My breath catches in my chest. I am paralyzed with a sadness that I did not know was coming. My brother, the man I only met briefly at our father's funeral in 1983 and not again until 1995, has passed away. Suddenly. Unexpectedly after a brief, vicious bout with lung cancer. Damn lung cancer. Damn all cancers.
He didn't tell me, my sister in law said, because he did not want to spoil my trip to Paris. He was thinking of me. This was his way, silent, stoic; much like our father. It was a loving and kind thing for him to do and that makes me cry even more. I am a bundle of nerves and emotion. smiling because of this act of love, crying because I will miss him. I liked having a brother who looked like me. Who had memories beyond mine and different than mine. He knew my mother before she was married to our dad. He had different stories to tell of both my mom and dad. He had a life's story far removed from mine as he grew up far away in remote Alaska and I in the countryside of Pennsylvania. He dreamed of retiring there back where our whole family began. He was going to make a trip to Pennsylvania and reacquaint himself with the memories and place of his very young youth.
It is different to get to know your brother as an adult. Your backgrounds are complete, you are joined by genetics only. A friend insisted that I reach out to him, decades ago when on a trip to Alaska. I was hesitant, not sure if he would want to meet me. He was the last surviving half sibling I had. We met in a restaurant. Had dinner and found we were so much alike. We told stories. We talked about our father. I kept wanting to reach out and hold his hand, he being so much like the dad I both loved and feared.
We met every so often over the next bunch of years. I took Phil and Jacob to Alaska to meet him. I delighted when Jacob liked him and nearly passed out with delight when Phil said we looked alike, acted alike and even spoke words the same way. Our mannerisms betrayed us as siblings even when our lives didn't let us live as siblings. I had a fuller heart. I had family. Someone I could begin to build a past and a future with.
I am blessed to have had these times and memories with him. To have met one another and known each other. To be happy that all along he had followed me through my blog and achievements, that however briefly we were brother and sister.
Still I am sorrowful in my loss. Now, I must figure out what to do with his absence and maybe I will have to make that Pennsylvania trip to see for him what he has missed. Maybe this is the push I need to mend fences with other siblings however painful that journey may be. I have already spoken with my other brother, the brother of my youth and felt comfort in his voice. Maybe in this ending there is a beginning.