Dear Dyly,

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to write you a letter.  Sometimes I think it’s because I was afraid to cry (more), or because I didn’t want to say the wrong things.

Then I realized it was because I still expect a reply.

I bought my first Artist vs. Poet album the other day.  If I’m being completely honest, they are not my favorite band.  But it’s the only music I can get myself to listen to recently.

You and I bonded over music, and I always thought it was so funny how much we’d talk about music when our taste was completely different.  I’m a country girl at heart, and your taste was so eclectic.  I still loved texting you, and asking for new music suggestions.

These were my favorite:

Don’t You Fake It by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (Album).

A Story to Tell Your Friends by Every Avenue (Single).

If the Moon Fell Down by Chase Coy (Single).

For you I Will (Confidence) by Teddy Geiger (Single).

Let Go by Thomas Fiss (Single).

Everything I Ask For by The Maine (Single).

Another song I can’t get out of my head is Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance.  We were at a family dinner, and I pulled one of the ear buds out of your ear, and this was playing.  I criticized you for listening to something so dark, and all you said was, “Just listen to it.”  Well, it took me long enough, but I finally did.

And I get it now.

My favorite line is, “Do or die you’ll never make me, because the world will never take my heart…”

The world never took your heart… just one girl.

I still remember the first day you told me about her.  I was so worried that you would get your heart broken, but you didn’t.  I honestly believe you found your missing piece.  Your soul mate.  She made you happy and whole in ways that no one else ever could.  I didn’t even believe in soul mates or true love until I saw you with her.  My perception of love was altered by certain events in my life, and I used to wonder if love was even real.  You changed that.  You both changed that, and I can never thank you enough.

You also saved my life.  Most of our family doesn’t know this.  I was too embarrassed to tell them, and you were good at keeping promises.  You helped me out of a dark place, and I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you.  So thank you, again.
Your parents and sister have been so strong.  You would be proud of them.  I’m sure they have their moments of weakness, but they have been holding it together a lot better than I ever could.   A couple months after we lost you, I remember telling my mom, “If I’m in this much pain, I can only imagine what they are feeling.”  They are my heroes right now, and I’m starting to learn why they were yours too.
While we’re on the subject of your parents, did you know your dad started a blog dedicated to you?  I think it has been really good for him, and our family to have a place where we can go, and just remember.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but in some weird way, it has helped me heal.

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you. Remember the website you were always telling me to start? I finally did.  Launching it was the most difficult part.  Mostly because I’m a perfectionist, and I have been known to be a little picky… The design still isn’t exactly what I imagined, but I took your advice.  I just did it.
Once it had launched, ideas started coming to me out of know where, and my dream became clearer.  That all happened because of you.  You always believed in me.  You saw the best in me when others didn’t.
To be honest, I did drag my feet on starting the website.  Every time I would work on a new post or had a photo idea, I wanted your opinion on it.  A couple weeks after the accident, I pulled out my phone, and started to text you.  I guess my subconscious had made me believe it was all a dream… nightmare.
After that, I stopped working on it.  The blog had turned from a beacon of hope to pain.   I’m not exactly sure what changed in me that I was finally able to start building The Butterfly Empire… but I pulled it together.  Somehow.

It’s kind of sad that someone has to get buried for families to put aside their differences.  I have spent more time with our family in the past two years than I think I ever have.  I know everyone has their own reasons for distancing themselves, but there is a very small part of me that is angry with them; because if everyone got along, I would’ve had more time with you.
Everything worked out in a bittersweet way, and I wish you could be here to see it.
It has also been interesting watching how different people have dealt with the grief.  Some cut their hair.  Some made extra trips to the beach.  Some planted a tree.  Some started a blog.  Some danced.  Some quit their job.  It’s like we thought all these things would help us put the pieces back together.  But we can’t.  No matter what we do, we will always be missing a piece… you.
We had promised so long ago to always protect each other, but I never had the chance.  Everything happened too fast.  Please know that I would’ve done anything to save you.  Even if that meant taking your place.  But I’m still here, and I can’t change the past.  So all I can do is promise you that I will not take my life for granted.  I will forgive, be content, chase my dreams and give everyone the kind of love that you gave me.

Today is our birthday.  I turn twenty-one.  You would be twenty-three.
And some days I get so mad at the world for taking you away so young.  You should be graduating college, working at a job that you love, buying a wedding ring, marrying the love of your life, traveling the world or having kids.  You should be living your life, and doing what makes you happy.
Instead you’re forever frozen at twenty-one.
Let’s stay twenty-one together, okay?
Happy birthday, cousin.  I love you, and I miss you.  Every day.

All  my love,

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