It would seem that no matter how hard you try, some things simply will not depart from your memories.
16 years ago I lost one of the most important figures in my life.
My big brother Garry was taken “home” at the very early age of 30.
He left a pregnant wife and a bright eyed little boy.
This was a man that had big dreams.
I remember a time when being the high school football quarterback was the road to the future.
A time when being the short-stop on the high school baseball team meant you were important.
That you can play sports and still be a 4.0 GPA student.
When he would walk, pushing a lawn mower to mow the local cemetary…which would take him hours to mow in the hot summer sun. Then when his sunburn started to peel, this little sister would sit and peel layers of his young skin from his back. I know, not the most pleasant but one of the big memories, I was only about 5 or 6 years old at the time.
This almost grown man, to my younger self (by 10 years), I always looked up to this man.
He introduced me to the important things in life, things that were important to him at the time, believing that knowledge was far more valuable than anything else.
The poem The Road not Taken by Robert Frost.
The short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
His all time favorite poem (For real. I learned to recite this poem just to impress my big brother…yeah, I know.), Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.
That algebra was only math…to concentrate, pay attention and that numbers never lie.
He made me believe that being a girl did not hinder me from doing any single thing that I set my mind to. He believed in me, no matter how much I failed…he fussed, even called me names on occasion but the man believed in me. Deep down, he gave me a courage and determination I believe was buried. He sparked me in a way that no one else could. He pushed hard because no one else did. “Don’t give me you can’t! You can. You just have to try harder.”
He taught me that your baseball glove must follow the ball and be turned to the correct direction, else you get a fast ball in the cheek…at 7 (or 8) years old.
He demanded good grammar…May I, not Can I…can means you are able, may asks permission; what the word redundant means and how to use it correctly and to stop being redundant when I spoke.
He taught me the words are indeed like a two edged sword, yet not from reading the Bible, but by using his sharp barbs on me. He said it made me tougher…
He made it seem easy…education and, in turn, life.
He worked his way through college in 3 years instead of four. He had some scholarships but it didn’t cover much. Two reasons, because he is was smarter than his own good and college was too darn expensive and he was working his rear off to get done. Again, he had big dreams. He wanted college done in two years and was angry it took him three years. As a little sister, I couldn’t have been more impressed! Then he made it into medical school…yea, I had a big brother that made med school look easy. He would call and talk to me on the phone about the most unbelievable things. I thirsted for knowledge and through him I was give a small window. He told me about his anatomy classes and the first time he saw a cadaver. That he had a hard time working with his lab partner and would then work alone at night after classes on the anatomy cadaver…alone, in a room full of…yeah…I was amazed at how awesome this man was!
He met a beautiful woman while in college and I was impressed at how easily she gentled this man I called brother. Which was no easy task. Garry was intelligent (and he knew it), therefore he was arrogant (and he didn’t care), he was a bit bristly sometimes, even to the ones he loved, he said what he thought, often without tact or guardrails. But when a lovely, petite woman came into his life…he became a little less harsh, he goodness shone through more and more. She brought out the best side of him…the one we all knew was there but we feared might never return. This man, this brother and son was so moved by this woman, he traveled half way around the world to marry her. In return she blessed him with time, love and a beautiful son and after his death, an amazingly beautiful little girl.
This man was my hero, my idol when I was young. I learned a lot when I got older and I have heard the stories from siblings from when he was younger, things I don’t remember…yet, he never failed to impress me. He was the best at almost anything he put his mind to. He made college look easy, med school a breeze, his hiring and internship at the hospital look like he had it written out in his play book.
Yet, when the time drew near, his life seemed so empty to me. He worked as if he himself had accomplished all of the goals on his own. Yes, he did do it, but for a very long time, he forgot that God allowed him to succeed…he didn’t do it alone.
When he became sick, I couldn’t believe that my strong, mighty and oh-so-important brother was ill. So ill that his body was raved within less than 2 years with cancer. A teeny, tiny cancer that was so very hard to treat, deep in his cells was this raging beast. The mighty beast brought my brother Garry to his knees. And I know that sometimes we need overwhelming situations to be reminded of the much bigger God we serve, I just had never been witness to it before.
My brother clawed his way back to God, forgiven and redeemed before he went home to The One that loved him more than he ever thought he deserved. He went home to be with the father that loved him through every situation, every time he felt alone, scared and that he would never get done with this hard thing called life.
And for that I am grateful.
Even though I still cry over the fact that I cannot share my good and loving husband with him, or share in the parenthood woes and joys with him, I can be sure of the fact that he waits for me in that splendid home with our heavenly father.
I miss him so much. My memories have been shared with my kiddos of their Uncle Garry…the one man that would have cheered them on, no matter what. The tough encourager, the one that really deep down had a heart of gold.
Time has surely lessen the pain, yet it still lingers and creeps up on me at certain times. Thank God for my memories…the good and the bad, because I can still keep him alive in some ways through them.
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