Tomorrow is my birthday…but I don’t feel like celebrating.
Grief is a crazy thing. It’s been over two weeks since we suddenly lost my uncle, Jesse. I attended his funeral earlier this week and saw him in his casket but my brain still can’t accept that it’s all real. I keep thinking that at some point I’ll get on Facebook and see that little green dot on his profile picture above a Dallas Cowboys post. I keep thinking he’ll text me to finish planning our family reunion. That’s what we were doing the last time I talked to him. We couldn’t have imagined that our family would be gathering next to mourn him being taken from us far too soon. I can’t believe we spent our last Christmas together. I can’t believe I’ll never get another birthday card from him. I can’t believe we won’t have more adventures together. This can’t be real.
Jesse was truly an incredible person. He had a way of making the people around him feel safe and seen. I feel like he is one of the few family members that really understood me. When everyone was discouraging me from making different choices for my life, Jesse was always there to encourage me to live my own life and make my own mistakes. Knowing he was just a text or call away gave me so much strength and courage to confront the world. I could feel brave doing anything because I knew he would be there for me no matter what. Now that he’s gone, I feel so lost. How can I be that courageous person when a huge source of my strength is gone? Who will be there to ask, “Ok Tiffany, what do you need,” instead of, “Tiffany, are you crazy,” like everyone else?
Not only did Jesse support my love of travel, he joined me in that passion. He was there for my first flight when I was in middle school. He took my mom and me to Washington D.C. and introduced me to adventure. He showed me that despite being very sick, I could still live my life and have new experiences. He took me to California and to Disneyland when I was in college. We had so much fun. I loved seeing him at Disney. I could see his inner child come out and play. He gave me the space to reconnect to my inner child, a part of myself that I felt had been stolen from me very early in my life.
When I went on my first international trip to Italy almost a decade ago, I told him that I wanted to give the family I was going to stay with some Texas things to remember me by. He told me he had it covered and the next time I saw him, he handed me a bag filled with Dallas Cowboys keychains, postcards, wallets, notepads and all kinds of things. He loved the Cowboys and enjoyed spreading that love around the world. The Italians loved their gifts and that became our custom every time I traveled. He would give me things to gift the people I met that touched my heart while simultaneously growing the Cowboys Nation. Every single time I gave something to someone, they would light up. He was so good at creating that feeling in others. Joy.
A few years ago, we went to my favorite place on Earth together. I planned an amazing trip to Italy for Jesse, my mom, her husband and me. We had the best time. I’m so grateful to have had that experience with him. I’ll cherish those memories for the rest of my life. When we visited the Amalfi Coast, it took all of our breaths away. Jesse really loved Positano. At one point he told me we needed to figure out how we can start our own business and move to Positano. Best idea ever! I wish we would have done that. But instead, that’s where I’ll imagine him from now on. Walking on a beautiful beach, eating delicious gelato and asking the people he meets his favorite question, “Where are y’all from?”
I know he wouldn’t want me to be sad but how can I not be when my heart has been shattered? He’s been present for every meaningful event in my life. I can’t imagine a future without him. I always thought that one day he would give me away at my wedding and that we would continue to see the world together.
That old Skeeter Davis song keeps popping up in my head. “Why do the birds go on singing? Why do the stars glow above? Don’t they know, it’s The End of the World. It ended when I lost your love.” While I know I haven’t lost his love in the way Skeeter meant, I have lost him and that’s even worse. Nothing makes any sense right now.
“Grief is the last act of love we can give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love,” – Anonymous. There certainly was great love between us. So tomorrow for my birthday, I’m going to give myself the gift of deep grief because Jesse gave me the gift of great love.
I love you so much, Jesse. Thank you for all the light and love you brought into my life.