and was so sweet. The smile never left his face that day. He was dedicated to making sure he was a good uncle to Charlie. He told me more than once that Charlie was his favorite person in the world and how much he loved him. Jeremy said that just hearing Charlie say, “Hi, Unka Jer-my!” could make his whole day. Charlie has a special bond with all of his uncles, and I’ve always been so thankful that these three young guys in their twenties have been so dedicated and so sweet to my little guy. He is so lucky.

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These are just a few memories out of the 17 years we shared together. I know many more will come back to me as time passes. Today, they are making my heart ache, but I hope one day they will bring me the joy of Jeremy’s smile and laugh.

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I just can’t believe this is real. I can’t believe you are gone, Jeremy. You had plans. New goals. New adventures ahead of you. You were just getting started. I just can’t believe it. Every time I see your picture I remember how alive you were just a moment ago, and it just seems impossible that you are gone.

I will love you forever, and Charlie will always know what a loving uncle he had in you.

Your sister-in-law,
Sarah xoxo

Rest in Peace dear brother Jeremy. I love you.

My brother Jeremy Davis Carter died last night. 2:00 AM. As I’m writing this, about 6 hours ago. He was only 28 years old. Dammit.

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I am so raw. I feel everything and nothing at once, at the same time. I wasn’t planning on blogging. I don’t know if I will hit “Publish”. I might. But right now my thoughts are disjointed, I am anxious to go out and do something, tackle something, but there is really nothing to do. At least not yet. There will be.

My dad called me sometime around 10:10 last night and told me that something was wrong, that they were at the hospital with Jeremy and it was not good. I got in the car and got there as quick as I could. I got a hold of Jamie at work and got him to come down. He made it there before me.

Jeremy was in Trauma 1 in the ER. He was not responsive. His temperature was low. His organs were not working. He was bleeding. He was yellow. I find out later that he had a heart attack at home while alone in the kitchen with our mom, my dear mother had to give him CPR until the paramedics came, and they took him to the ER.

Trauma 1 was a flurry of activity the entire night. Until it wasn’t. Jeremy had IV’s everywhere; leg, groin, arm, thumb. He had saline, epinephrine, blood, potassium, vial after vial after bag after bag after syringe. They did everything they could, they really did. They set us up in a family room. About 1:50, we hear Code Blue, Trauma 1. All personnel. Dammit.

Jeremy’s heart stopped a second time. They did CPR for 10 minutes. CPR in a real ER is no joke. It’s not slow, even compressions. It’s fast. It’s hard. It’s violent. It shakes the whole bed and takes an incredible amount of energy and doctors switch out every 30 seconds because it’s just so hard.

After 10 minutes of trying, they said they would continue, but he would likely be severely brain damaged. We told them to stop. They did. He died at 2:00 AM on December 20, 2015. He was only 28 years old. Dammit. I cried as hard as I ever had. I kept it together until the doctor said stop. Not afterwards. None of us did.

What happened after that. I don’t know. It’s surreal. It’s still surreal. I am waiting to wake up or for somebody to tell me that it was a nightmare or a horrible case of mistaken identity or really for somebody that knows all the facts to just tell me that the facts are not true. Just this one time can the facts not be true. I want the universe to lie to me. Just this once.

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I stayed around the hospital until 4. I told Jeremy goodbye. I kissed him. I hugged my brother Jamie, my wife, my parents, my grandparents. We cried. We cursed. We prayed. We cursed. We cried again. I’m still cursing. Still crying.

I came home to my in-laws. They came to get Charlie and I needed to be with my son. I hoped I would be able to sleep. I did not. I thought about everything. I read the text messages that we sent each other. Just on Tuesday. Dammit Jeremy. Send me another joke. Something funny from 9gag. Tell me about your classes Jeremy. Please. How was orientation, buddy? Are you excited? Have you decided what area of computing you want to study? Are you going to do graphics design? Dammit Jeremy text me and tell me it was all a lie and you’re fine and you’re excited about school, excited to see Charlie for Christmas. I am crying my eyes out right now buddy. I can’t see the screen.

It’s hard to comprehend how much the world has changed. I’ve written my Christmas letter to send to everybody. It’s fun and witty because I wanted you to enjoy it. I wrote that 2015 was good to us. We are supposed to get a cherry blossom tree to dedicate to mom and dad. I need you to get the plaque. I just got an email that a present I got for you has arrived at my house. It’s a hanger for your guitar, so you can put yours on the wall like I have for mine. I remember picking out the guitar with you. Very well. We got you an awesome amp. Played some Bombtrack. It was a very fun day with you.

I remember how you cried when you met Charlie for the first time. You were so sweet with him. You were a good uncle. He’ll know about you.

Dammit. I’m fine for a while then I get a wave, a tidal wave, that just comes over me and tumbles me around and I cry my eyes out. Then I get it together. Then I get a trigger. I think about my parent’s Christmas card. Oh god their Christmas card. When Shutterfly printed it off, Jeremy was alive, smiling. The Peachtree City post office is amazingly terrible. They’ve had the damn Christmas cards at their office since December 14. They’ve scanned this 3 pound box 5 times. They still haven’t delivered them. Jeremy never saw it. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

I think about going through your stuff. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to have to. I worry about mom and dad. So much. I don’t know what they are going to do. I don’t know what I am going to do, but mom and dad. Mom.

I’m so excited to tell you about Charlie’s Christmas present. Remember those cardboard blocks we had as a kid? We built forts, knocked them down, threw them at each other, stood on them, made ramps, made walls, broke through them. I hid your toys in them and you did the same. We made a turret that went to the ceiling more than once. I can’t wait for you to play with them again. Play with them with Charlie. I think you’ll be 7 again. Dammit dammit dammit.

It’s been about 12 hours now. The word has gone around the family and close friends. I’m getting messages of love and support. Devastating. We are devastated. I heard the heart-wrenching devastating news. Devastated. That’s really the correct word. Nothing else really captures it. I am a sleepless shell with nothing inside. De vastare. Totally lay waste. That sums it up.

I went over to my parents house. I’ve never been so miserable. I don’t know if I have any tears left. Before I went to my parents house, I went to their old house. By chance, the mailman pulled in behind me. I stood in the middle of the road for them to deliver the damn Christmas card. They had it on the truck. The mail carrier handed it to me and said “Have a nice day.” It occurred to me that “Have a nice day.” is something that people say to each other. It’s normal. My world is so totally shattered and this mail carrier’s world is not. Have a nice day. Here are your Christmas cards. Such is the situation where the Christmas cards and Have a Nice Day are the most wretched of all wretched things.

I brought them into my parents house but did not announce them. I sat them next to my computer, which remained unopened. We all cried our eyes out again. I thought I got a lot of it out. Then we started talking about “plans”. We do not want to make plans. Not those plans. But it needed to be discussed. We don’t have a plot in Peachtree City. Our family has plots in Plains and in Arlington, Georgia. Mom asked dad if he wanted to bury him in Plains. He said probably but wanted to know if mom felt strongly about burying him in Arlington. She wanted dad to consider it. Then they asked me. I told them that it was up to them. They disagreed. My eyes welled up again. Jeremy did not want to be buried. He wanted to be cremated. I told them this. They remembered the conversation, but didn’t know if he was serious. He was. Many months or years ago he told us that if anything happened, he wanted to be cremated because he is claustrophobic. It took me three tries to get it out. Dammit.

More wailing sobs from the porch. My mom found the box of Christmas cards. It has 2 pictures of Jeremy. One is at my house with everybody but Jamie. The picture with Jamie is of the Christmas tree that he and Jamie cut down. It’s in my parent’s living room. There are presents for him under the tree.

I have a headache. I haven’t slept. I can’t sleep. My eyes are still puffy and the devastating, crushing, overwhelming pain comes in waves. I’m fine. I’m helping dad repair some furniture. Then I am very very not. It grips you and makes you scream out in agony. Then you control yourself and you start thinking about other things. Anything really. What kind of tree is that? What color are you going to stain the deck? How much was your chandelier? And then the wound rips wide open. Wide wide open. The trigger might be a half empty bottle of Caffeine Free Coca-Cola. A crushed cigarette pack. The image in my mind’s eye when Charlie runs out to him arms outstretched yelling Unka Jeremy!

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He had a whole battery of tests just a couple months ago. He couldn’t eat well and his legs ached. He had nearly every doctor at Emory look at him. They ended up prescribing him Vitamin A and Vitamin D. After all that. He got the full work over and really just needed vitamins. If a 28 year old heart is going to go out, shouldn’t they have found that? Maybe, but they didn’t. All I am really doing is negotiating with the universe, trying to find an inconsistency, trying to find a chink in the reality of events, the failure in the cosmic equation, hoping if I find the flaw that I can prove to the world that it didn’t actually happen and that Jeremy and I can laugh about it.

Dammit I am going to miss you buddy. I love you Jeremy.

Your loving brother Josh

Good lord I am tired

Reader, I am so tired. I don’t really know why I am blogging instead of passing out on the couch awaiting stern looks and reminders of chores unfinished. But we had a huge day.

In a life without kids, my day probably would have read like this: I went out and took some pictures, went to the gardens, had a couple nice meals, started the dishes, nightcapped with a glass of Macallan 12, and went to sleep. With the exception of sleep because I never sleep, I did all those things. Outlooks are different when you have a toddler.

We have started a tradition with our friends Rick and Kim to shoot each other’s kids. Calm down… with a Nikon. Every year (2 so far), we go somewhere where the leaves are pretty and shoot each other’s family Christmas card photos. We’re not Annie Leibovitz, but we do have a healthy respect for lining up a shot and remembering that our subjects have feet. After arriving late due to a prolonged fight about pooping, we had a fantastic shoot in Morgan Falls, which has an unfortunate juxtaposition with a beautiful playground. So, lets play a game. Were our children (a) excited to take family portraits or (b) completely flabbergasted as to why we had to stand in this boring spot doing boring things like sit when there was an enormous brightly colored playground JUST RIGHT THERE!… I can feel your anticipation rising, reader. It was b. We continued to shoot on the playground, then we finally went to lunch. We had a fantastic lunch. I bought a ceasar burger, which is essentially a Big Mac the way a Big Mac should have been, with perfect onion rings. Perfect! The burger was excellent. Sarah’s trout was excellent. Every bite of Charlie’s was a fight. The placement of the ketchup was a fight. He asked for ketchup, and he pointed to where he wanted it on his plate. So, silly-ass me, I put the ketchup where he pointed on his plate. Hindsight and all that, what he really wanted was a cup of ketchup so he could stick his fingers in and color on his plate. Shoulda known. So we paid, went home, and put him down for a nap. Sarah and I sat on the couch and stared into the middle distance until 30 minutes later when it was time to get up and go to the Botanical Gardens for their Holiday Lights. They have an amazing display of over 2 million lights throughout the park, and they have a new(ish) restaurant Linton’s that we go to whenever we are at the gardens. Sarah’s pot pie was 5-star gourmet and my beef bourgignon was amazing. Silly-ass me thought that Charlie would like meat, potatoes, carrots, and chicken because he mostly eats and likes meat, potatoes, carrots and chicken, and we asked him if he would like it, and he said yes. First things first, we gave him a bite of our tomato bisque, being that one of Charlie’s favorite food is a tomato, and he immediately spit it all over his lap. Guess he didn’t like it. Then we filled a plate for him, by which he was utterly offended, and decided he was too cool for dinner. We negotiated (I gave up and put on Curious George on my iPhone) and he finally ate, then we went to go look at the lights. Charlie really liked them, but didn’t want to sit in the stroller, or be told where to go, or when to stop. He loved the trains. We must have ran around the trains setup two hundred thousand times, then we headed to a fire pit to roast marshmallows. Charlie had his first S’more! He didn’t like it at first when his first bite was just burnt marshmallow, but now he’s a fan. After the s’more and about an hour and a half after his bedtime, he finally agreed to sit in his seat in the stroller and we went through the light tunnel and went out. The lights were spectacular.

The drywall in our house is up, mudded, and taped. I’m going to sleep.

– Josh