Letter to River Phoenix

September 8, 2016

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So what do you think about all of this? Your story is finally being told, the true story, as much as it can be anyway. I knew it wasn’t a drug overdose. Anyone who looks at the research and really takes it to heart, well, you know the rest. Maybe someday in the near future your music will finally be released along with your last movie. Maybe your name will once again grace the airwaves. Maybe your name will once and for all be cleared of the lies that taint your memory. To be honest, if I knew that telling your story would bring so much chaos into my life, there’s no way I would have pursued it. Even now, as the smoke slowly drifts away and I am finally left with a clear path, I’m still apprehensive when presented with the material. But your friends never forgot you. They dedicated their lives to your memory in the hopes of one day fulfilling your dream of exposing and conquering the enemy. As an outsider, I was clueless to how dreadfully difficult this dream was to see to fruition. You once said you wanted to “take the devil’s gold and use it for God”…My dear River, consider it done.

Beyond the Dome

September 7, 2016

Despite it all, I do still dream. When the last post is delivered and the darkness shrinks back into itself, I hope that we Outsiders will hug and cry tears of joy upon realizing our triumph over the enemy. I can’t begin to imagine the years and decades of anguish my famous friends have had to endure. I hope they finally have some peace, and perhaps even newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

I do still dream. Beyond the reach of my current task, I still dream of that house in the mountains where all my friends and family dwell and days are spent in happiness and love for one another. It’s impossible to know what the future brings or what the results will be of this year-long prison, but I trust that something good will come of it, something wonderful, something beyond my wildest dreams. I retain hope that the end of this living hell will bring something far greater than I could ever imagine. I trust in God’s will but I can’t help but wonder what the rest of His plan entails. As for my faith, my faith has been put on trial repeatedly, relentlessly, but I pray now more than I ever have in my entire life. And isn’t that the silver lining in all of this? In the end and through it all, my walk with God is stronger now than it’s ever been in my entire life. What more could I ask for?

Word Warrior

September 7, 2016

One thing I’ve learned in all of this is not to think about the enemy too much. The enemy never wants to admit defeat. Even when the fat lady sings, the enemy will grasp at straws in a vain attempt to maintain control of the situation. It’s a form of psychological warfare that falls absurdly short when you refuse to listen. When you reject their empty threats, it doesn’t matter if the fat lady sings or not – the battle has already been won. I would like to send a word of warning out to my own enemies, and that is, whose side do you think God is on? Surely not those who conjure devils and bully those who respect and abide by His rules. Truly I say unto you, repent and draw back your sword for your mischief will fall upon your own plate. My enemy I will not fear for I am on the side of righteousness. All secrets will be revealed for there is nothing new under the sun. Your time of terror is drawing to a close and we who have lived under your fists of iron shall be made free. Mark my words, you will scatter and cower like dogs when the thunder rolls in with the wrath of God…Best not to think about the enemy too much, their words are not worth my time.

Drawing Near

September 6, 2016

The end of chaos is in sight. I can see it smiling at me in the near distance, my closing statement, my call to action, my last attempt at clearing a fog of confusion that only a third party can truly accomplish. The defense and persecution rests – it’s time to move on. What I have endured for the past year, what I have uncovered, what I have learned is enough to land anyone in a straight-jacket. Fortunately, I’m not just anyone. I’m the devil’s worst nightmare, and God only knows the truth behind this statement. God only knows the living hell that has been my life for the past year. In all honesty, it’s nothing I want to write about. I don’t wish to relive it, or explain it, or even briefly discuss the more engaging details of it – I only wish to forget it, but that is an impossibility for me. I won’t let my mind be erased. I won’t let my thoughts be forgotten, or covered up, or replaced with some artificial imitation of life. I won’t let the devil win. That, my friends, is a battle I will fight alongside Jesus when the time is finally at hand. I don’t wish to discuss it but yet I have to. I’m a writer, that’s what I do. It’s my release, my God-given talent that I refuse to let the devil use against me. I refuse to back down. The end is in sight because I say it is, because it was written nearly twenty years ago in one of my journals (because that’s how the devil works) but I’m getting way ahead of myself. For now, I need only to concentrate on healing and taking my life back. I need to put things in perspective and separate the wheat from the tares – an ongoing task but one that is becoming easier and easier. It seems that all of my dreams have come true, not the goals and expectations I set for myself, not the pleasant daydreams that rescue me from my current reality, but my actual dreams. The reoccurring ones, the ones that stay with me even after the morning haze has been replaced with coffee, these are the dreams that have come to fruition – all except for one that is. It’s the one that keeps me awake at night and haunts me during the day when my mind is unoccupied and free to wonder. It’s the one that has me thinking that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is soon at hand.

Snideman

They called her the Jolly Green Giant.

Six foot three and only thirteen years old, Julie was a perfect target for the herd mentality of school bullying. Her large blue eyes, pale narrow face, and long crooked nose did little to relieve her awkward disposition, and even if she had tried to fit in, Julie stuck out like an oversized sore thumb. The Sesame Street character, Big Bird, was also thrown into the mix of degrading nicknames and although I never voiced it aloud, I couldn’t help but see the resemblance.

Julie was the first friend I made upon returning to the Houston area. After living in the small port town of Bay City for the past two years, the upper-class white suburbs of North Houston were a stark contrast. I sat alone in the lunch room watching the throngs of middle-schoolers bustle around me, none of them paying me much mind. Insecure and painfully shy, I avoided eye contact, sipped my coke, and waited. The first day at a new school is always rough, but I knew what I was doing. I had it planned out the night before, much to my mother’s disapproval. I knew who I wanted to attract. I knew who my future friends were. I just had to wait. A dark shadow enveloped me as I looked up to see a towering blond amazon girl standing by the table accompanied by four of her average-sized friends. “Hey,” she said, “I like your shirt.” Mission accomplished. “Thanks,” I shrugged. “You want to come sit with us?” she asked. That was that. From then on we became inseparable all thanks to my black Guns-n-Roses concert t-shirt.

Besides finding my middle school clique, I had a difficult time settling into my new environment. At my old school, black and Hispanic kids from lower-income families graced the hallways but the North Houston suburbs were the exact opposite. We lived in the fairly well-to-do neighborhood of Atascocita (the big “A” it was often called) on a windy street named Magnolia Bend. At just twelve years old I would sit on my window sill smoking cigarettes and flicking the butts into my neighbor’s yard. They hated me. They hated my entire family. Even before Kirk and I egged their car, even before we threw condoms over the fence and into their pool, even before the cops paid us our monthly visit, they hated us because we were renters. We didn’t belong there and they knew it, sniffed us out like the lower-middle class derelicts we were. They had our number and we had theirs. We were enemies from day one.

Julie and I also terrorized the big “A”. We’d walk down to the boat docks and chase the ducks into the lake flapping our arms and quaking like a couple of special needs kids. Then we’d hike out through the tall weeds and hang out under the long bridge that connected Huffman to Humble. We’d pick up glass bottles along the way and chunk them against the sloped concrete wall yelling out the names of people who made our lives miserable.

“Mrs. Calfee!” Crash!

“My Dad!” Smash!

“Jennifer Whore-ton!” Clank!

“Everyone at school!” Whoosh.

Uh oh. One of the bottles soared over the top of the bridge and onto Interstate 1960. Julie turned to me wide-eyed, her mouth a perfect oval. I laughed and skid down the side of the bridge with my tall friend following behind calling out my name.

“Lindsay! What do we do? What if the cops show up?”

“Just run, Julie!” I laughed. She slowed me down though. Every time I looked back to see her bleach-blonde hair poking up in sporadic wisps around her head, her reddened face moistened from the sun, I laughed even harder. Tears burned my eyes as my towering friend doubled over behind me laughing and cursing at the same time. We’d light the wispy spires of yucca plants on fire and watch them burn like the Olympic flame for about three seconds. We purposely started a grass fire once and ran away when it got out of hand. We were trouble makers through and through. We both hated riding the bus so every day after school we’d walk about five miles to my house. Inevitably, the train of loaded buses would pass us by with our schoolmates yelling out the window, “Sasquatch!” Julie’s face would turn bright red, the rage eventually replaced with sadness and humiliation. I honestly don’t know how she survived middle school. To this day I still miss her.

Release the Skeletons

It’s the aftermath you have to worry about, the inevitable explanation, the awkwardness. I’ve opened doors that can’t be closed, but it’s okay, I keep telling myself it’s okay. And it is. The worst thing a writer can do is hold back—it stifles creativity, silences the voice and leaves the reader with a mediocre version of the written word. You use everything: pain, anguish, love, sorrow, trauma, anger—all these emotions are at our disposal waiting for transformation. They long for transcendence, a purpose, an artist’s kiss to turn the frog into a prince.

But I’m still getting the knack for this, honing in on the voice and writing style needed to carry out my agenda. I don’t want this book to be a vague recollection of my unique childhood, nor do I want to scare people away with the material. It’s the Goldilocks syndrome. I have to find balance, which is why I created this blog, to get a feel for it, get a sense of the writing, get used to being out there—the exposed and vulnerable writer in search of an audience, in search of acceptance, in search of kindred souls. What I don’t want is pity. Eggshells, brooms and rugs are officially banned here. I mean to tell the truth, whatever the cost. I mean to become the fearless writer.

Red Canyon

Who are the oppressed? Who are the oppressors?

I was with my stepdad the first time I saw the mountains. It was love at first sight as I admired the rows of shadowy figures rise above the surface of the earth. Back then, I used to love taking road trips with him. He was my best friend and number one confidant. I couldn’t imagine my life without him. In fact, it absolutely terrified me to imagine life without him. I was 23 the last time we took a road trip together, and by then, the programming had worn off, even still, it was a slow awakening. I’d heard through the grapevine that I wasn’t the only one, that I wasn’t special and I wasn’t different, but I was (much to my dismay) one of them. I was a victim of abuse just like his daughter, just like them, just like him.

I spent most of the trip preparing for my speech and although it didn’t go the way I’d planned, it still went. Tori Amos ruled the airwaves for about eight hours as I summoned my girl power and resisted the urge to settle back into my comfort zone. There was no going back. I needed to know the truth. Did he do to her what he did to me? Almost twenty years later, I now know this to be true, but back then it was a new revelation that needed confirmation. We spent the night in the Red Canyon pines of New Mexico. He stayed in the car as I set up the tent, kindled a fire and prepared our campground for a heart-to-heart that would soon take place. The inevitable hung in the thin mountain air like a heavy burden suspended by the gravity of fate. There was always a price to pay. There was always the unspoken deal that defiled love and exposed the situation for what it really was. He’d held up his end of the deal, we were in the mountains, now it was my turn.

He met me by the fire and asked if I was ready, the whites of his eyes twinkling in the darkness and his chapped lips coated with whiskey. “We need to talk,” I answered. I asked him point blank about his youngest daughter, and although I’ve racked my brain trying to remember his reply, I honestly don’t recall. She said that she woke up in the middle of the night to see him sitting by her bed and that she felt like something had happened. Intuition told me there was more to the story, much more, but she wasn’t ready to talk and neither was I, not to her anyway. I needed to hear it from him. I needed to know that I’d been played a fool my entire life. I wasn’t special. I was just brainwashed from a very early age. I then asked him how he felt about “us,” if he felt any guilt or remorse. I asked if he remembered how old I was when he first touched me inappropriately. He answered wrong. “I wasn’t thirteen, I was nine,” I said. “Don’t you find that kind of sick?” He fumbled over his words before looking up at me and answering, “Really, you were that young?” In that instant, I saw a broken man, his eyes wild and trapped, his face long and diseased. Silence hung in the air until I heard a voice I barely recognized, childish and weak, my stepdad sheepishly said with a gesture, “My mom used to touch me here. She used to smile like this and fondle me when I was younger.”


Journal Entry

“Altitude Sickness” 12/15/00

I feel as though I threw you away. Up in the clouds on a clear night with the brilliantly bright full moon providing us with the opportunity to save our batteries, I felt compelled to step across the boundary and say aloud for the first time the words I never had the courage to speak. She talked to him, and I talked to her, and he talked to them, but the source for my truth was you. I feel as though you can’t look me in the eye ever since I spoke my mind in the red canyons that July with only the whispering of the pines to disrupt our private line. I wish I had the ability…I wish I had the ability…I wish I had the ability to run.

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Lady in Blue

She was a reoccurring theme throughout my childhood.

I never actually saw her myself, but Kirk swore up and down that his vision was real. About a year before he died I asked about her again and he held tight to the same story he always told. It was right after our parents divorced (on the 4th of July no less) and Kirk had been crying and praying in bed with the door cracked. He was about ten or so at the time, and although I vaguely remember the night our father left, Kirk was deeply affected. After praying, he lifted up his head, opened his eyes and looked through the doorway to see a woman draped in a blue cloak walking down the hallway. She stopped at his room, smiled, and then proceeded to walk towards my room at the end of the hallway. If I remember correctly, he also said that she was holding an open book in her hands.

Kirk had always been a deeply spiritual person. Despite all of his problems, he always turned to God to save him and to relieve his pain. Once, as a child (no older than six or seven), he was cornered by a vicious dog that threatened to tear him to pieces. Alone and scared to death, he closed his eyes, clutched his bicycle, and prayed for God to somehow intervene. The metal horn on his handlebars had been broken for quite some time, but as he squeezed the rubber bulb, a familiar honking sound escaped through the flared bell scaring the dog away. That was Kirk’s life. No matter how much trouble he got himself into, prayer was always his solution. After our parents divorced, he prayed for God to give him a sign that he was still there and that he still cared. That was the same night he saw the lady in the blue cloak.

Divorce is never pleasant. No matter how clean the split or how civilized the two parties behave, the ending of a marriage takes its toll on everyone involved–especially children. My parents’ divorce was neither clean nor civilized, but I don’t remember them fighting too much, I just remember all the pain it left behind. Dad left mom for a younger woman whom he had met at the real estate office. Although he used to wear a cross around his neck and even taught Sunday school a couple of times, he somehow lost his way and eventually declared himself an atheist. Mom spent most evenings curled up in a ball sobbing in her closet, but for the most part, she held it together for us kids. I do remember one incident though when I walked out into the garage to find her screaming and throwing paint cans at the wall. I stood transfixed by the chaotic rainbow of colors splattered across the white sheetrock until she yelled for me to, “Go back inside, baby!” Divorce is never pleasant, but through it all, Kirk and I always had each other.

He loved to tell the Superman story. I hate it. Like a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation, it’s something I will never live down. I was about seven at the time and Kirk was about ten. In typical big brother fashion, he somehow convinced me that I could fly like Superman, I just had to believe – and take a running jump. He assured me that he had done it many times before, but for some reason failed to provide any sort of proof. So, I took a running start, leapt into the air, and plowed face first into the textured wall. Yeah. You better believe I tattled on him — Mom, Kirk told me I could fly like Superman – but he was so convincing! Tears of laughter filled his eyes every time he retold the story, and of course, his version was always much more dynamic than mine.

On the night my dad knelt down at my mother’s feet and told her he was leaving, Kirk and I were in the front yard popping off fireworks. I remember wondering why mom and dad weren’t outside with us, but Kirk kept telling me not to worry and to stay outside with him. Between dodging whistling chasers and misguided roman candles, I managed to step bare-footed on a lit punk. Despite Kirk’s protest, I ran inside to tell mom what had happened and found her seated on the couch, her head in her hands, and dad on his knees beside her. My hurt foot no longer seemed important. “Go back outside, baby,” she said in a muffled voice. Independence Day rang true that night. When mom asked him why, why he would leave his family, why he would turn his back on God, dad simply replied that he just didn’t believe anymore, that he couldn’t feel it in his heart, but that, “maybe one of the kiddos will change my mind someday.”

We’re a Happy Family

Jim Morrison pegged himself The Lizard King. I was The Scorpion Queen.

They slipped through the cracks like roaches into our south Austin country home, and while my older brother sustained numerous attacks, I somehow avoided a tail lashing. Mom once forced him to put on his shoes as he complained and protested, “hurt, hurt” but Kirk always complained. He emerged from the womb complaining so Mom thought nothing of it until a scorpion emerged from his shoe, but I was spared the trauma. I once toddled up to her holding out my hand smiling with boastful pride at my captured treasure, “see, see?” The scorpion crawled around in my tiny cupped hand as mom stood terrified, finally grasping my wrist and flinging my new pet into the air.

I was too young to know how good we had it back then. I vaguely remember the house on Circle Drive with the steep rollercoaster hill sloping down into our long driveway. If we had neighbors they were far enough away to remain anonymous. Surrounded by a forest of oak trees, cedar trees and limestone rocks, the Oak Hill community resembled a Norman Rockwell painting back in the early 1980’s. Fireflies lit up the night sky as I zigzagged across our never-ending yard chasing the yellow blinking lights. Absolute magic to a child, but we were banned from keeping them in mason jars. Mom felt sorry for the lightning bugs so Kirk and I were forced to catch and release. Never mind she let me squish grub worms with a rock in her vegetable garden.

In my mind’s eye, our cream colored limestone house was a mansion, but years later when my dad took me to see it as a teenager I was surprised at its modest size. I actually thought he had the wrong place. Growing up, my memories of my father are limited at best. I’ve been told I was a daddy’s girl, and I imagine it’s true. Most little girls are, or would like to be anyway. Along with selling real estate, he also had an auto parts business called Checkered Flag, and to this day those little black and white race flags remind me of him, as does the smell of boot polish. He used to sit down next to the fireplace on our dark brown shag carpet and polish up his cowboy boots. After dinner, he’d lie down in front of the television and fall asleep snoring on his oversized velvet green pillow. I might have curled up next to him, or maybe it’s just a memory I wished existed. Even at that young age, no older than three or four, I could feel the tension mounting in our south Austin mansion. I remember asking my mother, “when’s Guy Guy coming home?”

Cursed with a severe speech impediment, my vocabulary was a string of made up words as I substituted letters for the ones I couldn’t master. I discarded “Kirk” altogether and called him Bubba, blanket became haba, yellow became lello, truck became fu—well you get the picture. My mother was the only person who could decode my foreign tongue. The rest of the family just looked down at me and smiled as I talked up a storm of nonsensical gibberish. Mom was an elementary schoolteacher, English no less, so maybe that helped with the translation process. Adored by every student who had the pleasure of sitting in her colorful classroom, she was the kind of teacher who enjoyed yearly visits from high school students looking for hugs and words of encouragement. Big, hulking sixteen year old boys would return to their old stomping grounds not to vandalize or terrorize, but searching for that petite little schoolteacher who changed their lives forever.

A few days before giving birth to me, my mother was hit with some pretty bad news. The doctor voiced his concerns that I might be born with limited mental capacities due to a narrow umbilical cord preventing blood flow to my brain. In other words, there was a chance that I might be retarded. My mother cried all night on the phone with her sister but as far as I know, I turned out okay save for a slight mathematical handicap. On the surface, life was good back in those days. We were an upper-middle class family with a nice home in the rolling hills of South Austin, my parents an attractive couple with two blonde-headed kids and a dog—we really were the picture-perfect family. Saturday nights were spent at our favorite pizzeria, the one with the cartoon room in the back where I sat and ate my pepperoni pizza watching Looney Tunes with the rest of the privileged youth. When the old black and white episodes of the Three Stooges were inevitably played, I’d toddle back over to my parent’s table and interrupt a conversation that probably wasn’t going too well. On the ride home, dad (despite his need for speed) stayed in the right lane so Kirk and I could enjoy the deep dips in the road created by the numerous street gutters lining the curb. We took bicycle rides through the woods together with me strapped into the plastic child’s seat on the back of my dad’s 10-speed. Blue Boy often followed along, his silvery coat disappearing and reappearing through the thick trees. On one such journey we encountered a small brush fire that left a lasting impression on my young mind. I remember being terrified of the burning field, convinced that our horse-like Weimaraner would soon meet his fate as he inched closer to the flames. Although dad reassured me that Blue Boy would not willingly cast himself into the fire, I was inconsolable.

It’s the trauma that leaves its mark. Despite all the pleasant memories that drift in and out of the exhausted mind, it’s the trauma that sticks around like a well-preserved snapshot. One of my earliest memories of Circle Drive is when I braved the pigeon cage my dad had constructed from some scrap wood and chicken wire. I don’t recall the exact count, but judging by the size of the cage we probably housed at least twenty or so homing pigeons. Some of them even had names, none of which come to mind except for one – one beloved bird named Silver Wing. He was the friendliest of the flock and my father’s favorite, so you can imagine my excitement when he flew down and perched directly upon my small head. Mom was a bit apprehensive but I beamed from ear to ear as though all my childhood dreams had come true in that one spectacular moment. Silver Wing, however, dashed those dreams. In classic birds-gone-bad behavior, he rudely left his mark all over my red-ribbon curls. Once again, I was inconsolable.

Periodically, dad would drive out somewhere and release the homing pigeons, no doubt impressed when every last one of them found its way back to the nest. Eventually though, one by one, they trickled off. Silver Wing stuck around longer than the rest, but he too failed to return home one day leaving my father somewhat broken-hearted. Not long after, when Blue Boy also failed to return, our days on Circle Drive came to a close. One of my last memories of that house is watching a thunderstorm roll in from the screened back porch. Streak lightning splintered across the night sky as the rain lightly brushed against our faces when the wind changed directions. Blue Boy had been gone for a couple of days, which was nothing out of the ordinary, but he always returned home when the rains came. My parents sat in silence waiting, watching for that horse-like dog to appear from the darkness of the woods, but the storm came and went without a trace of him. Soon after, we traded in our country living for a house in the suburbs. Dad sold his auto parts store and took to selling real estate full time, and before long, Guy Guy also failed to return home.

With Love

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

About a year after I met the devil my brother died. After everything I’d been through, and everything I was still enduring, why? I had quit smoking weed, quit drinking, quit cursing (for the most part) and was trying to live a good Christian life, and this is how God repaid me. Did he even care? Had I been blotted out of his book? Was he going to let the devil have his way with both me and my family? Halloween was just two days away the night my world collapsed.

Kirk was a force to be reckoned with, and while the good memories do exist, the bad seem to take the forefront. I can’t count the number of times we received a collect call from the Harris County Jail, or the number of wrecked cars, court appearances, rehab stints, screaming matches, drug overdoses, broken windows and fists through walls, sleepless nights, anger, fear, chaos and destruction – how is this going to end?

The good memories exist. We both loved exploring the great outdoors, and with Kirk, there was never a dull moment. Never. I remember when I was working at Yellowstone National Park, he came up to visit, and we were looking for a good spot to hike. We came across these white signs that read “Bear frequenting area. Hike at your own risk,” and while I turned back towards the car, Kirk ventured ahead, his backpack bobbing up and down and his pace steadfast. I jogged to catch up pleading my case as we hiked further into bear country. He promised, as he always did, that he would never let anything happen to me. He was a protective older brother, and although we were three years apart in age, people often mistook us for twins. He was my only sibling, and now, now it’s just me. How on earth do I cope with that?

My brother struggled with addiction up until the day he died. Alcohol, cocaine, pills – it was a never-ending roller-coaster not only for him, but also for the entire family. The night he died we found him unresponsive in his bed, an empty bottle of Xanax on his dresser and the bible I’d bought him for Christmas on his nightstand. The paramedics were called as my mom performed CPR on her only son. The police officers who arrived on the scene unofficially ruled his death to be a suicide via drug overdose. He was 42. As if adding salt to our wounds, we were told that the person conducting the autopsy was named, Jaren. I mean, honestly, how many “Jaren’s” do you know? Kirk and I only knew one, my sexually-abusive step-father whom Kirk had vowed to kill more than once. It was as if the devil had left his handprint on, not only my brother’s life, but also his death.

I’ve never cried like that before. Heavy heaves of weeping, unable to catch my breath – No, No, No, I cried over and over again. A few days later as we drove to the church for his funeral, I noticed a sign posted on someone’s back fence that read, “Absolutely NO NO NO Trespassing.” I felt like I was being mocked by the powers that be. On our drive home, a white sports car zipped past us with vanity plates that read, No No No. It’s the little things that can drive us over the edge. My brother had been looking for a job prior to his death and was offered a position as a sales rep for a funeral home. He quit the next day when a couple came in needing a casket for a baby. The little things. About a week or two before his death he went online for a tarot reading and was given the Death Card. The little things. About a week or two after his death I opened up my bible and looked down to see the words printed in red, “Thy brother shall rise again.” The big things.

Through it all, my brother never lost his faith in God and Jesus Christ. His life was a constant struggle, and some of the things he did and said, well, let’s just say his works most definitely did not land him a spot in heaven. That being said, I know exactly where my brother is, and I know I’ll see him again someday. Faith. It’s that simple. It’s that big.