Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's been seven years since my baby brother died on the same day as one of my best friends from college

This is what I said at his funeral:
I love my brother Tim as I know may of you did. He was a passionate, creative, giving person. I never thought I would have to say goodbye to him so soon. He helped me to learn something very important though. When we were growing up we learned a lot from our parents about expression and words and work and life and laughter and art and literature. But unfortunately I feel we were only really taught one way to deal with the problems and suffering, one expression or feeling to capture the myriad and range of emotions available. That reaction was anger. When the anger became too much we all learned to numb ourselves from pain in one way or another.
Over the years I have struggled against the numbness I felt. There were times when it was much easier to shut myself off from the pain or discomfort some of my brother’s choices left me with. He could be so generous and so giving and then become so overwhelmed by life he was just not there. I felt my heart hardening against whatever I anticipated the future might hold for him. Then recently, in the last year and a half, I began to discover that there were other options. I did not have to feel just anger or nothing. My relationship with Tim in these last 18 months grew to a new level. I let myself love him fully for everything he is and could be. I accepted him and felt protective of him in a way I never had before.
He too loved and felt passionately about life. The last time I saw him he seemed so happy. We had something in common. We had both found a person we could love and let love us and to share our lives with. He had just spent two weeks snorkeling in Puerto Rico with Lauren and he was so in love. He kept saying to me “Who would have thought?” and I had to agree. Who would have thought that the two of us could be so lucky? He really lived.
I want to read something he wrote:
“Down through the depths of inner sanctuary, caught in the vortex of immobile sleep, I dreamt of a place where all men go. I am from that place and I find it unworthy. I am Narmidian, the sailor. I have been around the world in the course of several minutes. With this there seems nothing to hide from, no demons, hells, no fears that creep out in the middle of the night, and in a sense that is the most fearful existence of all. For what is the true purpose of living except to enjoy the moment, and how to enjoy the moment without ruining the future, and if so what other alternative is there? I can see none, for all mysteries fade before the utter truth of simple boring life and no one who desires fantasy wants simple life.”
Because of Tim and Matt and Suzy, I love children. We had some wonderful times together as children. He also had a amazing connection to my daughter Sachi from the time she was born. They seemed to recognize each other from a long time ago. My stories about him and my brother and sister have become part of the fabric of my teaching style, my way of relating to children, my life and I want to say thank you to him for that.
When we were kids there was a huge snowstorm in New York one winter. The schools were closed and Matt and Tim and I went to the park together. Matthew, always the adventurous one, convinced us to jump from the high brick wall separating the different levels of Riverside Park. He said the snow was so deep it would catch us. We sat on the wall and looked down and it seemed much too far. Tears started to run down Tim’s face. Matt said let’s jump and he did landing in a roll and laughing. By then Tim was really crying. I knew I had to jump next or I would lose my nerve. My foot got caught in a vine and I fell head first. Still I landed okay although much harder than I had expected. From down below we egged Tim on, “JUMP! JUMP!” we shouted over his wails. Trembling and sobbing he finally did. And then we all laughed together. Years later I realized that he was the bravest one of all of us because real bravery is to do what you are afraid to do.
I will miss his hugs more than anything. He had a way of holding me that made me feel like I was home. I know I will see him again and I look forward to it.

And the poem from Sachi:
I wanted to write something to say everything I felt.
But nothing sounded right.
Writing this now, I can see no words to describe you.
There are no words, only images in my mind.
Swirls of brilliant color, crazy painted graffiti, moving faster and faster
Powerful images, rushing through walls that can’t take the blows fast enough.
You were magical, fierce, art flowing over the heads of all who knew you
Zooming down New York City streets
Enveloping me in the swirling arms of a bear hug
Melting, pouring, endless movement.
You lived fast, never ceasing to amaze me.
Creativity poured out of you like paint,
Flowing fast and drying onto sidewalks
Oozing out onto the feet of everyone who saw.
Affecting the lives of so many.
And yet, so few of us got to say what we really wanted to say.
You were too quick for us, passing each of us in a flash
One single moment of brilliance
If you don’t say it now, you might never get to.
Well, I didn’t get to say it one last time, but I’ll say it now anyway.
I love you.


Insane said...

Losing a sibling is like losing a part of yourself. This tribute expresses so much of the beauty and love within your relationship.

Allison said...

I never forgot what you said about "JUMP! JUMP!" and the definition of "bravery" that punctuated the story...

I still talk to him every day.

Love to you.


Shayne said...

The more I hear about Timmy (from you and Allison), the sadder I am that I never had a chance to meet him. You both clearly love him more than words express and flaws and all, he must have been one hell of a guy.

Your post reminded me of something my brother said to all of us the night my mother passed away (2 weeks ago). He said, "she was not a good mother in the classic sense and she suffered from a number of personality disorders. But to her tremendous credit, her legacy is that her children all learned from her mistakes and have committed ourselves to being the kind of parent we wish we had."

It's backhanded, to be sure. But when we lose someone to addiction or some other self destructive behavior, we need to find the positive in that loss. For my brother and me, it was the fact that we knew what not to do.

Strange how death makes us want to live better.