Months ago, I started planning a huge event for you. We were going to all “ do good turns daily” in your honor, both near and far, acts of service to reflect your kind and selfless spirit. Everyone was going to know your name. We’d wear matching tshirts and create hashtags, thus initiating a ruckus in your honor.
Then, we’d go to the top of a mountain and release balloons for you. Orange, of course. We would stand and watch them fade into glory, holding hands and fighting back tears.
So badly, I wanted to create a positive tradition in your memory. I hoped to prevent another painful holiday and distract mom and dad from the painful sting unique to June 7th.
But somewhere along the way, it started to feel weird and forced and I remembered you were never one to make a ruckus anyway.
Last year, we went to Binion’s, the steakhouse you loved and requested for most of the previous 19 years. We stepped on peanut shells and ate rolls dripping with butter, a screaming toddler and unknown country songs our soundtrack. I was a recent grad waiting for a job offer to uplift me from our hometown any minute, but I’m so glad it didn’t come quickly.
That night, we ate white cupcakes with white icing and rainbow sprinkles, your birthday food of choice since you could chew. For the hundredth time, I argued the lack of difference between cupcakes and sheet cake, but you stood firm in your tradition.
Today, I see the difference. Ken, it’s you. It’s the way you weaved celebration into the tiniest of details, and didn’t let loose ends or changes in plans hinder your determination to commemorate the day.
It’s the way you remembered details and showcased your love through acknowledging them. Like the time you wrote a fake letter from my favorite USC football player, saying he couldn’t make it to my birthday because he was too busy taking care of sick cats (the only excuse you knew I would find acceptable!!). Or the times I’d wake up in the middle of the night and crawl into your room? You’d do anything to cheer me up, from ridiculous breathing exercises to Jerry Seinfeld impressions. You always knew, in the silly times and in the sad.
When I started to create an event for your birthday, I was fighting so hard to establish your legacy through an annual event people would remember. One of the first things our grief counselors warned us about was the shift of people’s attention away from what happened. They said people would move on, forget, and it would be painful.
But they never met you. Kendall, you don’t need an event to speak volumes of your life. I see it every day in the supportive texts I receive, social media posts and the way your friends love us.
Did you know that your friends would come to Asheville on a random weekend to keep mom and dad from feeling lonely?
Did you know that one of your best friends would move to Nashville for the summer and we’ll celebrate you later today with Moe’s burritos?
You would be so proud of your people.
So today, I’m leaning in to the things you love with the people who love you. We’re going to eat white on white cupcakes with sprinkles and celebrate our Kendall in the ways that feel right this year. And I think that’s just how you want it.
Thanks for teaching me so many lessons, many of which I’ve yet to uncover, but most of all, for being you. We love you, little brother. Happy Birthday!