There are days in your life that are memorable because they mark celebration or accomplishment.
Other days you know for the deep sorrow, pain, loss.
Today is one of those days.
Before the sun had risen on that day 23 years ago, I awoke to my father kneeling by my bed. I was staying with a family friend as we prepared for my wedding less that three weeks away. He sat there without tears, just the hollow expression on his tired face.
You always remember the words someone uses when they deliver sad news. “Your brother went home to be with the Lord.” shocked but not utterly surprised. As I went to bed the night before, it had settled in my heart that the diagnosis given just four days prior was grim. Although he had flown in from his rural town to one of the world’s best cancer hospitals, the diagnosis came too late to save him. God has a way of preparing our hearts. We just don’t always recognize that.
My soon to be husband and i drove to his work to request a leave for a few days. While sitting in the cab of his El Camino I was amazed at how the cars next to us were filled with people going on with their days. It was so obvious to me that their world was still intact. It seemed as if the world was still going around us as I sat in a blur of grief laced emotion.
As the firstborn in our family, Glen had to navigate life on a path unfamiliar with the rest of us. Born in 1954 to a dad who had been raised by a single father became a prototype for the rest of us. Parenting theories were tested on him as were many of his generation. Thankfully we had one of those dads who was willing to work at being a better parent.
Reading was a struggle for him. Somehow the way he processed letters and words was off so he had to try harder. He had a fifth or sixth grade teacher who didn’t give up on him. They came up with a system that allowed him to read more fluently. The influence of Mrs. E went far past elementary school.
My brother loved baseball. He didn’t just go to the games, he actually kept score on the program each time we went. His love for the game was contagious. Even after he moved away, we rehashed the big plays on long distance calls back when you paid by the minute.
He didn’t just pass on his love of sports. A love of George Winston’s music, In-N-Out Burger and a passion for education were gifts he imparted. His belief in the underdog never went unnoticed by anyone who knew him.
As a gifted educator, he always encouraged me to follow my dream to teach. His voice is still in my head. While assisting in a sixth grade science class last week I thought of him the entire time. I could picture his interaction with each student. His odd sense of humor, twinkle in his eye and unmistakable compassion drew out the best in his students.
He left me his love for education. Although I never became a licensed teacher, I am an educator. He is often on my mind when I encounter students that need an extra dose of patience or a cheerleader to break through the feeling of impossible.
On the day of my wedding, during picture with my family. The photographer told us, “After this one, Mom and Dad will step aside and I’ll take one with you and your brothers.” I remember gasping, turning to my mother to exclaim “They’re not all here!”. She talked to him quietly and he took a break to “change film”.
There have been countless moments since then when it is so obvious that he isn’t here. When my grandmother passed away, we gathered for a “cousins” photo. Something was said about everyone being there. I turned to one brother and whispered, “Am I the only one that knows we aren’t all here?” It hadn’t escaped his notice either.
Today, as life goes on around me, while people get on with the business of their day, I am aware. Just as aware as I was on the day he left us that he is not here. We can think of all the helpful things about him being in our hearts, how we’ll see him some day but I miss him. I always will.