This photo was taken two days before my brother, Chris, lost his 15-year battle. He was playing handball and looked so happy.
I shared these words with friends and family at Chris's funeral. No one knew what he went through or what I went through growing up with him. I am sharing them now for anyone who is struggling or has a loved one struggling. Though it may not feel like it, know you are not alone. The time to speak up is now!
"For a long time, I wondered when this day would come. I prepared for it over and over. It's a tricky one. I am supposed to stand up here and talk about our happy memories and how much I am going to miss you. And while I will continue to miss you every day for the rest of my life, I began to miss you such a long time ago. You have struggled with life and yourself for so long. Out of all the people in this room today, the only one who didn't love you was you. This makes me so sad. You had so much to offer. You were such a beautiful soul with the biggest heart of anyone I will ever know.
But this disease took over you and I didn't even know who you were anymore. You'd come whipping through our home and hearts like a tornado, destroying everything in your path. We sacrificed so many relationships for you. We chose you over the world at least a thousand times. In the end, it just wasn't enough.
Because of this disease, you taught me a lot. You taught me how important it is not to judge others, because I didn't like when others judged us. You taught me compassion, because sometimes I needed just a little bit of it from other people. You taught me patience, because something this serious doesn't get better overnight, or sometimes at all. Most of all you taught me forgiveness, because at the end of the day I always knew you loved me. And isn't love that's supposed to conquer it all? For all you have taught me I am grateful. You have shaped me into who I am today even though I know you didn't do it the way you would have wanted to. But I am a better person because of you.
Life was never fair to you, Chris, and I am sorry for that. Sometimes just being around you was so uncomfortable I cannot imagine how you must have felt in your own body. I am so sorry you never felt true happiness without the influence of a drug.
I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear you crying and screaming in pain. I know how much you struggled, Chris, because I struggled with you. When you hurt, we all hurt. It is a pain so deep that cuts through layers we didn't even know we had. I don't know why you were picked to carry these demons and I am so sorry we couldn't kill them for you. But they won.
I am not sure that even if we had the choice to bring you back that you would even want to come. Alls you wanted was peace, and now you finally have it. I hope. You had everything you needed here, you just didn't want it badly enough to stay. I really hope you have the comfort now that we could never give you.
Often, I would describe your addiction as a dark cloud that just followed us around, because you were never in the clear. We never knew when the cloud was going to open and start pouring down. And while I never wanted this day to come, I always wanted the cloud to go away. Well on March 5, 2017 that cloud lifted, and a new one has taken its place. Maybe in time that cloud too, will lift, and we will feel you shining down on us.
I hope you know how much we love you, and how important you will always be to the world. You are a part of all of us now and I hope I can use your story to write a happy ending for someone else.
I always looked to the moon to talk to you and pray for you. And I will continue to do this, except maybe now you will be able to hear me."