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Today, I’m mad at you.

Dear Ryan,

Today, I’m mad at you.

I’m mad at you for leaving me here, alone. I’m mad at you because of that one, single poor choice you made that resulted in the end of your life. That choice that has left an indelible scar in the lives of me, our parents, and the people you knew. Forever.

I’m mad because after you died, there was tremendous sadness. I’m mad at you because after seeing the outpouring of grief over your life, I at a very young age came to the conclusion the wrong Maher child died. Sometimes, I still feel this way.

            I’m mad at you because I had to see my father cry. To hear the shrill, piercing crack of his screams after he learned he would never see his only son ever again is of the most vivid and terrifying memories I have. I’m mad because the death of a child is the worst thing a parent can go through. I’m mad because I had to witness the people I identified as my parents waste away, rotted to their core by grief and loss. I’m mad because there is barely any trace of the people they used to be, just two hollow shells acting autonomously to get through the dealings of everyday.

 Mom & dad are now social recluses and barely venture off the back patio, the only place they have seem to have some sort of solace now. The days of dad lounging on his large arm chair, slowly swaying to one of the CD’s from his vast collection are now over. Most nights now he sits in front of news channels letting the stories wash over his sorrow. His CD’s sit untouched and unloved, collecting dust. Mom has talk radio on constantly, trying to fill the house with anything other than the deafening silence your absence left. I’m mad because the hub and hearth of our home, the living room, is now cold and forever abandoned. Most likely due to the fact it was the room where at five o’clock in the morning, the police informed us that you had been involved in an accident, and were never coming home again.

           You stole so much more than just your life when you decided to get behind the wheel of a car intoxicated. You stole my parents, and any potential happiness that they were supposed to have. I’m mad because our mother admitted to me, “I don’t think I can ever know the same amount of happiness again”, and it shattered my heart. I’m mad at you because Marian & Michael Maher are the two greatest people I know, and they never ever deserved this.

            I’m mad at you because we don’t really celebrate holidays anymore. There is no joy associated with holidays for us, only seasonal reminders that you aren’t here. I spent your twenty-second birthday violently vomiting the entire day, my body corresponding to my internal anguish of a once celebrated birthday that we really no longer acknowledge.

            I’m mad because I miss you. I miss your big freckle face. I miss that ever so slight gap between your two front teeth that would reveal itself every time you cracked a grin. I’m mad at you for missing my prom, my high school graduation, my first day of college, my last day of college my 21st birthday, and all of the magic of ordinary days that sit between. I’m mad at you because you weren’t there my freshman year for my first bar trip, and I sat in a bathtub and cried about it for hours after.  I’m mad because on my way to my college graduation, I silently sobbed to myself in the backseat of the car while mom and dad sat in the front because I didn’t want to burden them. I’m mad because sometimes my sadness gets so pent up because I’m scared to let mom & dad see it because it’s exhausting enough dealing with ones one grief, let alone setting off someone else’s. I’m mad because your name is rarely uttered in your former home, because annunciating each syllable is like another slice of a knife across the tongue and heart.

       I’m mad at you because you will not gift me nieces or nephews. I’m mad at you because we will not grow up to be next door neighbors in a cul-de-sac, as you had planned for us. I’m mad because when I was sixteen, you adamantly volunteered yourself to be the maid of honor at my wedding, and it’s a promise that you broke in death. I’m mad because when our parents are elderly, I will have to care for them both by myself. I’m mad because when I lose them both, I will be the only Maher left on this Earth.

            I’m mad at you because at the age of 17, I lost my faith in God. I went from being a devout Catholic to avoiding the Church, prayer, and beliefs all together. I don’t know what to believe anymore. My life has been bitter without a higher power.

            I’m mad at you because you left a lot of baggage back here on Earth, most of which I’ve had to bear. I’m mad because I’ve had to hear many friends of yours regale stories and argue that they were your best friend, oldest friend, closest friend, etc. When in all reality, I firmly believe that I was your best friend. I’m so tired of competing with other people and the claim that they loved you the most. I’m mad because I’ve read your name tattooed on multiple peoples bodies, read it written in odd places by random people, and I’ve even been told at a college party that I “look just like him” by a complete stranger, who didn’t even bother to identify or introduce himself to me. It was as if he was entitled to make public claim on a private struggle of mine. I’m tired of people telling me your private stories. I don’t need to know all your stories nor have I ever wanted to.  We’re all entitled to secrets on this Earth, and sadly none of your friends are aware of that. I’m tired of sympathizing others sadness, while I’ve barely got a handle on mine.

            I’m mad because you have left me with incredibly deep inadequacy issues. Do you know how fucking exhausting it is to day-in and day-out compete with a dead man’s legacy? It’s like I’m running on a never-ending hamster wheel trying to obtain an unreachable goal. I’m mad at you because I feel that I not only have to live my life, but yours as well. I’m mad at you because I’ve had people feed me ideas of what I should be like, based on how you lived your life. I’m mad at you because since you were the life of the party, I feel compelled to be too, despite the fact that your bacchanal revelry was never a shared trait of ours. I’m mad at you because I don’t know who I am – am I Erin Maher? Or am I Erin, a facade of a real person looking to fulfill Ryan Maher’s life?

            I’m mad at you because I’ve tried so hard to let people see that look, I’m okay, and your death has made no impact on the quality of my life, whatsoever. I’m mad at you because simply existing doesn’t seem enough for me. I’m mad at you because there is a relentless voice inside of me pushing me to be perfect. And it’s horrible. I’m mad at you because I put so much pressure on myself, and if I don’t spend every minute of each day working to be the best I can be, I feel as if I’m a failure. I’m desperately hoping that one of my successes in life will oppress the legacy of your death.  And quite truthfully, it’s all in vain. In reality, I’m mad because no matter how hard I work or what I accomplish both professionally or socially, your death will always be a grim shadow, darkening my past.

 I’m mad at you because over the past four years, and eight months, I’ve been to two support groups, four therapists, and spent countless hours talking about the trauma that your death brought upon my life. And it seems that five years later I’m back to square one of the grievance process. I’m mad at you because your loss has manifested itself in not one, but  two separate eating disorders, one of which I’m currently under treatment for.

            I’m mad at you, because I often feel so alone and isolated. I’m mad at you because at twenty-two years old, death lingers on my mind constantly, and that I often think morbid thoughts of how would people react if I died. I’m mad at you because my isolation has made me seek acceptance from guys who have taken advantage of me and made me feel as if my existence made no impact upon theirs.  I’ve put up with it and time and time again returned to be in the nest of their arms because I am so terrified of being alone. I’m also mad at you because as my big brother, you’re not here to beat them up on my behalf.

     And finally, Ryan, I’m mad at you, because there are minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and  years where I wonder why you died instead of me. Instead of being concerned with makeup, and music, and school dances, like most normal 17 year olds, I instead spend approximately 18 hours a day flushing out my own personal existential crisis.

Why did Ryan died?

Wasn’t he loved more than me?

If he was loved more than me, then why am I HERE. How did the grim reaper take the wrong child?

I was never allowed a care-free adolescence lifestyle, Ryan. If you think Mom & Dad hovered a little before.. try being the sole offspring  to  parents who had a child die. Absolutely 0 privacy.

            I’m mad at you, Ryan, for dying. And I hope that one day I can find the strength to forgive you.

Love your sister,

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  1. jk says:

    Hey. You don’t really know me besides having used to be a face on campus. I know that you’ve heard so-called consoling words more often than anyone should ever have to hear them. But I really just wanted to say, I can’t even begin to imagine what you have been through and what you continue to go through. I do, however, want you to know that, from afar, (not in a creepy stalking way, but just as another student-athlete at STAC) (and no, I’m not Carl) you are an incredible, beautiful young woman with a lot going for you. You are a one-of-a-kind, genuine girl, and a hell of an athlete and student. I know it sucks, but you are creating one hell of a positive reputation for yourself without the younger sibling tagline. Keep on being successful and positive and know that in these moments of anger and sadness, you are not weak, you are not vulnerable. You are allowed these moments of anger and sadness. BUT, I must say, you are stronger than you know and you hold a beacon of hope and love for all who maybe going through the same. Your readers and friends and family are always here for you. I wish you the best in all you do. Keep that chin up girl. And thank you for always being honest. This post and everything you do just show how brave you truly are.

  2. getaterr says:

    Fellow STAC-athlete,

    You are a virtual angel. Thank you so much for your touching words. It’s wonderful to hear that I’ve left something on this Earth besides just being my brother’s sister.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, and more importantly, thank you so much for taking the time to write this amazing, spirited, and much needed response. I will always treasure it.

  3. I feel like this is as raw as anyone can be. I applaud your honesty and bravery. I love you roomie. I’m sure you just helped anyone who has read this in some small way without even knowing it.

  4. Patricia says:

    I am way older than you are so I want to ADVISE that as a person who lost my older brother when I was 16yrs old (he was 20 yrs old) that you need to
    teach yourself to always “act out” . Teach yourself never to “act in “. In other words CHANNEL you grief outward into very positive ventures. Try also to reach outside yourself ( ex vol work) to prove how YOU can make a difference in another person’s life. Or the animal shelter etc. Sounds like you are a great young person who left yourself behind when you lost your brother and watched your parents change; homefront change; holidays change — life as you knew it – change. Just channel it outward to do positive, constructive things for yourself and others–including your career path.

    You can work through your grief as you move forward in your life without
    acting in (ex eating disorder ) or anything else you do that you KNOW is
    destructive. Don’t waste one moment of your life on self destructive behavior. Count YOUR blessings. Respect your brother’s blessings but
    don’t EVER feel you are competing with them. Take all your gifts and potentials ( those you know now and those you will discover later) and
    reach out and do what you feel passionate about for yourself and others.

    I do not believe for a moment that your brother would want you to spend 4+ years dwelling on his death and carrying the burden on your shoulders.
    Celebrate him; respect him and take YOUR life and move forward. Trust me- you will never leave him behind AND he would not want you to leave your great potential behind.

    Trying to save you lost, wasted years. He would not want that for you.

    Been there… done that. All my family members ( inc my parents) had to re-start our lives . Your brother (and my brother) are with you (and me) one way or another.

    Be well.

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