One year.

Dear Ed,

I can’t believe it’s been a year since you decided to leave this world. In fact, even though you decided to leave me exactly one year ago, one year ago today, I was not even aware that you made this decision to leave and jump off that bridge. I was at home, on the phone with my friend and eating dinner. I thought it was just any other night. I had gotten off the phone with our mother just a bit before, and I was telling her about my plan to go to Toronto with Chris to visit his brother that following weekend. And then a couple hours later, she calls and leaves a calm, urgent voice message, and when I call her back, she tells me that you are missing.

It wasn’t until tomorrow one year ago that I knew for a fact that you were missing… and dead. I knew it. I could feel it. I can’t remember any other 16-hour period of my life that was worse than that time, when I felt more helpless and like I could do nothing at all. I just kept hoping and hoping in my mind that you were still out there somewhere, breathing, eating, walking — just alive. The world became a blur to me and nothing else really mattered as long as I knew that you were fine.

And then our dad called me early afternoon on the 23rd and confirmed the terrible news. And I honestly just felt like dying at that moment. I wasn’t sure if or how our parents or I could get through this. How was I supposed to live knowing that you, my big brother, decided life wasn’t worth living anymore and committed suicide? How could I live with myself always wondering that if I maybe had done one extra thing for you or said or not said something else that maybe you’d still be with us today?

It was like my whole life changed from that point onward. My hatred and anger for our family increased exponentially – for all of its dysfunction and negativity and lack of genuine care. My levels of sensitivity heightened to a point where I was always finding myself tearing up or crying over things that I’d never really gotten emotional about before. My impatience became greater, and I found myself getting more irritated by sayings or people that I never would normally have issues with. My consciousness of what it means to be “empathetic” grew, but mostly because I felt like 90% of everyone around me had no idea what the hell that word even means or how they were supposed to act around me knowing that I had just lost you, and not just lost you in a “natural” way, but to suicide. I was already someone who had a smaller group of friends, but it’s like this happening only proved how much smaller that group had to be in my life because I didn’t like the way a lot of people responded to me after that.

I want you to know that despite all the pain and tears in the last year that I’m not mad at you for leaving. In fact, I can’t even remember a time when I was angry with you in the last 365 days. I can’t blame you for not wanting to be a part of this world. I feel this spiraling sadness and feel even worse when I think of how lonely you must have felt all those years because no one really understood you, and I wasn’t physically there enough to comfort and encourage you. I still have moments when I curse myself and think I didn’t do enough as a sister to help you. You’re the only one in my life who would be happy for me because you just are and because you love me, not because you have anything to gain from it. You’re the only one who could understand me in your exact way because we grew up in the same house with the same parents. You’re the only person who will ever have the exact same blood in his veins as me.

A lot of people think that because I’ve gotten a new job, done a lot of traveling, continued socializing and working on different projects that I’m just fine without you, that maybe the pain isn’t there anymore, that maybe you are no longer top of mind to me. Only morons would think that way. I think about you every single day, if not every single hour, even if just for a second. Even though you died, I have to move on with my life to make sure I can stay sane, to prove to you that life is worth living and amazing things really can happen on this earth. You left too early, Ed. You didn’t even stick around long enough for Chris and me to take you out to Indian food to celebrate your 34th birthday. Well, I’ll admit — that’s something I’m kind of pissed about.

Did you see us when we were in Brazil, and Chris proposed on Sao Conrado beach with all of those hang gliders constantly landing on that brilliant white sand? I thought about you a lot that day. I’ve thought about you a lot every time I share the proposal story because I wish I could have called you to tell you myself and hear you get excited for me…. because I know you would have been despite the profound sadness that enveloped you. I’ve caught myself tearing up when I share the story because I always remember you and how you will never physically be here for me to tell, and you will not be here the day we get married.

It’s okay, though. I always feel you, and in my heart, you will never be dead. You still live on in me, in my life, and all over San Francisco whenever I go back. I love you and miss you so much, Ed. I hope you always remember that wherever you are and no matter where I am. Life has to end, but love doesn’t. Our love will never, ever end. And I will see you again — in this life, sadly only in my dreams, and in the next life, when you are waiting for me to join you when I am ready.

Love,

Yvonne

It’s almost here

Do I still get a grace period for feeling miserable that Ed is gone, or has that period already ended maybe six months ago? Or maybe the grace period recommences every year when we reach the anniversary of his passing. I don’t really know how people perceive these things.

I spent a lot of today wondering if anyone is actually thinking that it’s been almost a year since he decided to say “Peace out!” in his own way and leave us. I’m sure my parents are painfully cognizant of it. That would explain their sudden getaway trip as well as my mom’s voice being a lot softer and more gentle the last few days over the phone. Who remembers? Or really, who even cares? Who thinks about the fact that he died almost a year ago now? I wonder if any of his church friends ever think about him, or if my good-for-nothing cousins stop for a moment to contemplate his passing. Do they even remember the date? And then I get into an angry mood thinking about how embarrassing two of them were when they gave their version of a “eulogy” at my brother’s funeral, and I ask myself what made me more infuriated — that terrible, immature, shallow speech, or my third cousin’s rushed, mumbled, and non-enunciated recitation of 1 Corinthians 13 — all of this done within three feet of my brother’s dead body.

Maybe my friend was right. Maybe none of them should be invited to my wedding.

Random getaway

I was on the phone with my mom last night, and she tells me that she decided last week that she and my dad would drive down to Monterey early next week. They would leave on Monday morning and come back Wednesday evening. “Your dad works so hard that I told him that we should take a short trip and enjoy,” she said. My parents have been to Monterey more times than I can count (they like what they are used to), and I guess it is an improvement that they are going somewhere instead of just saying home all the time, but then it suddenly hits me today that the real reason that they are going away is because my mom doesn’t want to be at home when the anniversary of Ed’s passing comes on Tuesday. It took me over a day to realize this.

All those words still sound terrible to me and trigger tears and stomach knots in me: “Ed’s passing,” “Ed’s death,” “Ed’s gone,” “Ed’s not here anymore,” “the anniversary of Ed’s passing.” I don’t really want to face the reality that he’s been gone from my life for almost an entire year. Hell, when thinking about my bridal shower being in San Francisco, I still thought about it as though he was still living at home and still sleeping in the same room that we shared growing up. In many ways, his death is still not real to me, and maybe it will never really be fully real to me. I’ll never know for sure.

Old friends

Tonight, one of my best friends and I were on FaceTime chatting for over 2.5 hours about work, life, wedding planning, and travel. It’s so weird that it’s been almost two years since she got married in Maui and moved to Singapore. That means it’s been two years since I planned her bridal shower and bachelorette party in Vegas, gave two maid of honor speeches at her two wedding receptions (one far better and memorable than the other… I still have deep regrets about not better planning the second one), and went dress shopping and fitting with her.

Now that I am engaged, she wants to do whatever she can from a distance to help, whether that means being on standby at her phone as I try on wedding dresses here so that I can Whatsapp her photos to get her feedback, or providing Excel sheet templates she used for planning her own two weddings, or being at potentially two wedding celebrations that we may have in two very different parts of the world — for me. All of this is making me really emotional as I hear her say all of these things.

That’s the thing about old friends. Even when parts of me may feel like we are growing apart, do not understand each other a lot of the time, and have a lot of differences, I have moments like this when I realize how much they really do care about me and want to do whatever is possible for me to be happy. And I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude that there are people in my life who do care this much. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.

Coming and going

The week has really gone by too quickly, and now, Chris’s two cousins are on a bus, on their way to Newark Airport, where they will connect in Hong Kong and be off to Melbourne and Sydney respectively. It was like they just arrived, and their seven days with us (or rather, me, because Chris was away in London for work for the bulk of their stay) really lasted only seven seconds, and now they are suddenly leaving. I got the same feeling I had when I was saying my good-byes to Chris’s parents when they left in May, which is the same feeling I got in my throat and stomach when my parents and Ed left New York to go back to San Francisco in July 2011. His family becoming my family is only becoming more and more real, and I can feel it in myself every time I see another one of his family members. It’s a very surreal feeling, but a good one, really.

Another airplane goes down

Today, we received news that another Malaysia Airlines airplane had crashed with almost 300 people over Ukraine. Initially, it wasn’t clear from the news reports what the cause of the crash was, but it was later revealed that a missile had hit the plane, causing it to go down. When I saw this news, I immediately got chills all over my body. Every time I hear about a tragedy of any sort now, I immediately remember the pain and shock I felt when Ed went missing, and we ultimately found out that he was gone forever.

On my way to dinner tonight, I was on the phone with my mom when she told me that she heard on the radio about the crash. She immediately got worried and said that she doesn’t want Chris and me traveling for leisure at all anymore because of the last two plane crashes that have happened. My mother is so predictable.

Photo sharing

Chris’s parents are elated over our engagement. According to Chris’s mum herself, she says that they are so happy, “bursting at the seams,” and are ready and waiting to help in whatever way they can. It’s the most heart-warming feeling to know that I have in-laws that care and love so deeply that they cannot help but share all of their happy thoughts and desires with us about what they can do to help with wedding planning.

Yesterday, she e-mailed me to ask if I could share two specific photos with her of Chris and me. One is from Portland when we went to visit a beautiful waterfall at the Columbia River Gorge, and another one is of the two of us very recently when we were in Pennsylvania and visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater private residence. I wondered for a bit what she could be using these photos for, and then it dawned on me that she is probably sharing photos of the two of us to their 500 or so Indian relatives all over the world, particularly to those who have not seen Chris for some time and who have no idea I exist or what I look like. I wonder if they will wonder how Chris ended up with an Asian? And then, maybe they will wonder if I will wear a sari at the wedding? That actually isn’t a bad idea and excited one of my friends today, as it was her suggestion to make my wedding “unforgettable.” Well, obviously, this friend is not Indian. :)

Bill brawl

In Chinese culture, it’s the norm for Chinese families and friends to fight over the bill after a meal has ended at a restaurant. The driving force behind it is the idea of “saving face,” or really “having face,” because it shows that you want to take care of the payment and want to treat everyone, and can afford to do it and want to show your care for those people at your table. The frustrating thing about it, though, is that the people fighting over the bill tend to not all want to pay the bill, but they just want to have a big dramatic show of trying to get the bill, even if they don’t want to pay. It sounds very negative, but it’s true. Usually, it’s already been made clear before the meal who pays, but the fight happens anyway.

Well, last night, Chris’s cousins wanted to pay the bill for real, and I wanted to pay the bill for real, so we proceeded to engage in the biggest bill brawl I’ve probably ever personally experienced. We were in close quarters at J.G. Melon on the Upper East Side (where I’m willing to bet NO fight over the bill has ever occurred given the clientele), and we fought like there was no foreseeable end — it resulted it pulling, ripping the bill into two pieces, toppling over of items on the dining table, the waiter coming over to let us know that he had only one copy of the bill, “so please do not destroy it,” and my biting both of them on their arms and fingers.

At least in these dramatic cases, it’s nice to know that all parties fighting all genuinely want to pay the bill. It’s kind of a nice, comforting feeling. But I still won’t let them win. This is when winning does matter.

Forgetting, then remembering…again

A good friend and I were chatting the other day, and she had asked me about what I thought in terms of location for events like bridal showers and bachelorette parties. I honestly hadn’t spent too much time thinking about it, but for a bridal shower if I do end up having one, I ideally would really like my mom and my aunt to be there. My mom would love to be at a party like this — an event that celebrates her one and only daughter getting married. She said she’s been hoping for my own bridal shower since she attended my cousin’s wife’s bridal shower back in 2007. That was over seven years ago. So if my mom is there, most likely the most reasonable place to have a bridal shower would be in San Francisco.

I thought about friends who I’d like to invite and where they would be coming from. I have a friend in Seattle who might want to come, a friend in Little Rock, some friends in New York. Where would they stay? I thought. Well, we do have space in my parents’ house. Some could sleep in our living room. And then I thought without really thinking, I wonder how Ed is going to feel with all these girls sleeping over at our house?

And then I stopped thinking, and my eyes welled up because I couldn’t believe I forgot again that he was gone. It’s like he’s so a part of that house to me that every time I imagine it, I just think he will always be there. Every step of the way looks to be difficult and painful.

Second brother

Over dinner tonight, Chris, his two cousins and I sat in a cozy booth at Beauty and Essex discussing everything and anything. They told us about how they were just in Toronto with Chris’s brother, and how straight faced he was when they were directly asking him when they thought Chris and I would get engaged. He said he reckoned that their cousin and his girlfriend in Singapore would most likely get engaged before us, and they thought nothing of it and thought he was serious with this belief.

They also mentioned that they discussed Chris’s brother’s relationship with me, and he had told them that he looked at me like a sister because of how close we had become and how often we communicated. I suppose I never actively thought about it before, but in that moment, I immediately felt really emotional because I realized how true it was. We really do act like siblings. Even though he is technically four months older than I, I look at him as though he is my younger brother, and we talk and bicker the way brothers and sisters do, but we immediately get over any differences, if there are any, and carry on like nothing has ever happened. He really is like a second brother to me.

Of course, then I thought of Ed, and I felt pain inside. Ed will never get to meet this guy that I call my second brother. Even though that meeting may have been slightly awkward considering how quiet Ed was and how gregarious Ben is, it made me so sad to think that Ed will never get to meet Ben, and Ben will never get to meet Ed. Chris’s parents will never meet Ed; no one in Chris’s family will ever meet him. There are so many moments and experiences and people that he will miss because he left my world this time last year. He’s missed our engagement, and he’s missed us sharing it with everyone we love.

I love Ed and miss him every single day. But I can feel that he would be happy knowing that I have Ben in my life now — certainly not as a replacement of any sort, but as someone extra in my life who will love me in a very similar capacity that he is no longer physically capable of.