“Wilty. The multiple beautiful floral arrangements that have filled our home the past two weeks are now wilty, and I’ve never felt so relatable to a wilty flower. The people are all gone, and the world has continued to turn. I haven’t been ready to venture out into public yet and do normal people things like grocery shopping, but I did venture through a drive-through today where I was told to have a great day… a polite pleasantry. My day was not ‘great,’ but I survived today, and I’m happy with that. I set the washing machine to wash the same load of clothes three times before remembering to switch it to the dryer, and I mindlessly watched Benen joyfully play with his uncle Carter’s old Hot Wheel cars, periodically saying, ‘Tank yewww, Uncle Cahhhrter.’ Paw Patrol helped me through the afternoon which, to be honest, made me feel like a crap mom. But I made it until Josh was home from his first day back at work, and we could be a family unit again.
I’ve BARELY begun to process this new reality of life without my brother. I’m truly still anxiously waiting to wake up from this awful nightmare. Planning a celebration of life for your younger brother at such a young age is not in the handbook of life. Neither is writing and delivering his eulogy to a room packed full of love and an overwhelming amount of people. Writing has always been expressively therapeutic for me, and while I am still early in the healing and grieving process, this was extremely difficult to write and share, but please know it overflowed from my broken heart. It deserves a space alongside my happy and mundane moments too. For although this is a time I do not necessarily want to remember, it’s all part of my story.
I am Carter’s older sister. The amount of love and light we have collectively received is truly phenomenal. It is evident my little brother has touched many lives. You hope that you never have to call on your friends, family, and community to carry you but if you do, you better hope it’s a community as great as this one.
Finding the words to describe the pain and love in my heart is next to impossible, but I will give it my best. As siblings, Carter and I were 27 months apart. We grew up close, and he was my first real friend. Over the years, we went through typical sibling ebbs and flows, but the love never wavered. Over the past several years especially, our relationship flourished. We became a constant in one another’s lives. We created many valuable memories I will cherish forever.
Even from a young age, his happy-go-lucky spirit and captivating smile drew people in, and he created many meaningful life long relationships. He was athletic in nature and excelled in just about any sport he decided to try. For many years, he was passionate about the game of soccer, which resulted in many memories and ample time traveling for him, my parents, and his teammates. I have to say though, for a guy who was such a natural athlete, he sure made baseball and hockey look difficult. Just this past year, Josh convinced Carter to come out and play a pickup game with his men’s league hockey team. Carter phoned me after the first period evidently winded and said, ‘Maris, I think you need to come to pick me up, I just puked and my ankles are killing me. I don’t know how Josh does this every week!’
Carter was very academically dedicated. He was keen. He was intelligent. He was ambitious. He was consistently thorough and meticulous, always utilizing that darn ruler. Trying to find himself and his place in this great big world, he moved around to a variety of places chasing aspirations, searching for fulfillment. After many phone calls and lengthy conversations about life, and balance, hopes, and desires, Carter made the decision to come home. He moved into Josh and my home in August 2017.
I am SO gosh darn grateful Carter moved in with us, for it provided just about 2 full extra years of laughs, and memories I will cherish forever. We collectively referred to our ecosystem as ‘the Reef’ and now our group chat will forever be missing a fundamental member.
As he studied to challenge his third class in power engineering credential, our kitchen table was Carter’s domain. He had a system. The entire dining room space would be in organized chaos, complete with massive whiteboards with color-coded markers, various notes, and textbooks. I could always gratefully accept if he was studying, our house would be spotless, a mutual quirk we shared I refer to as ‘procrasticleaning.’
Shortly after moving back home, Carter landed a power engineering position at the local hospital. Carter loved this position and was very proud of his work. This was extremely evident to me when he proudly took me on a tour, showing me the intricate details of his position and proudly describing his constant ability to apply problem-solving skills. Although I work at the separate hospital campus, on nights where we were both at work, Carter would message me his extension number — you know, just in case I got bored of my nursing duties and needed to chat while he was holding down his own fort. Anyone who knew Carter knew he was a hard worker. He was one to take initiative, could be counted on, and always brought his infamous smile. As many know, working shift work often results in 4 or 5 days off in a row. This was too many days off for Carter and he would get ‘bored’ of cleaning his car, hitting the gym, taking sully on hikes, hanging with friends, and his nephew. That guy was always looking for something more, so he excitedly applied and started working at the local recreation complex. There he worked, casually doing maintenance, and much to his nephew Benen’s delight, drove the Zamboni. If there were more than 15 people in the stands, you can bet his nerves got the best of him and he would try and negotiate with a co-worker to swap him out. ‘What if I go right through the boards!?’ he would say.
Carter was very handsome. His good looks and charm naturally made me protective of his heart. He had an extremely thoughtful, genuine soul. He would do absolutely anything for you, no questions asked. He was respectful, polite, and kind, and his selfless acts never went unnoticed. While Carter cared deeply for his family and friends, he also cared a fair bit for hot wings and hot sauce, specifically Franks. He was a foodie in general. The questionable food concoctions he would come up with never ceased to amaze me, often utilizing a combination of every spice in the cupboard. To this day, he’s the only person who could get Benen to eat scrambled eggs. Carter, you’ll have to telepathically tell me your secret for that one. The best, though, was when he would put said concoctions in the fridge for safekeeping, covered by only a small sandwich bag, and then wonder why all his food would get all dry and weird in the fridge.
On July 6th, 2019, we lost our beloved son, grandson, brother, nephew, uncle, and friend. Carter’s friends and family meant the world to him, and vice versa. Carter was lively and happy in all of his roles, but my favorite was seeing him absolutely rock the role of Uncle. He was one of the first ones at the hospital when I was in labor with Benen and in complete awe of his new little sidekick. In Benen’s early, ‘more fragile’ days, as Carter would say, Carter would come home, wash his hands up to his armpits, position himself on the couch with a blanket, and eagerly wait for his turn to hold and stare at his nephew. His confidence grew and soon he was happily singing made-up French songs, tossing a less ‘fragile’ Benen in the air for giggles, providing shoulder rides, and holding his hands as he learned to take his first steps.
Benen adores his uncle Carter and has been calling out for him, ‘Are you Uncle Carterrrr?’ and kissing pictures of him and proudly pointing out ‘Uncle Carter’ to the Zamboni picture in his favorite hockey book.
This loss is immeasurable but so is the love left behind. Benen and his future siblings will always know who their Uncle Carter is. Carter, I promise to honor your life forever and always.
Carter, your life was filled with love. You are still loved, lil man, so, so loved. It is clearly evident by the number of lives you have touched. You fought your battles stoically, never wanting to worry me or anyone else. I am so, so proud of you for fighting for as long as you did. It hurts my heart to know your struggles were so heavy despite it all. During tougher times, you knew you were able to reach out to me and you did. The relationship we fostered over the years was more than a sibling bond. You are one of my best friends. I feel extremely lucky to have been a vital part of your life for these short 24 years. I’ll miss our honest heart-to-hearts where we talked in great detail about life, our goals, and our ambitions. There was never a doubt we would be a vital part of one another’s future. You taught me how to love unconditionally, how to cherish each moment, and how to honor a loved one. You taught me how to be a smidge impulsive or let’s say… spontaneous. You gave me and continue to give strength for times when I feel weak. Moments like right now.
The past 2 years you lived, and I mean truly lived, with Josh and I were filled with countless happy memories I will treasure forever. Thank you for giving us these extra years to create memories and strengthen our bond. Thank you for being not only an incredible brother but a worthy friend and admirable uncle to our son.
Being your older sister is a role I chose to not take lightly. My mission from the get-go was to love you fiercely and unconditionally and to protect you with every ounce of my being. I would like to think I did my very best on all fronts, yet still, my love could ultimately not save you. I will miss that weird little cough you would do as you walked in the door to let us know you were home, and the big, straight-armed wave from the doorway to the bedroom. I will remember you for your kind, thoughtful, genuine soul, and a smile that would light up the room.
I will always struggle with the fact you are no longer a quick call or text message away, and I am truly not sure how to go on in my life from here.
While your wings may have been ready, our hearts were obviously not. I can only hope to find some comfort in the thought you have found peace, my sweet brother. Your memory will live on in my heart forever and ever.
As I walk forward in my life without you, I will try my hardest to walk beside my grief. I know it will cross my path more often than not at first, but I will use it as a constant reminder to live big and genuinely, just like you, just like Carter.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Marisa Gorjeu from Campbell River, Vancouver Island, Canada. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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