Yesterday I found myself sailing down the autobahn in our tiny economy rental car, vehicles (mostly German wagons) zipping past us in the fast lane like we were standing still. 

Today I find myself waking up in Munich with plans to run the Englischer Gartens and Isar River this morning followed by afternoon city explorations around the Marienplatz. Though they are quiet now in the early morning, there were bells bellowing almost continuously from the moment we arrived yesterday until 9:00 last night, and I’m looking forward to finding the historic structures from which the ring. 

It is a strange gift of grace to find myself here. I didn’t come to Germany for the sake of Germany, I came to Germany for the sake of meeting my brother’s friends who happened to be in Germany.

Now that I’ve met them and fulfilled a promise I’ve been carrying around since last January, we find ourselves with 10 more days to do whatever we want on a trip that we’re sort of making up as we go along, figuring things out on the fly. It might not be the most eloquent, planned way of doing things, but it’s working in our favor so far.

We found our current hotel from an old online article in Runners World, which recommended not only our lodging but the run we have planned in a bit, as one of the top city runs in Germany. Let’s do this run, my husband says, so we booked the hotel and went to Munich.

Tomorrow the train to Salzburg, if we can actually figure out how to make it to the train station; language has been a bit of a barrier.

I booked a romantic hotel sitting at the base of the- looks like it’s from a fairy tale- Neuschwanstein Castle in Hohenschwangau, part of the Bavarian Alps. With two castles to explore and two alpine lakes within running distance, I can’t wait to go there later in the week.

And right now, a cup of coffee in the early quiet and dark as I write and reflect.

I feel both full and slightly emptied as I type these words. It’s like this past year in life I’ve been carrying around all these things inside of me, ever since what I thought was the normal trajectory of my life was hijacked by my brother’s sudden death. 

There is no greater divide on a person’s timeline than personal tragedy, and whether or not I wanted it, my timeline will always have a definitive point that marks Before and After Brent.

2016 became a testament to that loss and trying to find my way through. In addition to mucking my way across the ugly, grief part of things, I have found myself carting around these tasks unique to the loss that I felt pressed upon to carry to completion. 

-Take good care of my parents; I always wanted a relationship with them more independent of my brother; my god, this is never how I wanted things; things are what things are; I find myself the last kid standing, so caring about their well being falls to me.

-Meet Brent’s friends in Washington. 

-Help Dad figure out what to do with his stuff, give all of his Star Wars stuff (except one green light saber sitting in my office) to said friends, who he met and bonded with over their fanatic appreciation of Star Wars lore.

Write the book, write the book, write the book. The words I had beating through my heart and soul that insisted I write Lamentations of the Sea, whether or not I felt ready to write so openly and share so vulnerably about what is still so close to me.

-Fulfill Brent’s last request by meeting dear friends who happen to live in Germany, a task neither inexpensive, easy or convenient.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. 

While my parents will be an ongoing check, and the actual publication of the book a final check, today I know that I’ve crossed a lot of things off of the list; this last one, one of the biggest given the scope of what it took to get here. And I am finding myself feeling curiously empty after this weekend.

It’s not that my brothers friends weren’t lovely, that the meeting wasn’t fulfilling, or that we didn’t establish what I suspect will be a lifelong connection; it’s that in so doing I released something I’ve been holding inside of myself for a long time, and I find myself with a strange void of open space where this task once sat.

We don’t always realize the things that are taking up space in our lives, or the sense of emptiness that can come from releasing something we’ve been holding onto. When I was younger, I used to think that the empty feeling meant something was wrong with me. Now I recognize it for what it is-

A memorial site that sits bare, waiting for me to come, kneel, remember and pay homage anytime I need to honor the things that have come to pass in this place.

Yesterday morning I found myself running through cobblestone streets, country lanes, and earthen fields in the peaceful place of Rosengarten. I’d said goodbye to my brothers friends the night before, until we meet again, and I was contemplating the completion of the journey.

I heard it then, the lyrics from “Into the West,” a personally meaningful song I’ve often grieved and loved over to process my loss, playing in my mind. The sun broke through the gray for a bit, shining soft with a sense of hope and light.

And then Brent was there in my awareness, something he seems to do from time to time, though it’s been awhile since I felt him so strong. Sometimes when he comes, he just flits around the edges of my mind and heart and all I can feel is his energy. But today is one of those days where he comes with words that ring out loud and clear inside.

Thank you for meeting them, he says. It is a task well done.

Let them go now, he says. They are okay.

And now Little Sister, until we meet again.  Go be for you. 

The sun will be up shortly, and the first of the church bells has begun to ring, breaking their silence from the night. We’ve heard that watching the Glockenspiel show at the plaza is a must see and that the view from the top of St. Peter’s Cathedral is the best in the city. I’m about to head out onto our balcony, with a cappuccino my husband handily hunted up, to watch the city slowly come to life.

It is a good day to be.