Jared. | Dealing with loss and trying to stay human.

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I have to preface this post by saying this is one of the hardest posts I've ever had to write. This Friday would have been Jared's 18th birthday.

I was going to post a vlog about this - but I can't quite get myself to put my face on the camera when I speak about the passing of my brother. Even though it has been a little over a year since Jared's death, I still have tears streaming down the keyboard as I think about how I even start writing this.

Jared was my youngest brother. He was smart, he was kind, he was giving and forgiving. He thought of others before himself. He NEVER forgot a birthday and always consistently had a smile on his face - even when he was in more pain than none of us could imagine. He was absolutely obsessed with Iron Man and loved that he was a super hero by science and technology not because of any special powers. He also loved computers so I think that made him even more connected to Iron Man. 

Jared was diagnosed with Hodgekins Lymphoma at 14 years old. We found out because my other brother, Preston, was playing around with a heart rate monitor app on his phone and they found that Jared's heart rate was insanely high and almost immediately took him to the doctors. Instead of starting chemo, my parents took him through a homeopathic route. For months, he traveled to Florida and beyond with treatments. 

Every time I saw Jared he was so happy to see me. I tried to visit him as much as I could but with me so busy and him traveling for treatments - it was insanely hard. When I did see him - he slept - a lot. He was in so much pain but still sang "Jesus Loves Me" throughout the night and never questioned why this was happening to him. He never complained and genuinely tried to keep up with our pace just to hang out and spend time with us. 

Jared passed away in December 2nd, 2016 in the Philippines. My Mom had taken him to the Phillipines for one final treatment and he passed away overseas. Away from family - we never got to say goodbye. I think you always look back and wish you could have done something differently. 

Jared called me about two days before he passed at 3am my time, and to this day I am so grateful that I picked up the phone. I feel terrible because I was so tired I couldn't keep a full-on conversation but I genuinely tried. We just talked about how excited we were to see each other at Christmas time and he said he was doing good and was feeling better. 

My sister, Viktoriah, called me during a wedding rehearsal and was bawling and all she could say was "He's dead. Jared is dead". I walked away, bawled my eyes out and came back and ran the rehearsal. I don't know how I even did that - but I cancelled all of my meetings for the rest of the day and went home and couldn't stop shaking and crying. That night, I tried to find out the entire story with my Mom (who was still in the Phillipines) but I could barely understand her because she was heaving and crying. My belief is that the whole situation was medical malpractice but I'm not sure if I will ever truly know. 

For the next two weeks we were trying to get his body back to Michigan so we could say a final goodbye. We dealt with people stealing money from my Mom, flying around the Phillipines to get a death certificate, cancelling the plane ticket and spending over $12,000 for a special casket and travel to bring his body home. We didn't have this kind of money so we put up a go fund me for these expenses and were able to meet our goals. Thank you to every wonderful human out there who sacrificed their hard earned money for my family- we can't even express how grateful we are. 

Because of all of the craziness, we had his funeral without his body. After coming back to Orlando from the funeral, I had to fly back to Michigan about a week later to re live the pain again and bury his body. I still remember his face in that casket - swollen - he didn't even look like himself. It was hard to believe that he was actually gone because that is not how I remembered him. 

I wanted to bury Jared with his iron man action figure - I will always associate the two of them together, so we did. 

For anyone who has gone through a traumatic experience you can understand that sometimes it IS hard to feel human again. To this day, I worry about everyone and every situation and overthink EVERYTHING. I think of almost every bad scenario before I think of a good one. The past year has gotten a little bit better but I still have my days of being completely paranoid and crazy. Either way, I will never be the same. 

After losing my little brother - I realized more than ever that life is precious and life is fragile. Balance is precious. Relationships are precious. Grab onto those you love and give them the biggest hug. Share time with them - and truly share your life with them. 

For me, it was about finding balance. I now try to be more realistic with work and spend time with my amazing husband and family. I try and take some time out for myself. I ended up cutting people out of my life who stole my joy and energy. I don't have time for them and I would much rather spend my time with people who love me for exactly who I am and I can "do life with".  I could never have done this without Jesus. I am not ashamed to say that he truly wrapped me in his arms and showed comfort I have never known. 

Feeling human again means to me celebrating Jared's life and never forgetting his awesome. I decided to do that the best way I know how - by putting on an event.

So began Jared's Luau. I decided to throw a charity event in honor of his memory. It will be an annual charity event benefiting an organization dedicated to helping children and families in times of need. Last year, proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald House. 

I would love to share the photos, video and amazing vendors with you - you can check out the blog here. 

So this year - I will continue to remember him by putting on the 2nd annual Jared's Luau. There will be more details to come so stay tuned. I would love you to celebrate his life with me by giving back to those that just need some love. <3 

What I want you to take away from this blog is that you are BLESSED. When you are having a bad day - it could always be worse. Think more on the positives than the negatives and cherish those around you. Choose balance and choose to love.