I’m starting to find the words to talk about my youngest brother Emmanuel. As many of you know, he died in early August at the age of 23. He died in his sleep, peacefully, and in bed. He is missed every day and there isn’t a sunset I don’t think of him and our all too short time together on earth. We’re not religious or even very spiritual, but after all the death in my life the past few years I’ve gotta think they’re all with me when I need them the most.
From the day Eman was born, he and I have been like water and oil. With him gone I feel lopsided and off-balance. It’s as if the counterweight to my existence has gone. I’m left stumbling and trying to find my footing. Out of the family, he was the other blond one and our personalities and temperaments framed my middle brother Anton perfectly.
I regret nothing more than the state of our relationship when he died.
Over the past few years he and I had been mostly at odds. Over anything and nothing. I was hard on him, harder than I would have been on just a friend, and it got in the way our of relationship. He also wasn’t the easiest to get along with, and he pushed people away.
I wanted him to succeed in life and make his own way. I never thought our relationship would be one of opposites or opposition, but that’s just where it was. It wasn’t going to last forever though.
Eman was a “3rd act” kind guy, and he was gonna pull through and wow us all one day soon. I hoped that he would find his own peace and direction, and that it would make him happy and bring balance to our dynamic.
When I looked to the future I envisioned him as the best “funny uncle”, the one who would teach them how to be effortlessly cool, take them to buy booze for the first time, and maybe counsel them on issues that they wouldn’t discuss with Dan and I. Eman was never not in my future, and our relationship was going to be amazing.
The geographic distance between myself and the rest of my family is not intentional, rather a part of my life as a military spouse. As you may have read in my summer road trip post // here // and // here //, we live like 16 hours (by car) away from our families. It’s really hard to be a part of daily life or family life in any meaningful way when you miss most events, and are home for a flurry of activity a few times a year.
I make up for that by calling my family whenever I’m in the car. I call my brother on his way home from work, I call my parents almost every other day, and Eman – always the nocturnal creature – was never available when I was driving, so over the years I learned to just text him because he would rarely answer my calls.
I regret that I did not try to call him more. We texted, and I’m thankful for that written record of our relationship, but its not the same as a good phone call and laughing at whatever is going on. Our last text exchange was about our cats (a favourite topic of conversation for us because Eman was an animal lover an never met a kitty cat he didn’t love) and I know it was 100% genuine.
In the days after his death we all searched for clues as to what his personal life was like. He was a private person, and it was to our great joy and surprise that we found and gained access to all his online accounts. Turns- out my brother was quite the internet troll and spent years in sneaker-head forums talking about the new designer running shoes. Reading his comments is a window onto a person I barely knew, and I look forward to discovering what he was like as a young adult.
Most of my memories of him are between birth and the age of 17, at which point I left Toronto for Kingston. I will cherish those years until the day I die, and look back fondly on each memory as I flip through family photo albums.
This weekend we’re gathering in Toronto for his celebration of life, and it’s going to be hard. Friends, family and loved ones will congregate to remember all the good times, share memories, tell stories, and I hope to hear about some funny happenings or testaments to his character, and maybe even gleam more about who he was.
I miss my brother every day, and if I could spend an hour with anyone on earth dead or alive, it would be Eman. Miss you bro <3