The number 19.

On most days, this number holds little significance to myself, or anyone for that matter. No matter what the occasion, when you get to the number 19, you usually think to round up or down: class rank, money, age (probably to 21), and so forth. Well, today, the number 19 is the most significant number on the planet to me.

It is my brother, Nathan’s, birthday today. He would be 19 years old.

I remember flowers, and hugs, and tears, and an outpouring of love. I remember being so excited that various family members were coming into town from all over the country and that my sister and I had a multitude of people to play with us. I remember flashes of the funeral and feeling so small among the grown ups crowded in our little house. I remember being picked up and passed from one end of the house to the other to find my parents.

I remember vividly, and think that this event might be the cause of my elephant memory.

Nathan’s still birth 19 years ago really put things into perspective for me. It brought to my attention that I needed a strong core group of people surrounding me, and that the strongest of that core would be family. I realized, even at the age of 4, that he was in a better place — though earth is pretty cool, don’t you think?

Over the years, Nathan’s birthday has served as a reminder to live life to the fullest; not every person gets that opportunity. It is a marker that our family has grown another year stronger and closer in love. Tragedy like this didn’t break my parents, didn’t scar my sister and I, didn’t sever our bond. Today makes me appreciate my parents more and more, as parents and as very strong human beings.

Today makes me sad, but it also makes me happy. I didn’t get to know Nathan in person, but I think he would be proud to call me his sister. Maybe I make up for the loss of one brother in the attention I show the brother that we got to keep, and I am OK with that. I would like to think that we would all be as close as the remaining 3 of us have been, and that he would have grown into a wonderful young man, with those brown curls he was born with (just like mine!). Today reminds me that I have had a guardian angel looking after me for 19 years, and that I am one of the luckiest people in the world for that.

My wish is that I don’t get into any trouble today that would need guidance from him, to give him a birthday break.

So, here’s to you, Nathan Christopher! You light up our lives with a mere memory. I hope we are all living enough to our potentials to make up for the time you didn’t get!

Love, your sister,