Sometimes I will stop whatever I'm doing and just stare, just mull in the moment, whether I'm staring at the sunset or watching fat snowflakes falling in slow motion or standing in line on a mundane Monday at the grocery store, and I will find myself thinking for the millionth time, what a strange feeling to live in a world that he isn't in. 

I haven't lived in a world that he wasn't living in since I was five years old. I remember it, him joining the world. I remember my grandparents coming over to stay with my older brother and I while my mom and dad went to the hospital. I remember the color of my footie pajamas, I remember my blue starry sleeping bag on the living room floor, the one that I was sitting in when my Grandma excitedly told us that my mom was coming home with our little brother, that his name was James. And now, day in and day out, the world is turning and everyone is moving along with their lives, including me, but he's not here.

I hate that the most.

Finding peace is a touchy thing. I find it some days. I find it in imperfect places but perfect moments. I find it when I need it, or sometimes when I least expect it. A lot of days I don't find peace and that's okay too, I suppose. It feels like that's okay, to have to go through some days without a drop of peace. It feels like that's how it is supposed to be, this contrast of the good and the bad. I can feel it molding me into something else entirely, like a sculptor working smoothly on a spinning pottery wheel, pressing the clay delicately and steadily while it spins in an effort to create a lovely precise mold.

Some years ago I disassociated myself from my childhood church and set off to find truth for myself. My path has become increasingly fulfilling and meaningful and my love for humanity as a whole has grown incredibly in this past decade of my life. I believe in God. I hope for things that I can not see, and I do believe that James is still out there somewhere. And in this, my quest for finding some peaceful relief turns into an inward spiritual journey. The peace I watch for comes to me the same as a feeling of spirituality. For me, feeling the spirit is this epic warmth that pours into my very core. It is divinity that flows into my soul. It feels like...divine, perfect, peaceful love. That's what spirituality feels like to me. It feels just like love.

Here I am now, just short of one month after losing my little brother, and I continually search desperately for every moment and every ounce of peace that I can find.

After his funeral I had some days filled with anger. I am not naturally an angry person, but I was just so damn angry. My insides were filled with raging boiling water just waiting to spew out the top of the pot. I remember plopping down in sheer exhaustion from all of the anger and trying to pinpoint what it was that was dragging me down. That was easy. It was that everyone kept saying to me, you'll feel him! I hope you feel him. Watch for signs of him! I tried and tried to find him. Every morning I said the same prayer, pleading with God, please God, please! I just want to know that he is out there, and that he is happy and well. Please. This is all that I need. I just want to know that he is okay.

And then I waited for signs. I watched. I listened.

One night I woke up suddenly from a disturbing dream and opened my eyes to see James standing there next to the bed. Only, as my eyes focused in the dark, I realized it wasn't James at all, but rather Dan's tall gun safe standing next to his nightstand.

The next night I drove to my dad's house where I stood outside of James' empty Chevy truck, the one still filled with all of his things.A pair of skate shoes and a pair of worn combat boots, a baseball cap, a half empty coffee cup, gas station receipts. I touched his shoes and I panicked while thinking of how only days before they had been warm from the touch of his skin, the skin that held flowing blood from his live, beating heart. I sat there alone with his truck and I talked to him through my tears. I told him I was sorry for not being a better big sister. I told him I missed him so much. I told him that I love him and that I hoped he was okay.

But I felt nothing. My insides were empty and still, completely barren beneath a broken heart.

I was angry. I was angry that people would feel their loved ones but I couldn't feel mine. I was angry that they could see signs of their people, but I couldn't see mine. It didn't make sense and I hated it.

And then Sunday came. This day started out the same as all of the rest. Everything was the same until suddenly, in one fell swoop, my anger was washed away. We were in the car on the freeway heading to my mom's house. Dan was driving, the boys were quietly engrossed in a movie in the backseat. Dan and I were talking about some things coming up this year in our lives. We were talking about some of our plans, some of our hopes.

I remember turning to look out my window and thinking about how just a couple of weeks before James had been making this same drive, and I was staring at the sky when a thought very quietly and very suddenly entered my mind.

Has it ever happened to you, where a thought tip-toed into your mind and you were just sure that it wasn't you who placed it there? The words are there, you hear them softly between your ears, but you know it's not your own voice who is saying those words? This thought was not mine, but it was given to me all the same, and the force of that reality hit me so hard that I was filled with an unexplained astounding peace which resonated throughout my entire body so perfectly that I never, ever wanted it to leave.

The thought that was said to me, the thought which I did not say, went something like this: James is the same right now at this very moment as he was before he left the world. James hasn't changed. James is reserved and quiet, he likes to keep to himself a bit. He is filled with humor and jokes. He laughs with you and he cries with you. And his sole purpose now, the same is it was then, is to make sure that the ones he loves are happy and well. He will always be here for you.

And as quickly as the thought came it left, and with it leaving I had an utter assurance that any good which came our way for the next while could be credited to James. I had this assurance strike me, that all he wanted right now from where he is was to bring good things to all of the people he loved most.

The remainder of that evening was perfectly special. We gathered as family, immediate and extended. The happy feeling in my mother's house all night long was palpable. My Uncle approached me at the end of the night and said something that made my heart soar. He said, I hope this doesn't make you sad and that it's okay to say, but...the feeling here tonight was incredible! James was here with us!

That perfect wave of peace stayed locked in my soul all evening, well into the night, where I continually recognized it was there and internally begged it not to ever leave me, although I knew full well that it must. What's that they say, that all good things must come to an end? So I soaked in it for as long as I could before the inevitable time of its passing me by would arrive.

I don't remember when it left. That absolute peace stayed settled in my soul for a good long day, maybe two. I don't remember it sneaking away but it did. It comes back to visit me now and again, and the moments in between are sometimes beautiful, sometimes hard, sometimes mundane and sometimes excruciatingly painful. I haven't figured life out quite yet and I most certainly can not wrap my mind around death yet. I miss him so much, and I'm still wading through the feelings of guilt and anger and sadness that come and go.

I continue to find peace where I can. In Las Vegas there is a Brahma Shrine just outside of Caesars Palace. It is a beautiful golden secret shrine tucked away in a little enclosed park, where on all four sides there is a bench for prayer. The street is crowded with people from all walks of life. There are casinos and billboards and flashing lights, and it seems such a strange place for something like prayer and peace. But all the same, I walked to the shrine and I knelt on the bench. I held my head beside the sticks of burning incense and I said a short prayer, a devotion to James and my hope for his happiness wherever he was. I waited for a moment, tuning out the noise and business that surrounded me and there I felt the peace settle in, wrapping me in its blanket and lifting some of my pain.

I don't claim to know much.

But I do know that there is peace to be had. How can I not know this? I have felt it for myself.

I do know that James is close by.

I do know that I need the bad days almost as much as I need the good ones. That I need to feel that pain. That feelings are temporary and that somehow, somewhere in all of this awful mess, there is something good that will come because of it.

Breathe. Just breathe.

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