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  • My brother's t-shirt.
  • Nicole Couto

My brother's t-shirt.

My brother's t-shirt.

Thirty-six years ago today, as I left my high school softball practice, I spotted my mom, sister, and brother in the car, their expressions unfamiliar yet immediately understandable to me.

My brother Tim, missing since before Christmas, was dead. Despite my 15-year-old brain never considering this outcome, I sensed its truth before my hand touched the car door handle of my mom's car.

There's a distinctive line between before and after when these things happen in life—how someone is before a tragedy and who they become afterward. For me, that line came into existence on the walk to the car that day.

I’d like to think I am more empathetic, understanding and keenly aware the of the often-unseen pain people endure - and maybe that is partially why 2021co exists.

There is however, a constant reminder that the worst possible outcomes do happen– the ones we fear in our imagination, but seldom confront in real life. And knowing this forces you to consider such outcomes daily. 

My husband, Keith is late coming home from work, and I can’t reach him on the phone? Well, he definitely died in a car accident, and I need to decide how to tell the kids, who is going to give the eulogy and how I am going to live as a widow for the rest of my life.  I promise you, it’s never that he is running late and on an important call – which is exactly what happened.

I find relief when he calls of course, but in a fucked-up sense; grateful too that I've already entertained the possibility, sparing myself the blindsided shock I felt on April 4th, 1988, when I opened the car door.

So, I have my brother’s t-shirt.  I am not sure how or why it became mine, but it sits in my top drawer as if it’s my favorite and wash and re-wear it on the regular.  I don't wear it, I just like seeing and touching it knowing it belonged to him.

I miss him mostly for what we missed out on together and I feel that today.

My mom said to me a while after we lost him:

“I refuse to sit here in sorrow the rest of my life – it would be an insult to his memory, and I won’t do it.  I am lucky to have had him as long as I did, some people never get that.”

The resilience that is shown in my mom's words is a lesson and one I think about all the time. Even in the depths of grief, humans can and will survive (and even flourish) in ways that maybe were not possible before. 

So today, I am going to be grateful and appreciative of every moment I get to be here on earth and try to be the best person I can be.


xo, Nicole


  • Post author
    Nicole Couto

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