Earlier today we were riding around in the car in search of our neighbor's birthday party, and Jeremy started singing in the backseat. The song that he chose closely resembled 'A Boy Like That' from West Side Story, which is a musical that my high school marching band chose music from for my junior year. As anybody who has ever participated in marching band knows, memories that come along with music that you played for a year evoke an intense, visceral set of emotions. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I had purchased the album our music was chosen from, and pulled out the video of our marching show from my senior year. The boys had no interest in sitting through 'Mommy's Band', but I was entranced by the sounds and scenes from a lifetime ago. I was on the cusp of so many wonderful things in my life, and also on the brink of so many terrible and painful things. I was full of opportunity and wide eyed wonder at the world around me, and possessed all the overflowing emotion and feelings of a typical teenager. On the video, I was watching a collage of scenes taken during a warm up, and unexpectedly caught a glimpse of my older brother in the background. My brother Jeremy, 7 years my senior, was heavily involved when I was in marching band. He participated my freshman, junior, and senior years. The only obstacle to his complete involvement in my sophomore year was a temporary move to Phoenix, Arizona, but upon his return he was swiftly back where I was most comfortable with him. Jeremy and I grew close during those years. At first I struggled with having my older brother 'steal my thunder' during my impressionable teen years, but by the time I was a senior my experience in marching band was so tied to having my older brother there that I could not have separated the two. I vividly remember my anxiety before my very first show as a Freshman. As we broke our warm up arc and got ready to head over to the performance field, Jeremy found me and gave me a warm embrace. Anxiety and nerves got the best of me then, and I started to cry. I will never forget his words to me: "You will never experience this again. Remember this feeling." Never again would I be able to repeat my very first performance of what would become dozens over the years. Over the four years that I was lucky enough to be able to participate in such a wonderful organization, Jeremy became a fixture not just to me, but to the many other band kids that he grew to love. All of them shared a close bond with my brother, but I was unfailingly proud that his bond was the strongest with me. Jeremy was also a department manager at our local Wal-Mart, and toward the end of my senior year, he helped secure me a job as a cashier at the same store. We rarely worked the same shift, but once again I basked in the glow of being 'Jeremy's sister'. My senior year of marching, the show that I watched a video of today, was taken from the movie 'The Mask of Zorro'. As always, Jeremy was a fixture on the field both during 4 times weekly practice, but also during every competition and exhibition. He also attended the many football games that we played for during the season. Our marching band went undefeated that year, and always the first thing I would do after we were released from attention during the award ceremony was find Jeremy. He would wrap his arms around me, and we would shed tears of victory and joy together. Our last show of the year was held at our hometown college field, and we once again swept the awards. Because of a series of circumstances, I was unable to embrace my brother immediately after the awards were announced. As per tradition our band marched onto the field after the awards were announced and reassembled in a double arc to perform a 'victory concert'. Once we marched onto the field and were standing at parade rest waiting for the show to start, I spied Jeremy standing on the track around the football field, and it was obvious that he was searching for me among the identically clad band members. I caught his eye, and we both knew intensely that just like my first performance--this would never happen again. I was a senior, and this was our last competition of the year. His place in the band program was uncertain with my departure. Four years of tears, sweat, blood, anguish and victory played out in the air between us that night across the field. Without thinking, I broke rank. I put down my arms, dropped my instrument to my side, and took a step out of formation. Such an act had never been done to my knowledge, but in the same instant, Jeremy saw what I was doing, and took steps toward me. We met in the middle of the arc and shared a hug that will forever live in my memory. At the time, I cared not for procedure, rules, or even propriety. I needed desperately to share this one last, final victory with my idol.
My world was crushed when a mere 8 months later, my brother was stolen from me and the rest of our family. Ammon and I were newly married, and two carloads of people had traveled down to Price, Utah to help situate us in our very first apartment. My father, two brothers, and best friend were in one car. We had all been up late the night before having a farewell/reception for Ammon and I, who had only been married for 3 weeks, and the original plan was for the car carrying my family to spend the night at a local hotel. We finished unloading the moving truck early, and it was Jeremy who convinced my father to make the return trip that same day instead of waiting until morning. It was roughly noon, and we all went to a local restaurant for lunch and then prepared to say our goodbyes. It was an emotional farewell for many reasons. This was the first time I had moved far away from home, and we had no idea when we would next see each other. Jeremy's last words ring in my ears even today--as he gave me one last warm embrace, he said to me "I love you. Say your prayers." This was a particularly poignant piece of advice, because I had happily declared myself atheist at this point in my life. Jeremy's death fostered in Ammon and I a strong desire to be sealed for time and all eternity in the Logan temple, and has spurred on my church attendance ever since. In the talk I gave at Jeremy's funeral, I took a saying we often shared with each other immediately before we entered a field in marching competition--no regrets. We wanted to march in such a way that when we left the field, we had no regrets about our performance. I vowed in that talk that I would live my life with no regrets, so that I could return to the kingdom where I am positive my brother resides.
I grieved Jeremy long and hard. For months after his death, I would wake up nightly in tears following a vivid dream of Jeremy. Often I would return in my dreams to that final competition, where I left the concert arc and hugged him warmly. After a few months, these dreams took on a painful reality--as much as I enjoyed the visits from my brother, I was anguished at having to continually say goodbye to him upon waking. After about six months, these dreams finally stopped. I often wonder if it is the memory of how troubling these dreams were to me that keeps Ammon from visiting me often.
Because of the reality of the car accident, my father's life hung in the balance for the first several days after Jeremy's death. The task of planning the funeral fell to my sister and I, and we spent days commuting between the hospital where my father lay in ICU to our hometown. We spent time picking out the casket, contracting with the funeral home, and purchasing a burial plot for our beloved older brother. I wrote his obituary while sitting in the ICU waiting room, and the program for his funeral sitting in my parents basement. Throughout the ordeal, I leaned heavily on those around, but once we returned home, the bulk of my grief fell to Ammon's hands. During the week between Ammon's death and his funeral, people around me kept giving me helpful tips on what needed to be done, who I needed to contact, and how I should handle expressions of sympathy. Throughout it all I wanted to shout--I'VE DONE THIS BEFORE!! Nobody should ever have to plan two funeral's in their lifetime. I miss Jeremy, I miss Ammon. The two men I have been closest to in my adult life, and they have both been taken away from me for reasons I can't yet see.
Lately I have felt stronger and more capable of living a life without Ammon, but seeing Jeremy in that video tonight brought back a rush of emotions I wasn't prepared to feel. Tonight the grief is stronger than it has been in several days, but this time it is spread out over the two men that are lost. I miss them both, and ache to understand the reasons why two good, spiritual, honest men were taken before their time. The other day I made a startling realization--I am now older than my older brother. He never lived to see 26, and my husband who I always saw as so much younger than Jeremy lived two years longer. Some things just don't make sense.