Letter to Brian: May 12, 2013

Dear Brian,

Today is Mother’s Day.  Three times this week I tried picking out a Mother’s Day card for Mom only to leave the store crying with no card in hand.  I mean… try finding a card that fits how she has felt since you died.  I mean she obviously is still a Mom– to both of us– but to outlive your own child… well I just can’t imagine the grief she feels now and has for the past 2-1/2 years.

I know how hard it is when I meet new people to hear the question, “so how about you, do you have any siblings?”  The obvious answer is “yes” because I do, I have you– you’re just not here anymore.  But it spurs that awkward silence when I tell them I do have one brother but that he passed away.  I know she also must feel a horrible pit in her stomach when asked how many children she has because it reminds her how much she has lost and just doesn’t know how to answer that question anymore… because our answers are, like I’ve mentioned before, instant conversation stoppers.  While I whole-heartedly believe your choice to end your life was not a selfish one but rather one you deemed your ONLY choice… I don’t know that you could have predicted how you would change our mother’s life.  You have altered the very fiber of her being– her sense of motherhood.  She misses you with every ounce of her soul and this holiday, set aside to honor and recognize mothers, is a painful reminder that she’s lost a vital part of what made her a mother in the first place.

Mom is one of the few people in the world now who I feel I can relate to because we lost the very same person and we still want to talk about you and not have your existence on this plane be forgotten.  When I had that AMAZING dream in which you came to visit me shortly after you died, Mom was so moved by that and was so very grateful that you chose to come to me to try and take a little of my pain away by letting me know that you were alright and that you were no longer hurting; but I know, deep down, that her heart was jealously aching so badly for the same kind of connection with you too.  The very best present she could ever receive today would be a sign or visit from you.  I’d like to ask you to reach out to her in some special way that she’d know it could only be you– if not today, then soon.  I think she really needs that from you now.

Please know that Mom also loves you more than any of my words would ever represent and she misses you every waking moment.

We love you, Brian.

Laura

p.s. For anyone reading who may know a mother who has lost a child–  either before they were ever born, when they were too young or even if that child lived a long life I offer these words from www.sheknows.com: “Acknowledge the loss and recognize that she is a mom. Even though the child is no longer with her physically, she will always be a mother. Don’t think that she doesn’t want to talk about her child. Many moms who have experienced the death of a child would love people to acknowledge their children and talk about fond memories with them.”  So please reach out to those Moms today and help them honor the children they have lost.

Thanks for reading!

NFL Draft Time!!!

This time of year makes me miss a special tradition Brian and I used to share.  Despite my minimal interest in the NFL draft, let alone the game of football itself, Brian and I spent the weekend of the draft hanging out and eating pizza, talking and laughing and intermittenly napping.  He even let me have his prized recliner for the festivities.  I had very little interest in what was happening but I enjoyed that weekend so much and always looked forward to all the great chatter and trash talk leading up to it.  He used to email back and forth with me for weeks before the draft asking me silly questions like this one dated April 9, 2008:

“So do you think that Vernon Gholston should be climbing the charts into the top 3 picks or is he better to fall down to a 6 or 7 when either the Jets or Patriots who can us him as OLB in the 3-4??”

Now what that translated to in my head was not unlike the unformed sounds of the Charlie Brown teacher.  I’ve looked everywhere for my response but couldn’t find it in all my saved emails; but I know I wrote something a little sarcastic… something along the lines of, “I do appreciate your desire to get my input but I can’t be rushed into these decisions. I’m really feeling the pressure here, Brian.  The draft comes but once a year and I need some additional time to think this over.”  Or something like that… because here was his exact reply:

“You know, so far you have handled this question perfectly.  The draft is an emotional time for a lot of people… but you didn’t make a rash decision just to answer the question.  Time is of the essence, but it’s still somewhat on your side– you have 16 days until the draft.  You don’t need to decide on Gholston today– you didn’t answer the question right away and realized that you aren’t going to take anyone’s word of mouth or get caught up in Combine numbers, but rather that you need to watch some game tape.  You just need to be damn sure that you know which name should be on the cards in what order when they go up to the podium on draft day.”‘

He knew that I didn’t understand a darn thing we were talking about… we’d exchange witty banter for weeks leading up to draft day and I always looked forward to it.

My favorite draft year was 2007– he asked who I thought should be the Vikes’ first draft pick and I immediately said “Amobi Okoye.”  He thought it a curious choice and was facetiously disturbed at the obvious lack of substance behind my reasoning–because he had a bitchin’ name!!  “What about his strengths on the field?  His weaknesses?  What can he bring to the team?  How would the Vikes benefit long-term from this pick?  Can they afford to drop other picks to be sure they secure him and SHOULD they?” Blah, blah, blah.  I said, “His name stands alone!  Say it with me…AMOBI OKOYE!!!”  I teased him about that for the next few years and it never got old.  I’d blurt that name out to him when it didn’t even make sense.  I’d say, “Hey, Boy!  I learned how to say ‘please pass the gravy’ in Swahili– it’s Amobi Okoye!” Or he’d ask me, “So Dude!  Which team do you see going up against the Patriots in the Super Bowl?”  My answer?  “Amobi Okoye.” Or he’d say,  “Hey, Dude.  Should I grab us a Papa Murphy’s for tonight or should we get something delivered?  My answer?  “Amobi Okoye!”  “Dude, what time do you get off work on Friday?”  Again, I answered, “Amobi Okoye.”   He’d say, “that doesn’t even make sense.”   To which I’d reply, “Dude.  The question matters not.  The answer is ALWAYS Amobi Okoye.”

I miss him so damn much.  So much I may even go watch the draft somewhere and imagine him yapping in my ear!

Happy Birthday, Brian!

brian face

Today Brian would have turned 38 years old. My tradition for his birthday is to watch his favorite movie, Gladiator, and eat pizza– his favorite food!

I remember the first time I saw Gladiator. Brian and I were living together in an apartment and were going to be hosting Thanksgiving at our place back in November of 2000. We watched it together as the turkey was cooking and of course I cried like a baby at the end. He loved that movie so much! He even was nuts about the soundtrack which I thought was just so fascinating; he typically was listening to Pantera, White Zombie, Metallica, etc. But he used to put the Gladiator Soundtrack on in his car (a black, Honda Civic hatchback he lovingly named “Blackula”), roll down the windows and just rock out to that stuff. Totally made me smile.

But looking back I can totally see why he really connected with the movie. Maximus was a man of great honor and strong, moral character and so was Brian. Maximus fought for things he felt were right and so did Brian. In fact one of the things that ended up pushing Brian over the edge was having so much trouble, in his own words, “watching the world continue to undo itself.” He was so deeply affected seeing all the hate and unrest in the world and felt powerless to do anything about it.

There is a scene in the movie where just prior to his final battle in the colosseum Commodus stabs him in the back, deeply wounding him. They bandage him up and put on his armor to cover the injury so the crowd would know nothing of this “imbalance” in the fairness of the battle. Maximus spoke of it to no one; he went into the battle and fought the best he could though gravely injured.

While not the same, it reminds me of something that happened to Brian at work. He was working so very hard and was given a great deal of extra work to do to help make up for another member of his team that rarely showed up to work but made a lot more money than Brian did. His manager continuously bombarded Brian with not only his own projects, but the projects of his absent, higher-paid co-worker.

When management caught wind of the work that Brian was doing, they approached him and asked him why he was doing those projects that were not his responsibility. Brian told them his manager asked him to do so. However, when his boss was approached about it, she completely threw him under the bus! She told the management team that she gave “no such instructions” and that Brian took it upon himself to involve himself in those projects all on his own. As a result, he was reprimanded and it was suggested that he “resign.”

While Brian had all the requests from his manager documented and could have presented that to management to defend himself, he chose not to do so. He told me the job didn’t make him very happy to begin with and his manager was a single mom– he didn’t want her to get fired when he knew she had a child to support. He chose to instead give his notice and bow out gracefully without having cleared his own name. That’s just the way Brian was. He often put others before himself even if they didn’t deserve it.

I have often thought that Maximus, like Brian, chose to keep the “back stabbing” to himself because he had nothing more to lose– he had already, in essence, given up. That incident at work was less than one year before he died.

Maximus once said to his comrades, “Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.” I think Brian’s kindness continues to live on!

Tonight I will be joined by my amazing friend Leashya and we will watch Gladiator, enjoy some pizza and toast a glass of wine to the memory of a worthy soul.