My twenty-ninth birthday just passed this week. This was the first birthday without him. Without the bottle that was a standard birthday procedure. Without that joke about me getting older, and my old stand-by response, “I’ll never be as old as you,” while smiling sweetly. Without that playful interaction that made me feel like part of the family, instead of an outsider. I miss him, more than anyone could ever have imagined. Though the blood wasn’t there, the bonds of family were placed upon us that very first day we met. He was never afraid to be mad at me, just as I never hesitated to tell him what I thought. We never pussy-footed around like the rest of our family does. Maybe I wasn’t his blood sister, but he treated me just like one.
Tonight, I’m going to see Avenged Sevenfold in Wilkes-Barre. The tickets were a part of my birthday present, although I got them well in advance. It seems fitting to me. After all, A7X holds a very special place in my heart. I bought their album, Nightmare, the night Donnie died. I watched this nightmare of a scene unfolding, while thinking how ironic it was that I just bought an album with a startling connection to what I was experiencing. Any Avenged fan knows that Nightmare is a tribute to The Rev, who also died a senseless death. The things you think of at a death scene.
A month after he died, I saw them at Montage as part of Uproar Tour. The fourth ticket, meant for him, went to my niece. I spent that night missing him; the kind of missing someone that makes breathing impossible as the weight of every heavy thing you’ve ever said sits down in the middle of your chest. But, when Avenged came on, some of that weight went away. The energy and honesty in their music is how hard rock should be. They’ve always displayed an intelligence in their lyrics that question some heavy things, like politics and now the absence/presence of God. They are the type of band that makes you believe again. Believe in the music, and the power it has to heal you, to change things, and to make a difference. I wish I could explain how connected I felt, through the raw feelings they displayed on stage. They were missing a band member, and I was missing a brother, and for a moment, I felt as though I could reach out and touch the music when they put it out there. It was real. It was healing. I’m looking forward to that feeling again.
Donnie, I’ll be thinking of you again tonight, and the night after, and the night after. I wish you could see the impact that you’ve had on others. I think you’d be amazed at how much difference you really did make.