Today is my birthday. My birthday isn’t something that we talk a lot about publicly, because it happens to also be the day that my brother passed away…eight years ago in fact.
Grant was boisterous, funny, and sarcastic, with a “life of the party” personality, and the kind of smile that lit up his eyes with a fire from within. But underneath the bravado, he had a lot of demons, and suffered from bi-polar disorder as well extreme social anxiety.
Grant starting using drugs and alcohol to medicate himself when he was in high school. And by the age of 24, he’d been an addict for nearly a decade. He had already survived several overdoses, a coma, and some significant brain damage before the overdose that ultimately took his life in the very early hours of February 18th.
There is a lot to say about Grant, his life, and how his death changed me, my family, and ultimately brought me to the incredible place of being able to pursue music full time….there are even ways in which his story brought me to my record deal. But I’m going to leave all of that for another day.
It’s strange, but days that are marked by tragedy and loss are sort of fixed in your memory. I have some incredibly vivid memories of the day he died, and the days that followed.
I remember my mom calling me with the news 7:30 that morning, thinking she was calling to wish me happy birthday first thing, like she always does, like she did today. I remember the mile drive from my house to my parents’ house, and coming up over a small hill in time to see ambulance lights and police cars turning into our driveway. I remember brushing my teeth that night and thinking how bizarre it was to be doing something so normal and so mundane when my brother had just died. I remember these little purple crocus-like flowers that bloomed in my parents’ front yard despite the severe cold. I had never noticed them in all the years they had lived there. And there they were, scattered all over the front yard, like a little purple army of wildflowers had popped up out of the hard frozen grown in celebration of Grant’s life. I remember standing at the funeral with my hands in the pockets of my blue overcoat, and holding onto my great-grandmother’s handkerchief. That handkerchief is still in the pocket of that blue coat.
Experiencing loss is a terrible terrible thing. But it is a universal thing. And from where I’m sitting today, I believe that it is a great privilege to have tasted tragedy and heartache. You would never choose it for yourself, but there is nothing like it to refocus your heart and your life. There is nothing like it to inspire you to not be afraid of doing the things that scare you, and there is nothing like it to prepare you to love and care for others who are suffering.
Months after Grant’s death, I was flipping through my mother’s calendar, which she kept on the kitchen counter. Something made me turn to February. On the 18th was written in pen “Kelleigh Bday” which she’d probably written on the calendar the very day she got it, with all the other yearly events specific to our family. In pencil under that was written, “Grant to Glory.” Her way of saying goodbye. Those two events will always be intertwined.
I don’t know what to make of the timing. I don’t really even know what I’m “supposed” to do with my birthday now…even eight years later. But I do know that life is mysterious and that it gives us gifts in the most unexpected ways. And we don’t know the end of the story. Much love to you and yours today. Thank you for reading. XO