“My brother and I are polar opposites. He was born on the summer solstice, the longest day of sunshine, which is fitting because he is like a ray of sunshine. Literally a ray of sunshine.
Ummm…well he was.
He always made people smile and laugh and could make friends with anyone. It was great being with him, growing up, because he did all the talking. We would sit together and laugh. I appreciated that. He was very talkative and very joyful. Nowadays, I’m trying to find productive things to do with my time. I’m trying to spend more time in nature. It’s beneficial for your mental health. I like to help people and I’m a first responder. “
I met Caleb four days before what would have been his brothers 24th birthday. We sat together at a bench in Barrie and well…..just talked. We are strangers to each other. I am in the prime of my years and Caleb, just beginning to find himself.
Something about him was different
Sometimes when you talk to someone for the first time, you tend to look for similarities, mutual likes and dislikes. You try to sort – sort – match the person, until you find where they fit into your groove. Surprisingly, it really wasn’t like that at all with Caleb. He had something. Something that I just can’t put my finger on.
Let me describe him for you as I saw him. He was the essence of youth and vitality. He sat calmly and told me of things, with legs crossed and hands folded quietly in his lap. His voice was warm and soothing as he talked of his method of dealing with the passing of his elder brother. He did not fidget.
“I took a 10-week meditation course from the Center for Freedom. It’s covered by OHIP. I suggest it to everyone who wants to be calmer. It takes time to make these practices a thing in your life. But be patient. During the day, I check in with myself and focus on my breath.”
Social Media does not define
Caleb’s brother committed suicide just a short month ago. The passing of his brother has altered his perception of what’s important in life. The wound is still raw. He’s trying to make his life for the better. And has had to think long and hard about what “better” really is. He realized that he hasn’t been spending a lot of time with his family and with his friends. “I’m wasting too much time on social media and getting caught up in the electronic world. Life is so much more than that superficial world.”
I asked Caleb what was important to him? What is it that you want to tell the world? “Remember how fragile life is and how lucky we are to be alive. When we look at the lives of others, it makes our own wanting. Our desire to turn other people’s success into our own judgement is flawed due to incomplete data. Look around you. Look at those you have in your lives and tell them you love them. We suffer because we seek. Stop seeking and be present.”
Caleb has deleted much of his Social Media since his brothers passing, in an effort to be present in life. He’s not sure if the internet is good for us. “Banding together for a cause, doing good things and being inspirational is meaningful. Be mindful of how you use technology.”
Caleb is just one of the 141,400 citizens in our beautiful city of Barrie. You may have passed him walking through Sunnidale Park. You may have seen him at Johnson’s Beach. Those are two of his favourite places right now as he focuses on his mental health. “With grief, most people support you during the very beginning. The way that grief works, its like a protective mechanism. In the beginning, I was numb and didn’t feel anything. As things became more real to me, most people moved on – which is life. It’s weird but you need the help so much as time goes forward. When you lose a sibling, you realize how mortal you are and how close death is. It makes you think.”
Caleb has thought much about the delicate details of life and has started to make a conscious effort to recognize the beauty around him.
“my definition of beauty has changed – something beautiful is something that creates more joy and happiness in the world. Find meaning in your life”
Ahhhh….that’s it. Now I understand. That’s the something that Caleb has that I just couldn’t figure out. Inner peace. We sat and talked and he was so comforting, so soothing. Caleb projects a very sincere calm inner peace. He’s read a few books that has helped him through this tragic time – “Grief Recovery Handbook” and ”12 Rules for Life”. He recommends those books very strongly. It’s one thing to read a book, but its an impressive accomplishment to put those books into action. Caleb is going a step further by sharing his story and inspiring others.
“Happiness is not the end result of a sum of our accomplishments. Even the people who do well, has his or her own struggles. Look around you, at those you have in your life and tell them you love them.”
Before Caleb and I parted ways, he said he had some words of advice to share. His words aren’t only for those who have lost a sibling or a family member or a friend. His words of advice are to all who read this. This is important so I would suggest to even read this last part out loud in your softest whisper.
“Be kind to each other. Be accepting. Treat everyone the same. Try to give people shit when they aren’t being nice, but that’s hard. You have to be courageous. Sometimes I’m not courageous and that’s scary.”
Oh Caleb. You are more courageous than you know.
I promise to be kind.
I promise to be accepting.
I promise to treat everyone the same.
Written by: Sharon Johnston | Images by: Stephen Elliot and Sharon Johnston
Barrie Benches, Coffee and Conversations is a new weekly feature that will highlight Barrie Citizens. We will share the stories of locals in an effort to make our big community just a little smaller. If you’d like to share a story of hope and inspiration, email us at [email protected] Perhaps we can sit together on a bench sometime.