I’d like to talk with you today about my big brother, Allen and how he knew I was a writer before anyone else in the family. November is Bereaved Sibling Month. Now that may seem to be an unusual topic to base a blog, and I understand how it could appear that I’m stretching to say that theme has anything to do with writing or speaking. Many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. This story is about how a funeral led to my debut as a writer and public speaker.
I grew up in a large family of six children of two boys and four girls. I was the oldest girl, in between the two boys, and always tried to catch up to my brother who arrived 18 months before I joined the family. He did everything first: went to school, drove a car, earned a paycheck, and even married first. He was always there, a staple in my life, relentlessly teasing, and always joking.
One summer day, he went into the hospital and never came home.
My family came to me to write and deliver my brother’s eulogy. They were counting on me to tell his story. Through laughter and tears, I painted a picture of my big brother. I shared his legacy. I talked about the boy I knew intimately and the man he had become. His sense of humor, love of corny westerns, popcorn, constant teasing, and the ability to sleep just about anywhere. Such as the time he took a nap on the roof of our aunt’s building when he was supposed to be up there adjusting the TV antenna.
My nieces and nephew cherish that story about their dad. They’d never heard it before. It’s a part of our shared history and our mutual legacy.
Oh, and one more thing. My brother knew I was a writer long before anyone else in the family. I hid my journals from him and he delighted in teasing me about knowing my latest hiding spot. I told him that some day I’d let him read what I wrote, but it would be a long time in the future. Well, he didn’t exactly get to read what I wrote. But, I’m pretty sure he heard me talking about him. And I know he would have enjoyed pointing out to me the way I white knuckled the podium as I delivered the eulogy. I gripped that wood so hard because I would have fallen over otherwise. You see, I had no feeling in my legs.
We all have stories like my brother’s little nap. Those stories are our legacy, our memories, and our connections to each other. They are priceless.