That’s when I met you in person for the first time, although I remember you always being in my life. I was 9 and you were 15/16. It was a sad circumstance that brought us physically together for the first time, the death of our Opa.
Even then I could feel how much pain you were carrying on your shoulders, the sadness that loomed over you, ready to mercilessly engulf you in it. Not understanding it, I just felt it surrounding you, saw the storm behind your cool eyes. You weren’t bad, but you had darkness in you. Did you know what you were fighting or were you just trying to survive?
My favourite memory of you is of Opa’s funeral. Ironic, isn’t it? That the most precious image of you in my mind took place in one of the hardest days of my life. But today I know it had to be that way.
Now matter how hard I try, I cannot recall how it happened, but once the service was over, I found myself separated from my parents. There were so many people outside, I am not sure if fans or reporters. All I remember is how scared I felt, looking around for my parents, panic setting in and the feeling of air leaving my lungs. And then I felt a hand hold mine. The stoic teenager, breaking his ever-cool character to help his little cousin out. A short glance showed the storm I was already used to see in your eyes and with it a promise: “I will keep you safe”. And I knew then and there that you would.
When I was 14 and visited Vienna for the first time, we stayed at your place with your mom, stepfather and brother. The place I would end up calling home just a few years later. The clouds in your eyes were darker, the looming sadness closing in on you. One evening you proclaimed I was your “little cousin-sister”, like it was an obvious statement.
And just like that, I had a brother.
Everyone sees you as troubled, someone who gave up and stopped trying. Someone who chose drugs over a good life. Your mother and Joey were your lifebuoy, the anchor keeping you from drowning. She saw how troubled you were, she once told me you were born with a “scarred soul”. You were like a beautiful ceramic vase that got cracked and never found its Kintsugi.
The darkness in you scared us all, but I think it scared you most of all. You didn’t want to do the horrible things you did when that anger got out, you never wanted to hurt anyone. You had a soul in need of healing.
Only you mother knew the connection we shared. She told me I have the gift to “see” inside of people, to feel who they really are. I saw you, the darkness in you, the sadness surrounding you, the doom looming over you. But behind all of that, behind the anger and the feeling of being lost, I also saw a beautiful soul.
I hate that you were alone when you left. Like you thought you were all your life, even though you were loved by your family. Loved by your brothers, you sister, your uncle and nieces. And me, you were and will always be loved by me as well. I am sorry I couldn’t help your pain, it wasn’t mine to take away. My only consolation is knowing that you’re not alone anymore. You’re with Opa, your Mother, your brother and Joey, whom I am sure was wagging his tale to welcome you to the other side.
Goodbye my brother, I hope your soul is healed now.