On Friday, 13 November 2020, at 5:04pm I lost my brother and best friend. He had been hospitalized with a resistant bacterial infection that affected his heart, lungs, and blood. By the time doctors had isolated a possible culprit, it was too late. His organs began shutting down, and he lost detectable brain activity. In the end, my family made the decision to remove him from life support and end his suffering.
I’m still trying to process everything. With each passing day I feel a little stronger, and with each passing day my optimism for life slowly returns. I still have terrible, random moments of grief though.
I’ve struggled with a thousand painful feelings this past week. My whole family has. The first came when I was told that a “decision was made” to remove John from life support. These were painful words for many reasons, but mostly because they represented a final outcome to a beautiful life. I’ve always known that my long sentence would entail loss. It doesn’t make the actual event any easier though.
The day after John’s passing I woke to 3 words in my mind, “John…Day one.” Lord please no, I thought. Please don’t sentence me to a lifetime of this, where every day is a new number since his departure. Graciously, the Lord has since spared me.
Each night since has brought nightmares, all of them centered around death, loss and grief. The first night I dreamt I was trying to save my brother, screaming to those nearby but no one understood my words. The second night I dreamt I stumbled upon the grave of a neighbor and her child, someone I hadn’t thought of in 35 years. I was in shock and grief. The third night I dreamt of losing others in family and jerked awake out of breath. I laid awake crying.
Anyhow, I think you understand what I’m trying to say. It has been tough, especially at night when I lay down and the only sounds are my thoughts and my breathing.
Writing this is therapy for me. I’m an introvert by nature, and I used to keep my thoughts and feelings bottled and locked away from others. But this isn’t who I am now. By sharing my thoughts through my writings I find comfort in knowing I may have helped others out there. However small.
I will celebrate my brother at every turn for the remainder of my life, starting with this post. Growing up we had many difficult times, and I wasn’t always a good brother to John. One day, when I was older and in my first year of incarceration, John told me he forgave me. It was a painful moment because I instantly realized that I didn’t deserve the compassion he freely gave.
Throughout my incarceration John ran with me down every rabbit hole as I chased my dreams. He never complained about my hair brained ideas, always putting me before himself. I lived vicariously through him.
John dedicated his life to protecting our way of life. He led a distinguished military career, and he lived to help others. Although he was my younger brother, he was larger than life to me. I looked up to him. I wanted to be like him, but if he knew he never let on.
Despite it all, he still looked up to me. I saw it in his words and his actions and I strove to be the brother he always wanted. He was the Wind Beneath My Wings.
I have no regrets with John. Through his actions I discovered how to forgive, and through his words I found wisdom and understanding. He showed me that I could gain control of my life and find my own way, my own path. He gave me the confidence to believe in myself. I am the man I am today because of him.
I never missed an opportunity to tell him I loved him, nor did he. By the time of his passing we’d grown as close as brothers could ever be. We laughed regularly, and we sometimes pondered the difficult issues of life: politics, religion, war–the usual suspects. Never a dull conversation.
John leaves behind Kat his incredible wife, and Lauren and Andrew his beautiful children. While he may be gone, he lives strong in our hearts and souls.