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  • That's my wife Lauren and son Leo with me on a picture-perfect Santa Monica Sunday afternoon. My younger brother Josh, who was visiting us this past weekend, took the picture.

    Today would be my older brother Seth's 35th birthday. I miss him, but I don't. If he hadn't been killed in a fire when he was 28, my son wouldn't be here. If you're familiar with chaos theory and the butterfly effect, you know what I mean. I'd have another kid probably, but it wouldn't be Leo, and I wouldn't trade Leo for anything in the universe. Not even having Seth back.

    I've spent a lot of time over the last six-plus years thinking about what Seth would have done with his life, but much less so lately, especially since Leo was born. What if Seth had gotten out of his apartment alive? What would that mean for Leo? I don't pretend to have the ability to comprehend that, and I don't want to know, anyway. I'm trying to be present and not worry about what might have been. I've moved on, I think, and I think that's OK.

    One of the most important lessons I've learned from Seth's life and death is that every day, every moment, and every relationship is special and different. If Seth were here, I wouldn't have a best friend I'd lay down everything for in Mike Burnett. I wouldn't have the same relationship I now have with Josh, or my sisters Marti and Abbe. My relationship with my wife Lauren wouldn't be the same either. Seth's death showed me a lot about the people in my life. Maybe I wouldn't appreciate my friends and family the same way I do now. Maybe my wonderful friends and family wouldn't appreciate me the same way either. Seth's death changed my life irrevocably, and I think that's OK.

    There's a Jewish concept called Yibum, which basically means a man should marry his dead brother's widow to produce a child who will carry on the brother's name and legacy. While this isn't the same situation, Lauren and I felt strongly that Leo's name should somehow memorialize and honor Seth. We almost gave Leo the Hebrew name Shmuel (which was Seth's) before deciding on Leo Seth / Lev Shmuel. I sometimes struggle with seeing Leo's middle names in print or hearing them out loud, but I'm trying to feel positive about what they mean instead of focusing on the negative.

    As I said on the day of our son's bris, Lauren and I chose his name very carefully. We wanted Leo to carry on the spirits of the people for whom he's named, his uncle Seth and his great-grandmother Leonore. When the time comes, we'll tell Leo about his namesakes and why they were such special people. We hope he'll be proud of who they were, and of us for the choice we made.

    As Josh so beautifully said to us when we were finalizing Leo's Hebrew name, Lev Shmuel can be translated as "Heart of Shmuel." We hope when the time comes, Leo will know what it means to be honored with the name of such a wonderful, trustworthy, loving, honest, thoughtful, funny, and beautifully fragile human being.

    I wish I could bring Seth back and have Leo too. I wish I could bring back my Aunt Ruthie, and my Sabba, and my Savta, and my dear friend George Gonzalez. I wish we didn't have to deal with the harsh, cold reality of death. But without our mortality, we wouldn't be human. What good would it be to live forever if it meant we couldn't appreciate what loss teaches us about the beauty of life?
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