Losing My Brother, Ten Years Later

This weekend marks 10 years since my younger brother Taylor passed away in a freak accident during a service trip to Mexico. He was 16 at the time. I was a month away from my freshman year of college. I rarely talk about this with people because honestly I don’t really know how and it’s also just not an experience anyone really enjoys re-living.

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That being said, ten years from the day seems as good a time as any to share a quick reflection on life & loss & existence that has been floating around in my mind this weekend.

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Even in high school, Taylor was an amazing musician, and a wildly talented songwriter. I’ll put a link to some of his songs in the comments. His voice was raw, untrained, and angelic. He could make it soar, and he often did. Untimely death wasn’t the only thing he had in common with Jeff Buckley, whose version of “Hallelujah” became sort of a theme song to his life only after his all-time-favorite song “Blackbird,” which he eventually added his own verses to.

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One of the most specifically painful things about losing my brother has been the profound sadness I feel for the songs that disappeared with him on that blue-sky day in July of 2007. The ones he had yet to write. The ones that only he could write. The gorgeous, lilting, untapped melodies that were swirling around somewhere in the ether of his beautiful mind. As long as humanity exists here on this planet, no person will ever find Taylor’s un-sung melodies. No one will ever again have access to that world. What an unspeakable tragedy. I have not even the slightest doubt that many of you would know & love his songs if he had even a few more years here to share them. Sometimes it’s all I can think about at a concert. He should be on that stage, some stage, headlining a festival, his shy charisma casting a spell on some audience, somewhere……

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Where can I hear those songs? Where are they hiding? Only in dreams?

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That musical world of his wasn’t the only one I felt crumble as my family booked a panicked, emergency flight to Mexico, a tiny lingering hope that he might be okay. It was also an entire future that permanently dismantled itself in that instant. I would never be an Uncle. I would never go to my brother’s wedding. Meet his wife’s family. Collaborate on musical projects. Reminisce as adults in each other’s Homes or take a road trip out West or watch our kids play together as we shared ideas and excitement for the future. Each one of those things, a world that was ripped away from me. These are the strands of infinite possibility we so often take for granted that extend invisibly outwards from all of the relationships in our lives.

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When you look into the eyes of any person close to you, there is a vast, hidden, sacred world there, breathing between the two of you — a world with its own languages and its own histories, dreams, and infinite possibilities for the future.

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And when someone close to you dies, that entire world disappears in an instant. The past, present, and future all crumble into something tragic, unrecognizable, and irreplaceable. And the cold, hard truth is that you can never, ever recreate it. There is no replacement. That world is just gone. It’s never coming back.

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Remember to appreciate those secret worlds you share with other people. They are so, so special and so, so fragile. Make the most of them! Nurture them, explore them, walk around in them with wide eyes and glowing hearts. Cherish what a miracle it is to walk towards the future in them, in whatever direction you please. Be aware of that beautiful web you’re weaving and sometimes pause to look back upon it, quietly shimmering there, a little relic in the universe, a singular monument to the stunning beauty and impossible intricacy of human relationships. What a gift.

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And at the same time, remember that there are vast, infinite worlds inside of YOU, waiting to be discovered and shared. Poems and essays that only YOU can write. Paintings and colors that only YOU can conceive of. Songs and melodies that only YOU can tap into — timeless incantations that the countless billions of people on this earth will never again stumble upon in the history of Time. Don’t leave this planet with your songs and photos and poems still inside of you. Other people want to hear them — especially the people you love! And just like Taylor is the only person who could have written his songs, you are the only person who can write yours.

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Only you. You special creature…..

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Much love to my brother’s soul, singing songs somewhere out in the cosmos — and much love to all of you here on this achingly beautiful, impossibly miraculous little planet spinning through space that we call “Home.” You’ll return to stardust too someday. What a gift to be human. Try to make the most of it.

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