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.