Last night, I drove home in silence. I had a lot to think about. I had spent the evening at my cousin Mariangela's home in Monroe to celebrate her brother Jimmy's birthday. He took his own life nearly two years ago and would have been 28 years old yesterday.
I was overwhelmed by the event. More than 30 people attended. Only 10 or so of us were relatives of Jimmy. The rest were friends, and I was surprised by how many of them had never met Jimmy before and were just there to support their friends -- his sisters. From an outside perspective, I can imagine that attending your friend's deceased brother's birthday would be a bit weird, but all of these people were so caring and sincere. I was amazed by the support his sisters had.
I met Katelyn, a local music journalist for Sound Magazine. She met my cousins through the music community and had never met Jimmy. We had a long talk about the future of local print publications and long-form music reporting online. I met Jonathan, who just finished his second year of med school at the UW. He told me about the lack of diversity in the program and his feeling secluded because of his Baha'i faith. He used to play music with Jimmy. I met a family, but I can't remember their names. He is a Brit; she's a New Zealander. They married and had a child in Australia (Cool!). They've traveled the world. They were all laughs.
Despite the circumstances, people were genuinely happy. The food was great. My cousins cooked up a feast of salmon, couscous, sausages and salads. We played a trivia game about Jimmy so that the people who never knew him could learn something about him. He and I were only close when we were younger, so I wasn't confident how many answers I would know. I knew more than I thought. I shot 9 for 12. I knew that football wasn't his sport, but wrestling was. I knew his first band was called "So's Your Face." I knew he wore The Purple Suit at graduation. I forgot his childhood dog was named Spot (so obvious!). Jimmy contributed to several charities toward the end of his life and winning answers won donations sent to those charities in Jimmy's name.
Mariangela set up a "sandwich station" where we made sack lunches to later be delivered to the homeless. This was another one of Jimmy's activities. We were all instructed to take one and deliver it to a homeless person. Extra points if they're sleeping. Jimmy liked delivering surprises but didn't like taking credit for the goodwill.
I left the party after the trivia game to get home at a decent hour. I was overwhelmed by the event. Emotion hit me on the drive home. I drove home in silence. I had a lot to think about.