Co-President’s Message – July 2024

Jun 30, 2024 | Co-President's Messages

In a few days, it will be 8 years since I lost my older brother.  Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday and sometimes it feels like it happened such a long time ago. How is that possible?

Our lives are filled with memories but our memories don’t account for the entirety of our lives.  There are things that happened 20 years ago that I can recount perfectly in my mind. I can see the people there, I remember the conversations verbatim, and I can feel myself in those moments so clearly; it’s as if they just happened.

When I was about 6 years old, my brothers and I were being yelled at by my parents. After the yelling, we were told the consequences for our behavior and then we were asked “does anyone have any questions?” My younger brother asked “Why did the chicken cross the road?”. He wasn’t trying to be funny, it was a question he genuinely had. My parents, who had just been so upset with us, started to laugh. That I remember.

When I was 14 years old, I was home alone with my older brother for the night and he bought me beer to keep me occupied while he and his friends hung out. Most of that night is a blur to me but I know for sure that I threw up all over myself in my bed. My brother cleaned me up, put my sheets in the washing machine, and told my parents I must have been sick from the chinese food we had for dinner. I thought it was the dumbest excuse in the world but my parents believed him. That I remember.

When I was 30 years old, during a holiday dinner with family, my brothers and I all noticed the same thing almost at the same time and we cracked up hysterically.  We spent the rest of dinner talking in code, making jokes about the thing we had noticed, and just laughing our heads off while my parents had no clue what was happening. That I remember.

There are things that happened this past week that I have no real memory of.  I would give you an example but that would defeat my point. And also, I can’t think of an example.  Sometimes circular logic is completely valid.

I was watching a TV show recently and one of the characters referenced the loss of his father and said “it was a long time ago”, suggesting that the loss no longer affected him because so much time had passed. Another character responded to him and said “There is no such thing as a long time ago. There are only memories that mean something and memories that don’t.”  I felt that.

So many things happen in and throughout our lives.  I think sometimes we have a tendency to assign more value to our recent experiences because they feel more relevant to who we are now, but I don’t think that’s accurate. I don’t think it has anything to do with time at all.  It doesn’t matter how much time has passed since I lost my older brother, what matters are the memories I have because they are memories that mean something.

There is a slight caveat to this thinking. Sometimes we don’t have memories because we were too young to form them when the experience happened and not because the experience wasn’t meaningful.

In a few days, my younger brother will turn 40 years old. (Happy Birthday, Matt!) I wasn’t even 3 years old when he was born, so I have no memory of that, but I love him so much and his presence in my life is invaluable. I mean, without him, I may have never found out why the chicken crossed the road.

Jen Schwartz, Co-President