My first Christmas Without My Brother by Dara Low

Posted: December 29, 2013 in Prose
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Hi my name is Dara, I am a “Newbie”, I found this website when I was searching author forums & Advice on getting something I have worked on for a long time, that means a great deal to me personally published for charity purposes. I started a Tumblr blog in September after losing my 18-year-old younger brother Casey to a heroin overdose this past August. Where i grew up, on the jersey shore teenage heroin overdose epidemic. I lost three friends myself personally as well as my younger brother. My high school was featured on intervention and several alumni have passed away from heroin overdoses and yet the community and law enforcement are yet to be proactive in trying to fix conditions. The week my brother passed away 5 other teenagers died of the same cause. Nothing seems to open people’s eyes to the problem. Also, no one has ever spoken out publicly, until i did. I have always been a writer, i have had a blog since as long as i can remember, mostly comedy material but this one, not so much. I wanted to document publicly and honestly what happens to a family after the funeral, how heroin effects a family for the rest of their lives whether they were the addict or related to the addict. I loved my brother with all my heart he was my only sibling. My family did not have enough money to send him away to rehab last summer, so in addition to my blog i created a non-profit called “Cause for Casey Low” in hopes to raise awareness and money to send addicts that are truly looking to make a change in their lives to receive aid in treatment to do so. My brother desperately wanted to be clean. My blog began to receive a lot of attention & the Facebook fan page “Cause for Casey Low” began to grow in popularity. As hard as i tried to get people to help me to raise funds, it wasn’t happening. The popularity of the blog is what i am hoping will give me what i need to generate a revenue to start saving lives. I have read several of your entries and i am reaching out to all of you in hopes that you have a few free minutes to review a few of my entries about my brother and my grieving process because i plan to get it published and have a certain amount of the proceeds from sales to go toward his cause. Be as honest as possible is you do review my work, I trust in all your opinions. I need to honest critique, I’m a strong girl I can handle it. I wrote an entry today which I feel like is my most powerful entry so far, it would be an honor to me if you would review it, or put it out there in the community. New to this still.

But the main blog is on
UN: Cause for Casey Low

Thank you so much,
Merry Christmas

Dara Low


Originally posted at:


My First Christmas Without My Brother

[Introduction] 12/25/13 Christmas Day


I’m squinting with one eye open and one eye closed in my efforts to write this entry. I thought it would be better to jot my feelings down sooner than later because my eyes might very well be swollen shut by the end of this day. My body aches with a pain that is incessant. It begins at the fingertips, the prickling numbness then slowly begins to trickle down through my arms and seeps into my chest permeating through out my whole entire body, stretching to the furthest points of my limbs. I stare hard at the ceiling waiting for the precious moment in which my body reaches a final state of stoniness from the inside out. A brief moment of tranquility that allows my valves to loosen, allowing the release of imprisoned oxygen to begin to steadily stream throughout my body.

This has become routine sometimes less than or more so than other days, I feel my body begin to perish on it’s own leaving only my own inner obstinate will to survive mentality to bring my body back from the dead. When I read about the process a human being endures while entering into internal rest, I find too all to many similarities with my current state of being involving the separation of a human’s body from their soul. I feel super human, the ways in which I have trained my body to disconnect and reconnect on command.

It’s not something that comes with ease, it takes a certain amount of repetition. Mastering this technique takes much time and preparation, I wasn’t always a master at controlling my emotions, no human is born with the skill set associated with such, it’s self taught. It’s just another skill set I was gifted in this life that I hadn’t even thought to ask for. I’m blessed in the way that I can control my emotions and talk myself off the ledge, but it’s a lonely way of life. Lonely in a sense that you have accepted the reality that you and only you yourself can save you from yourself. People go their whole lives without mastering this technique, but I often ask myself whether my mastering of this technique has aided in the acceptance of my loneliness and the lowering of my expectations of other human beings. Having a strong mind is a gift and and a curse, in ways I have yet to understand in it’s entirety.
Is it better to assume that you will be left to your own defenses or better to hope that someone might arrive at your side?

Shit, your guess might as well be mine and as far as guessing goes these days I don’t do much of it.

There was a time in my life not to long ago where I enjoyed living a life based solely on chance and chance alone. Living on the edge was the only way I thought there was to live. There is a big difference between living a life that’s on the edge and living life in which you have been pushed over the “said” ledge and you have one hand on a crumbling, unstable limb. Hunter S. Thompson says it best, “The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. Needless to say Hunter and I have something in common with being of the edge that is, I won’t be committing suicide over any united states presidential reelection, but the thought of one day having my remains shot into the atmosphere via firework is a thought worth entertaining.

You know I wish I had the money to shoot my baby brother’s ashes into the atmosphere amongst the stars, a place that would be far better fitting for him than this dirty stinking earth is. But I have enough faith in myself that he won’t be to disappointed in the places that I go, that I will be taking him along side for the ride.

Today, right now, here in this moment I lay, lap top on chest in the bed that was once my baby brother’s bed not to long ago. Here I lay gazing out the window he had once gazed out of, I look to the right of me and I see the giant dream catcher he had once hung on his wall to the right of his closet. In my hand, right now as of this moment I hold the shirt he had once worn on the day that he died. I clench it tight in my fist, allowing my fingertips to feel this t-shirt in it’s entirety, letting the rougher edges of this cotton blend T shit scour amongst my finger tips. I hold this t shirt up to my nose and I take a long, concentrated whiff only to find that his spoor and his evidence of life no longer subsists within this t shirt or any other Inanimate object for that matter.

Did I mention that it was Christmas Day? Well, mid Christmas day to be exact. I just momentarily took a glance out his window and noticed the sun was well on it’s way to settling and in this moment, I can allow myself to take that deep breath I have been waiting to take since the very moment I set my sights on the first shrub of the year imprudently, entangled in a strand of LCD Christmas lights.

It has always bothered me, even as a child when I would take notice of people’s deprivation and disorderly attempts to decorate their landscaping. I hate when it is so apparent that someone is just doing something just to do it because they feel as though it is something that needs to be done. Dropping a few strands of Christmas lights on unkempt shrubbery doesn’t show your admiration for the holidays. It’s sad that I judge people’s sanity and overall feelings of fulfillment in regards to their life based on their ability to decorate their front lawns during the holiday season, but I do and I always have.

Which makes me especially sad for my parent’s this Christmas because they have always paid so much attention to detail. When my parent’s decorated our front lawn, it wasn’t over the top, it was just right. My mom has always thought colored lights were cheesy when it came to decorating outdoors and she is one hundred percent correct.

My parent’s decorated the two small, potted Christmas tree’s that sat on either side of our front steps with small, traditional white lights and each strand was distributed evenly amongst the branches of those small trees. My mom made sure she found the perfect wire coiled ribbon to sit on top of those two tree’s and she made sure both of those tree’s ribbons matched perfectly with one another. When my parent’s do things they do them right, other wise they just don’t. Our house isn’t small, but it isn’t giant but it’s just right. It was exactly the right size, feel and offered them the perfect level of comfort in which they were trying to achieve.

Last night I went over to an old friend’s house where i became apart of a conversation amongst him and his mother and sisters about how their mother never wrapped any of their presents and that is why they in return never wrapped any presents. The mother began to laugh as she said well, my mother never wrapped any of my presents so I guess that’s why I never wrapped any of your presents. Which made me very sad for the moment being because, my parent’s wrapped every single one of mine and my brother’s Christmas present’s throughout our whole lives.

Not only did they wrap every present but my dad being that he is a skilled wallpaper hanger, he wrapped each and every single present to the point where the designs on the wrapping paper matched up perfectly. My parent’s never did anything with a lack of better wording, “half assed”. It just wasn’t in their make up, either one of them. My brother and I got pretty much everything we ever wanted in this life, and if their was something my parent’s possibly couldn’t of offered us, they wouldn’t have promised to do so or presented us with some slighted version of what had anticipated.

Although this Christmas has been hard on me and I must say I have done my share of self- loathing today, I feel the worst for my parent’s because they always did things right and when they built our home, on their own without any help. They made this home big enough to have two babies and they made enough money to feed and cloth to babies, love two babies and wrap every single one of their two babies presents perfectly every Christmas.

All for them to have to drive around the rest of this area of unkempt landscaped lawns and disorderly shambolic, holiday decoration. My parents didn’t deserve to have woken up this morning on Christmas day, one child short of attendance.


  1. cho wan yau says:

    Dara deepest condolences for your baby brother. You asked for an honest critique so here goes: It is ok for the content to be a bit rambling but try to get back to what you really want to say sooner rather than later. Otherwise the reader will get bored and impatient and wonder what the point is and stop reading.

    Try to have shorter sentences and paragraphs; large chunks of writing just from a visual point of view puts people off.

    Edit to eliminate spelling or grammar mistakes so it looks professional and doesn’t distract from the content. Beware of mixing words like ‘there’ and ‘their’ too.

    It is fine to keep your colloquial style, it makes it more intimate as you are confiding your inner thoughts and emotions.

    Only use long and difficult words if nothing simplier can express what you want to say.

    Hope this helps. The content is very poignant and needs to be said and shared; just minor adjustments would make the message more accessible and hold the reader’s attention to the end. Good luck.


  2. calmgirl06 says:

    So sorry for your tragedy.


  3. E.D. says:

    Hi there,

    I read this and thought of you……. I have the photo of the old man.

    This is very poignant and beautiful. May be someone will read it.
    When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
    Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

    One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

    And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem winging across the Internet.

    Cranky Old Man

    What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
    What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me?
    A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
    Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
    Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply.
    When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’
    Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
    And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
    Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will,
    With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
    Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see?
    Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.
    I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
    As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
    I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
    Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
    A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
    Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.
    A groom soon at Twenty . . . heart gives a leap.
    Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
    At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
    Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
    A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
    Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
    At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
    But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn.
    At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee,
    Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
    Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
    I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.
    For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
    And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known.
    I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
    It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
    The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigor, depart.
    There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
    But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
    And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
    I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
    And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
    I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
    And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
    So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
    Not a cranky old man .
    Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME!!

    Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!

    PLEASE SHARE THIS POEM (originally by Phyllis McCormack; adapted by Dave Griffith)

    The best and most beautiful things of this world can’t be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart!


  4. E.D. says:

    Hi again, 🙂

    Just read the comment on writing a blog.. Fair comment…I’d say.. Although most of the blogs I see on W.P. are copy typed – using poems and photos.. Some are very good, others well, just copy typing.. I have an idea that many blogs do well when they are short and sweet.. Nothing to lengthy or complicated.. I have been a long time on WP but never really took much interest in W.P. circles until recently.. I have not relied on word press friends, but on google traffic.. However, having said that, I do learn a lot about style from other bloggers.. On my blog I tend to use variety and as I am presenting spiritual material, I try to make my posts as clear and understandable as I can (clarity being 100 percent important.).. I rarely post anything too long. I have learned that long posts often lose people.. Today’s readers attn. span is quite short.. I don’t get many likes – but never mind. I am happy to have the google traffic. I feel this blog is very worthy – and for such a good cause.. I must say, I am impressed with the good works behind the writing…. thank you very much.. eve


  5. I have a habit of imagining adults as children and my first thought on homeless or mentally ill or addicted people is: somebody was his mother, or sister, or grandfather. Suddenly, addiction and homelessness and mental illness become too possible, and I find myself imagining my own children panhandling to survive. Put into context, “the homeless” are not only a reflection of our society, but also missing from our society, a link that is broken. With this post, you have filled in a missing link, and his name is Casey. Thank you.


  6. Dara, I will keep this short as I am feeling overcome by the honesty of your loss. I am so sorry for this tragedy that has changed your family. I appreciate your writing and the fervor that propels you to strive to make a difference in the lives of those who are in desperate need. I wish you the very best!

    Much Love
    Wild Heart Scribe


  7. weavergrace says:

    How moving. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    My favorite parts:

    “Today, right now, here in this moment I lay, lap top on chest in the bed that was once my baby brother’s bed…” I am there, with you, throughout this paragraph. Vivid. Thank you for all the attention to detail that you shared. I like your smooth transitions between your appeals to the senses of vision, smell and touch.

    “since the very moment I set my sights on the first shrub of the year” This moved me to want to resolve to begin each year being aware of the first thing that I sense. I asked my self, why not each day? What a great exercise in mindfulness, sensuality, consciousness…

    “My parents didn’t deserve to have woken up this morning on Christmas day, one child short of attendance.” This statement sits like a lead weight in the bottom of my belly. It moves me to pause with my eyes closed, and send a prayer for them and you and all who lose loved ones to insufficient public policy.

    “I have enough faith in myself that he won’t be to disappointed in the places that I go, that I will be taking him along side for the ride.” When I reviewed your piece so I could list my favorites here, I overlooked this one, but the last sentence brought it back to my mind, so I hunted it down. Thank you for this gift of enormous hope.

    You seemed to have crafted your piece with skilled guidance. I would like to offer suggestions, since you asked. If you like my style of writing, I can work with you, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and further polish it. I can share some of the tools that I use. Let me know if you would like my help, by leaving a reply here for me. I would do my best to preserve the “tone of your voice” so it doesn’t sound like someone else wrote it. It must continue to come from your heart, and only be edited to better reach other hearts. I would start with your first rough drafts, if you still have them.

    I urge you to feed the wave of courage that you have, so your brother and you can enjoy the worthwhile effort of the Cause for Casey Low. I think that posting in this blog was a great idea. I hope it reaches many, and helps you to reach many more so you can continue to make the difference that burns in you.

    Hugs and best wishes…


  8. Waylon says:

    This is heart-breaking and inspiring at the same time. So sorry for your loss. Drug addiction and recovery is something that no one understands until they’re faced with it. My thoughts are with you and your family.


  9. So sorry for your loss, Dara. I grew up in New Jersey and found that many of those that I went to high school with got lost in this drug, many having died along the way, still struggling with or recovering from the addiction. I still struggle to understand why this wasn’t addressed sooner by those that have the power that be. I will reblog this for you on my site.


  10. C.J. Black says:

    Cho Wan Yau says it all.


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