A Valentine Letter

Dear Rocky, my brother, my friend,

Today is Valentine’s Day. For some, this holiday means sinking teeth into truffles IMG_4790 copy

and chocolate-covered strawberries,


inhaling the scent of red roses,

IMG_1486__ copy

 and popping corks on fine champagne.



For others, it’s an arrow through the heart that bleeds and aches from past hurts under a cloud of “aloneness.” While still there are those who chalk the day up to another useless Hallmark Holiday.

For me, it is a marked “hall”iday. It marks one year, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds since I received a call from Kowloon, Hong Kong. A call from the hallway in Queen Elizabeth Hospital. A call from your spouse, my sister-in-law, Dewi. Over the 7,760 miles, spanning across the North Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, the line cracked like Dewi’s voice when she said, “Sue, you have to be brave. You have to be brave. Brian is gone, Sue.”





A year ago, I stood in that Valentine bubble of shock and imagined your sweet soul floating away from your body, away from a faulty heart that gave out on a day when they’re given out in abundance. Big ones. Small ones. Miniature ones.





I closed my eyes and imagined this, too: you hovered over Dewi, whispering in a spirit-whisper voice, “Be strong, my love. Be strong my Valentine.” But she couldn’t hear you through the crumbling of her own heart. Like those towers that collapsed in a thunderous rumble when planes ripped through the heart of those buildings, your death ripped through our hearts it that same way.

shutterstock_23882404Since that day, I’ve read story after story from people who’ve lost children, and spouses, and parents, and siblings,  and debate over whose loss is more painful.






I feel fortunate that I can’t cast a vote on which loss makes the heart ache more, or which one makes the knees sink deeper into the earth, and hands clasped more tightly in prayer to survive it.






I only know that you were a part of my life, our family, for 43 years. I only know when I’ve been asked how many siblings I have, I’ve always said four, two younger brothers and two older.

me and my four brotherLeft to right: Paul, Jim, Me, Kevin, Rocky

Now, four catches in my throat like a balled fist. I only know that for the past 365 days, I’ve awakened each morning and think, It can’t really be true that I’m never going to hug you, and Dewi, and Sara after your long flight back to the states from Bali.

I’m writing this letter on the anniversary of your death to thank you for being my brother. For expanding the way I see the world. For entrusting me with both your dreams and your fears. For holding me together during our trip though Walmart when mom was in a coma from her stroke. For the million and one times you’ve made me laugh, and for the  times you’ve made me cry. For fathering two beautiful children who carry your spirit around in their eyes.  For a sister-in law who loves you in the way you deserve to be loved. For being a mentor to so many. For being an inspiration, and showing me what it means to live a courageous life.


I’ve waited for four seasons to pass as I was told to. And I did it, brother. I was numb through winter. Clawed my way through Spring. Dragged myself through Summer. Said goodbye to the person I used to be in the Fall. Now, a year later, I stand barefoot in the snow, awake, alive, and changed for good and for the good because of you.


Because of you, I take more chances. I live more fearlessly, love more deeply,  and say “YES” to joy, to life. On this day I embrace our memories, feel your spirit fill the room because now after four seasons, I realize you carried Joy into—not out of—our lives. I honor and celebrate the miracles you brought into this world and continue to in the space you’ve left behind.

Rocky and Susan





Happy Valentine’s Day, Rocky. I hope you’re sinking teeth into truffles and chocolate-covered strawberries, inhaling the scent of red roses, and popping the cork on the finest champagne.

I love you brother on this day and always,

Love your sister,


25 thoughts on “A Valentine Letter

  1. You are such a gifted writer, Susan. This post touched me deeply, and I’m so sorry for your heartbreaking loss. Keep writing, keep loving, keep living… you’re making Rocky proud.

    1. Thank you TheMomCafe:-) for taking the time to read the post and commenting. And thank you for your words that brought me to tears…I do hope I am making my brother proud.

      Much love and gratitude,

  2. My dear, amazing friend. I have no words, just chills all over. Your Soul, your strength, your Being shines through your writing.
    I feel connected with you through your words, your eloquence, your openness.

    I remember my brother as I read this and I too say with a smile and a tear: “Because of you, I take more chances. I live more fearlessly, love more deeply, and say “YES” to joy, to life.”

    Thank you my friend. Thank you Rocky. Thank you my Brother. Thank you.

    P.S. I too have often felt “it can’t really be true that I will never hug you again”…that is because our Soul knows that we will.

    1. Oh Yvon, I still blink in the shock of it all that we lost our brothers within the same year…and that we met in Neale’s class. The universe always has our back. I’m so deeply grateful for our friendship, and this connection that has deepened our bond. Yes, thank you Rocky, thank you to your brother. Thank you. AND YES, Yvon, the soul does know that we shall all reunite again and eat those truffles and pop corks on fine champagne. LOVE you my friend, Susan

  3. You are amazing my cousin, my friend, my sister. I’m so sad for all the pain you’ve endured and for the loss you and all the family have felt over this past year. Yet, this beautiful tribute brings hope that it is possible to live with joy again even after the most devastating of circumstances. Rocky deserves this profound love as do you. I love you dearly and miss you immensely!

    1. I love you, too, my cousin, my sister, my friend. As you know, its those events, tragedies, that bring us to our knees, ultimately lift us up to higher truths of life, of love. I love you, Julie…and I am so grateful to and for you. xoxoxox

  4. –thinking of you today, my dearest, sweet Susan.
    This sentence crushed me: “I only know when I’ve been asked how many siblings I have, I’ve always said four, two younger brothers and two older.”
    You still do, darling.
    When people ask me, I say, “One sister and one brother.” that’s all. I will NEVER say “One Brother.”
    Love. Love. Love.
    Flowing to you. Always.


    1. Thank you my dear INNER CHICK! I always say four as well…always. Four just catches in my throat now. I love you my friend…and thank you for helping me to get deeper in touch with my own inner chick. You are a gift to all of us. Thank you! xoxox

  5. Dearest- I am so touched by how you have allowed Love for Rocky to turn your already magnanimous heart inward to listen to your quiet, true north compass. It is serving you well and will allow you to guide others even more than before. Thank you for sharing your poignant words with us. While Rocky cannot read your words, he has clearly cast inspirational signposts along your journey this year. Blessings, love and deep gratitude, my love. A

  6. Ahhh my soul-sister…writing to me from across the seas…I wish we were curled up on the couch, sipping wine, talking about the profound lessons we’ve learned throughout our friendship together. I can hear you say these words today…and they feel like a soft comforter over my heart this morning. Rocky has cast inspirational sign posts along my journey..thanks for the reminder, and for the endless supply of love and support. I love you, sister,

  7. The words you write are heart-warming, heart-breaking and most of all, heart-felt. I look at the photos of you with your brother(s) and know intuitively, that he is right there beside you…always. He will never leave you. His spirit is alive and well. I love your family and feel so lucky to have had all of to call my own… Family. And I love you, my sister, so much! There are good, no great, things to come for you and in the next chapter of your life. And this experience will make a difference, somehow in someway, for others through you in a positive way.

    1. Karen…you’re right…he’s with me…I know. We are the lucky ones to have you as part of our family. I love you dearly and cherish our lifelong friendship…always! LOVE YOU! Susan

    1. Thank you Linda for being the gift you are to this world. I’m so EXCITED for you as you prepare for the launching of your novel. I LOVE the cover and your website.

      Love and light to you! xoxox

    1. Lily, thanks for taking the time to stop by my blog as well. I loved your recent post…happy you found my blog…because now I’ve found yours and am following you!

      With gratitude,

  8. Ohhhh my re reading this is even more encouraging and inspiring than ever. I appreciate life moments even more because of you my friend, brother Rocky and your gift of writing. You are a great writer indeed. Thank you for sharing❤️❤️❤️

    1. Thank Stem, my friend, my sister. I think you left this comment. Appreciating life’s moments is the only thing that really matters.

      Love you and thanks for reading and leaving a message.


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