Today is a tough day. The toughest. Today marks two years since my sweet baby brother passed away at the age of 12 after a short but incredibly grueling battle with leukemia.
Jonathan is the reason why A Dose of the Delightful exists. And while this blog doesn't often spend time on serious issues, it means so much more to me than just fun crafts and pretty pictures.
Though he was half my age, Jonathan taught me more than I ever taught him, just by virtue of being himself. He was always the type of child who thought of others before himself. I remember that on his 8th birthday, just a month after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast, he told my parents that he didn’t want presents for his birthday party. Instead, he asked that his friends and family donate money to aid victims of the disaster. And during his illness, he commented that although having leukemia was no picnic, many others were dealing with worse problems than his. He remarked that one day he might want to be a doctor or nurse, so he could help kids who were going through what he was.
The one time Jonathan expressed dismay at the situation, he commented to my mother, “I wish this had never happened.” That is a wish that I, and the rest of my familiy, will never be able to let go of. It is a terrible feeling to wish with all your heart that something had never happened. I am reminded of a conversation in The Fellowship of the Ring, which Jonathan, my brother Paul and I watched each year together:
Frodo confides in Gandalf: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."
Gandalf replies: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
That is the message my brother Jonathan has left with me, and that I will carry throughout my life. In his short time here, Jonathan spent every moment he had pursuing what interested him, excited him, and made him a wonderful person. He was never found sitting in front of the TV unless he was ‘traveling’ to another country while watching Globetrekker or the Travel Channel. The sounds of his clarinet and piano were familiar music around our house. During the summer, he was found perfecting his pencil dive in our backyard pool. Jonathan was intentional about doing what he loved, and he has helped me to embrace the time I’m given in the same way he did.
During Jonathan's illness, I turned to things I had been passionate about as a child and in high school, but had let go of in college and never picked up since. I would often sit next to his hospital bed, working on something special I wanted to give him for his 13th birthday - a set of pillowcases embroidered with the musical instruments he played: clarinet and piano. My method of embroidery is to draw what I'd like to embroider on tracing paper, then pin it or use sticky spray to adhere it to the embroidery surface. I'd already finished the clarinet part of one pillowcase, but wanted to add musical notes from Jonathan's favorite song to play. One day, as I sat next to Jonny and drew a succession of musical notes, I stopped to show him the pillowcase I'd be adding the notes to. He admired the green outlines of a clarinet I'd created, exclaiming, "Wow - you're really good at that!" He shared how difficult he'd thought it was when, for a class project, they'd all had to cross stitch a pillow. His sweet compliment really made me stop and think to myself "I do enjoy this, and I'm not half bad at it. Why don't I do it more?"
I started thinking about all of the things I used to do that I'd just dropped because life was too busy. I realized that the fact of the matter is, you have to make time to do the things you love until the day you're lucky enough to do those things for a living. What was I going to get more satisfaction out of - coming home from work and vegging on the couch? Or coming home and working on a project I wanted to do? The answer was obvious.
I had simply forgotten/pushed aside how things like drawing, embroidery, sewing, and DIY projects really made my heart sing. The incredible way I feel when doing these things, and admiring my own handiwork after, is absolute confirmation that these pursuits are a big part of what makes me me.
I started this blog purely for me, as a way to document my evening and weekend creative pursuits. The fact that people actually want to read it is an unexpected, but incredibly appreciated cherry on top. And the warm fuzzy feeling I get when someone tells me I've helped them in some way, caused them to think, encouraged them to try a craft - well, that's truly unparalleled. Who knows - there may be a time when I get to spend my days doing this stuff all day long!
Now and always, I'm thankful to my brother for showing me that life's not much unless you actively pursue what you love. If you don't know what that is yet, make a real effort to find out. It's only by being the best version of ourselves - the truest version, not what we think we should be - that we find genuine happiness and success. I'm not quite there yet, but every day I feel closer and closer to it.