I laid on the grass next to you watching the sparks erupt and fade into the dark as the rocket flew first up, then to the side. We used to build those rockets all night long as the snow would fall outside our window. Yours was the most meticulously built. It's nose was as sharp as an arrowhead. It's fins were perfectly placed. It's packing was stuffed gently but carefully, sure to not bring unbalance to the rocket as a whole. The rocket was taped to the side with a counter weight on the other side to keep it from throwing off the weight and balance of the rocket, whose frame was a simple toilet paper cardboard base. Joe and I were both lacking in any mechanical abilities, but you....you were a guru. Your rockets flew into the night December sky and out of our vision...out of our reach. It was as if they had a real destination that was far away from this place.
We laid on the grass and watched Joe's rocket fly sideways and onto the neighbors roof...a site I had seen so many times before in both my rockets and his. We didn't take those nights for granted. It was cold outside. Crystal covered everything. We wore those hats. We smoked and smoked and smoked. We exhaled and made symbols of our youth into the sky, never once admitting that we would grow older and have to accept the responsibility that came with age. We just tuned out the world and built those rockets and enjoyed every moment of our time together.
Underneath was a dread of it all ending. In the back of our minds we knew it would have to end and there would be wives and kids and jobs. We knew we couldn't live in the night sky forever. There was something profoundly sad about the thought of that. I didn't want it to end. I had what I needed...finally.
I grew up, just as I suspected I would. I got married and had kids and became a wild success...maybe not the way success is usually defined, but success the way I have perceived it. I became intensely devoted to my wife and my children. I had been blessed with everything I thought I did not deserve. I had everything, until I lost you on Christmas of 2009. The last time I saw you was your birthday 2009, just 6 days before you built a rocket that could hold your 6 foot 6 frame. It's your birthday today and I don't know still why you aren't here celebrating. In fact, today none of us are celebrating. We are instead somber...trying to remember only the positive. We are trying not to let it all come flooding back in. The last three years have been the most difficult of our lives. We have wept uncontrollably and without consolation. We have shook our fists at God. We have held each other and held each other together. We have had to stop talking when talking about you to keep from breaking down. We have remembered every beautiful thing about you. We remember who you really were...the most beautiful person any of us had ever met.
Losing you brought us together. Losing you has defined the way we live our lives. Joe and I still talk about going night fishing or building rockets, but those things are gone now. If we did them, they would only be an unbearable reminder of how you were no longer here with us. All of those things are gone now and we are forced to finally grow up....without you.
I miss you big brother more than any of my words could describe. I wish I would have known and done more to save you. I wish all of the beautiful lights of Christmas could have kept you out of he dark. But I didn't and they didn't and now I stare at your grave with your ashes lying on my chest. I say, "Happy Birthday!" You would have been 35 years old. You would have loved to see your son as a safety at the elementary school. I get to see him directing traffic every morning. You would have loved to see your daughter sing a solo in the Christmas play. You would have loved to see the way your kids have grown so strong. They worship the ground you walked on. You are their hero. You are my hero. They miss you and so do we.
I stopped being mad at you years ago. I thank God for you. I thank God that I got that time with you, laying on top of my car, looking at the sky and dreaming together. We were made of gold and nothing could touch us. We were what every kid believes they are...invincible. Until we weren't.
Happy birthday Will.
Thanks for reading...Z