Recently I was asked by a friend via email if I had decided to stop posting to this blog. It was a reasonable question because my most recent post was on July 21st and today is August 29th. The answer to the question is no; I do plan to continue posting to this blog. My absence from posting stories about the refugee crisis, odd things that strike me as funny, strange or just interesting and other ruminations can be easily explained.
On July 20th I received a telephone call from Providence Hospital in Medford, Oregon with the news that my brother Bryan had been admitted and was in critical condition in the ICU. I flew to Medford on July 21st and was with my brother when he passed away in the early morning hours of July 23rd. Bryan had a terminal illness (IPF) but his health had taken a sudden and final turn for the worse the week before.
Bryan had many struggles in life, his health was just one of them. From a distance his life appeared to be one of pain and problems. Bryan led a life that most of us would not choose; addiction to tobacco and alcohol, poor health, a failed marriage and employment difficulties. Yet he didn’t let any of this define him. When I met his friends and neighbors they told me about his joyfulness, his care and concern for others and his happiness despite his problems. These were the same traits he had when we were kids. He was truly happy with life and lived it in a way that served others. His death leaves us in grief but in that grief we can be happy that his pain and suffering are now over. He leaves behind not only me and my family but also our mother and father as well as our sister and her family.
On Sunday after his death, I traveled to Crater Lake National Park, a place that Bryan had told me about over the years but I had never visited. For most of the year – about 8 months – this National Park is covered in snow. For the remaining months it is often shrouded in fog or rain. The day I was there it was crystal clear. The water in the lake is the “bluest” of any lake in North America (a scientific fact) and the lake is one of the deepest in the world. In some way just being there, alone with my thoughts and memories of my brother brought me some measure of consolation and peace.
We returned Bryan to Georgia for the final time about a week later. His funeral was on August 6th and he was interred at the Georgia National Cemetery with full military honors on August 10th. As a 14 year Navy veteran who served on the USS Texas during the Desert One rescue attempt and later on the USS Pensacola, Bryan was fiercely proud of his service to our country and our country should be proud of how he served.
As I mentioned earlier, I am writing this on August 29th, which would have been Bryan’s 58th birthday. It feels so strange that he isn’t here any longer. That’s a feeling that may never go away for me.
Little brother, I love you and I miss you. I will always remember your smile and your weird sense of humor. Your struggles are now over, rest in peace!