It’s Still Your Birthday, Even if You’re Gone

A post from last year on this date- posting it again in memory of my brother.

Today is my brother’s birthday. Or it would have been his birthday were he still alive, though I feel that just because he is gone does not make August 6th no longer his birthday. His age will forever remain at 54, but the date will forever be his birth date. He died by his own hand in February of 2015. I wrote about him on the first anniversary of his death here.He wasn’t married, had no children, and struggled so the last years of his life. Today I choose to remember him before all that, to think of him long ago before the demons set in. To remember him with rose colored glasses on, filtering out the sadness and anger. Remembering him with a smile.82802100-SLD-001-0015

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Remembering My Brother

I received a package from my sister last week filled with old photos that had been in old family albums. I wrote about it here. In among those photos were some of my brother that I had never seen before. Two years ago yesterday he died, taking his own life after struggling with mental issues for many years. Looking at the photos I was reminded of the person he was before he became so troubled, and the life he had lived. I was glad for the reminder, to remember him with a smile instead of  sadness.louis1978

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It’s Still Your Birthday, Even if You’re Gone

Today is my brother’s birthday. Or it would have been his birthday were he still alive, though I feel that just because he is gone does not make August 6th no longer his birthday. His age will forever remain at 54, but the date will forever be his birth date. He died by his own hand in February of 2015. I wrote about him on the first anniversary of his death here.He wasn’t married, had no children, and struggled so the last years of his life. Today I choose to remember him before all that, to think of him long ago before the demons set in. To remember him with rose colored glasses on, filtering out the sadness and anger. Remembering him with a smile.82802100-SLD-001-0015

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cousins1986redo

Cemetery Visit

I went to visit the grave of a cousin last week- he is buried a short drive from where I live, unlike the rest of his family, including his parents, who live hours away.  He died 9 years ago, at the age of 50- I wrote about him, his life and death previous visit here

The cemetery is situated very high up on a hill and this time before I left I decided to drive up to highest point to take in the view.view

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It was so peaceful and quiet, I got out of my car to walk among the headstones. I stopped to read many of them, wondering about the lives of the people buried there. Some of the headstones did  tell me a bit about the person. It is not unusual to see inscriptions that read “Beloved mother or father”, but I found some had more than the customary inscriptions.

This woman had been a teacher and it must have been so much a part of her life it was also included.20160720_125606

This woman was not just a mother, but in the eyes of those who loved her the best one
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This man had not been married I guessed, as there was no inscription for husband. “A Mensch” was written there, its meaning from Yiddish “a person of integrity and honor.”20160720_125753

How wonderful to be remembered as “strong yet gentle”20160720_130536

This headstone held an inscription I had never seen before. Not only was she a wife, mother and grandmother, the Yiddish term for mother in law-shvigger- was also inscribed. What a compliment, since we all know the old jokes about mother in laws and they are usually not so complimentary.20160720_125330

I came to this bench where I sat for a bit, taking in the surroundings and feeling the warm breeze washing over me as I looked out to the mountains in the distance. Thinking of my cousin and remembering him with a smile.20160720_130749

My Father, Myself

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Today would have been my father’s birthday. He died 11 years ago.

I think of him often.

Are we who we are because of genetics? environment? a combination of both? As I have grown older I have to come to realize I am my father’s daughter most certainly. So much of who I am, the things that make me tick, are because of him. I was always closer with my father than my mother. He was always the more “emotive” parent- free with his hugs, easy to laugh, a good listener who really heard what you had to say. He was willing to engage in discussion at times when my mother just saw everything as black or white, gray never existed in her world. I was an emotional child- easy to cry, sensitive- my mother didn’t know what to do with it- thankfully my father was always there.

He grew up poor with an alcoholic father and no education past high school, but succeeded in rising above it and away from it, following the lead of people willing to help him, observing people, paying attention to how they got to where they got to, and reaching those heights himself because of it. Did he have a darker side, yes, but I am happy to remember what was so wonderful about him, and understand where the darkness came from and why it was a part of him and accept it.

One of my earliest memories (I was 5) is of us going bird watching together. He was an avid bird watcher and part of a club. We would leave the house before daybreak, and meet his birding group. I remember spotting a Snowy Owl once- a major sighting! My love of nature and birds stems from those early morning trips.

He loved music and loved to sing. He had hoped to become a professional singer in his early 20’s, but real life came along and he needed to be able to make a living. His love for music was infused throughout our home-he always sang to us and for us, he played the banjo- old folk songs with verses we could all join in on.

My father recorded a few songs in a studio when he was thinking he could turn his singing into a career. The recordings were on 78 rpm records. Shortly before he died I was able to have the recordings converted to CD. I remembered hearing the recordings as a child, but had literally not heard them in 45 years. At the sound of the first note of him singing, what a rush of emotion- music or a song can always take you back to another place and time- but to hear his voice! What a gift to be able to hear that beautiful voice again.

His favorite poem was Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

He read it to me many times, and always reminded me of the importance the following lines held for him.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

I am thankful to have had a father that understood me, helped me to grow as a person, and who lives within in me. I feel my ability to be a good listener, to search for deeper meaning in things, comes from him. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to tell him those things before he died. I made the following photo montage with one of his recordings playing in the background, if you’d like to take a listen.

The Year Passes

Today is the first “anniversary” of my brother’s death. I wrote about his death, by his own hand, here last year. I have been thinking about him today. Saddened at the thought of his being gone from this world, sad for the troubled life he led, and sad at the thought that so few remember him. I am thinking about the mark each of us leaves, or maybe doesn’t leave. My sisters and I remember him, his 1 niece and 1 nephew whom he lived near and saw fairly frequently until his mental issues prevented that. Our cousins remember him as a young boy, teenager, young adult, the person they spent summer vacations with and shared holiday meals with growing up. It’s a small list of people as he didn’t have friends, was divorced for almost as long as he had been married. I hope somewhere at some time he had touched someone’s life in a meaningful way, shared a laugh with them that they remember, showed a kindness before his mental illness erased the good that had once existed within him. Replacing it with anger and irrational thoughts and all the injustices he thought had ever rained down upon him.

Today I choose to try to think back to those times before the darkness descended, to when he joked around and found humor in silly situations, to the laughter we shared together, to his love of the sea, of nature, how he loved to read the Encyclopedia. His curiosity about things and wanting to learn more and find out more. His love of yoga and meditation that centered him for a time, bringing solace to him and his world. Remembering that once long ago there had been light in his life.