Stuff – A Conversation One Year Later

A year ago this week, I was sitting in a hospital room next to my brother, just shooting the breeze. I had learned of his diagnosis just a few days earlier, and yet, even though I knew it was cancer, I still felt like everything would be just fine.

Our conversation was so completely normal. We talked a lot about sports, which was something you could talk with Larry about any day, any time. I remember specifically asking him for advice about a baseball situation with Jacob, and I clearly remember his advice. I can’t sit at one of Jacob’s baseball games now without my brothers voice entering into my head.

This couple of hours in the hospital is what I think about when I think back to last summer.  I think about our last “real”, normal conversation before cancer took it’s stronghold and quickly took my brother away from his family.

Shooting the breeze, in a hospital room, talking about nothing significant at all. Just stuff.

Sometimes I wish I could re-do that conversation… to say things more meaningful than what I did. I wish I could have told him that I was sorry about a few years before when things were really strained between us…all the hateful things I said to him during that time.  I wish I would have told him how proud I was of him… how much I admired how hard he worked to give his family the life they had. I wanted to tell him that I think he turned into the most amazing dad, and along with his wife raised some of the best kids on this planet. I wish I would have told him that I was sorry I didn’t spend more time with him and that even though there were so many years between us, I had a lot of really funny and vivid memories of growing up with him as my brother.

One such memory is cemented in my head like yesterday…it was the middle of the night before Easter, and Larry was so gingerly hiding the Easter eggs, acting as the Easter bunny. I remember him telling my mom he wanted to get it “just so” because I was at a “critical age” and he didn’t want me to stop believing… only what he didn’t know was that I was peeking around the corner watching him the entire time. It was that night that I found out the Easter Bunny wasn’t real… but I didn’t let on. I never shared that story with him because on that day in the hospital and all the other days, we talked about “stuff”. I feel like we went through our whole relationship as brother and sister talking about “stuff”. Shooting the breeze…stuff.

A couple weeks later after that day in the hospital, he had gone down hill significantly, and exactly two months after the “stuff” conversation, he was gone.

Tonight, as I am on a high from a wonderful family weekend yet also in a fog because of the memories I am having from this past summer, I wonder how this past year has changed me. How will I let this change me? My husband and I drove home in silence today… we had over 4 hours of opportunity to talk about more than just stuff, but we were tired and zoned and moving through life with four kids, jobs and a busy calendar.

It’s easy to say “give grace”, “live like there’s no tomorrow”, “tell people you love them” but doing it… moving beyond just “stuff’ is hard sometimes. It takes time, it takes a lot of effort and sometimes it takes a conversation, or lack thereof, to give you that gentle push into reminding you how quickly things can change. Tomorrow is a new day and I want it to be a turning point – a tuning in point – because we never know when there might be another chance to say what we want to say.

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    • says

      Thanks so much, Pam. It was one of those “can’t sleep, get up in the middle of the night and just write” kind of things. It felt so much better get it off my heart. Thanks for your comment.

  1. says

    I have chills, Kristen. This is one of the most beautiful, thought-provoking posts I have ever read. It should honestly be nominated for an award.

    I am still sad when I think about everything that you went through last year. But, you know what amazes me? The fact that you came out of those experiences, learned so much, and became a happier person in the end.

    You are beautiful and wonderful in every single way, and I am truly, truly honored to call you my friend.

    • says

      You are too sweet, Natalie.
      I am having the happiest, most intentional summer and I am really happy that it shows. Feels like night and day from last year – but I do have the last year to thank for that, I know.
      Much love!

  2. says

    Such an important reminder to be truly present in our lives and relationships. I’d like to think I’ve learned to tell those I love how much they mean to me, but it’s so easy to let life get in the way. Thank you for taking the time to post such a personal message, Kristen.

  3. says


    Kristen, I so regret that when my mom was sick, I didn’t sit down with her and tell her what a wonderful mother she had been. We talked about “stuff.” I think I was scared to admit how sick she was and honestly, I don’t think she wanted to admit it, either. Still, I regret that I only whispered those words to her as she was heading to heaven.

    Sending you love.

    • says

      You know, B…. this brings me so much comfort to read this from you. I know how much you love your mom and how close you were and knowing you struggled with this too makes me feel a bit more normal. I honestly had a thought last night that maybe I’m just shallow… that I can’t move beyond those stuff conversations to things more meaningful?

      I said all of those things the night he passed away, (well except for the Easter Bunny story – I really wish I would have told him that) and I know that was enough. I just wish I would have made our conversations more meaningful when they were two-sided versus one. Hugs to you, Bridget!

  4. says

    Sickness hasn’t been in my family since I was a small child. But I know it’s coming. I can only hope that I can handle it with the grace and beauty that you have. I am thinking of you today. Thank you for writing and sharing with us all.

    • says

      I appreciate your words, Katrina… I know you have grown up with significant loss, and from what you’ve shared with me, I can tell you have touched a lot of people with your story, including me!

    • says

      I can’t either. I felt that way when your mom was gone a year… seems like it went by so fast (although at times also seems like it was so very long ago).

  5. Judith - Texas says

    …..just beautiful!
    I’ve had quite a few relatives pass away (parents, brothers, in-laws, etc.) and went through all the emotions associated with losing someone in this world – but over the years the sad thoughts and mourning have lessened. I have come to believe that it is never too late to tell someone all the concerns/thoughts/feelings that were not shared while they were alive….I truly believe they still hear and see us even from afar. You just told your dear Brother how you feel….I’m sure he is nodding and smiling at you and saying “same back to you, Sis”.

  6. says

    Oh Kristen! I am so sorry! But at least you have these precious memories! I think we all need a little reminder to treat those “we love”as THOSE we LOVE! And not take them for granted! Thank you for sharong this, its hard to swallow, and even harder to say out loud, but its a very good reminder for me <3

  7. cocobean says

    but in talking about “just stuff” – you got to have your brother with you in your heart & head at all those baseball games… sometimes it’s important to say some big things, but it’s also important to value “just stuff”

    • says

      You are so right – and that “stuff” is just as important. I totally agree.
      My gosh, can you imagine how heavy every conversation would be if it was all about the more serious things in life!

  8. says

    *hugs* I believe he knows exactly how you feel about him, Kristen. I know it’s been a hard year… but I believe wholeheartedly that you will make something positive out of his death. You are such a sweet and caring soul.. just like you talk here about your brother… it’s obvious to all of us out here that you are a wonderful mom and wife and friend. I feel really blessed to have gotten to “know” you through your blog… you’re good people, as my mom would have said.

    • says

      The year has been hard but it’s gotten easier and I now know a lot more about myself than I ever have before.

      You’re good people too, Sherri Jo. Of course, anyone with an Adam a Day photo on Facebook is definitley great people!

  9. Amanda says

    I think of you and Larry often. I remember your blog during the hardest part of his journey… I just remember wanting to reach out and hug you.
    You are so right though… It’s easy to say those things. What’s not easy is doing it! Thanks for the motivation today… the desire to be the person I want to be. And to be the example my kids needs… it starts now. :)

  10. sylena says

    beautiful……it’s in those moments, those in the middle of the night moments that the best of us comes to surface…….you made me cry, smile, and think about how very fragile life is. Be proud, this piece of heart written on paper will forever be beautiful, timeless and inspiring.

  11. Whitney Schmale says

    PS Every time I use the “big” knife in the kitchen I hear chef Ian whispering in my ear :)

  12. Jenn in Tenn says

    Beautiful post Kristen! I was still a fairly new reader of your blog when your family was dealing with this diagnosis, then loss last year. I look forward to your posts. Love the food, but love your heart more.. :).
    I just returned from a church youth mission trip to DC. Eye opening to say the least. I will never be the same. Many of the sentiments you express in this post were the same I felt during the trip and still feel now. Prayers for you and his family.

    • says

      Thanks so much, Jenn. I really appreciate your comment.

      Those mission trips are the best… I remember those highs so well and the change that shifted in my soul after each one. You are doing great work – changing the world in a positive way!

  13. says

    Having just lost one of my husband’s oldest friends this past weekend, I can definitely relate to the feelings you talk about. It always seems like we should have done more, loved more, shared more – a facet of our limited existence in God’s limitless creation. hugs and blessings Kristen

    • says

      We can always do more, can’t we? I wonder if even those people who do more than normal feel the same way?

      I am so sorry for your loss. Friends are just like family – blessings to you all as you navigate through the grief and life without your friend.

      • says

        Actually Kristen, in my experience, the more people do, the more they feel like they aren’t doing enough. In my church there are some people who are just, like, whirlwinds of service – I know I don’t have that level of selflessness in me!

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