I was one of four children. All the others were boys. One died before I was born. One contracted meningitis at five months and was a vegetable for 18 years, when he died of a heart attack. The other was grown and gone and I barely knew him and have seen him three times in my adult life. I have no idea where he is, or if he’s even alive. I did try to find him eight years ago. My mother was dying and wanted to see him. I left a message with his wife, but never heard back from him.
I tell you this so you understand that I was raised as an only child. And yet I developed two relationships early in my life with guys I refer to as brothers of my heart.
One was a big teddy bear of a guy named Keith who was extremely protective and a wonderful big brother. The other was named Bob. He was an only child and had longed for a sister or brother. So it was a good match. We were both blonde, blue-eyed and when we introduced each other to friends, it was, “This is my brother,” or “This is my sister, Vicki.”
Yesterday morning I received a phone call. Bob had died. He’d been ill and had surgery and told no one except his daughter, who is a few months older than my daughter. He swore her to secrecy. He wanted to die on his terms, his way, and he didn’t want to be surrounded by sadness. She respected his wishes.
So Bob did die on his own terms and his own way. And his death came as a total shock to the rest of us. I don’t resent the way he handled this. But, oh, I do regret not having the opportunity to say good-bye.
Today, I find extra reason to consider being a writer a blessing. I can’t see Bob again, or speak to him, or tell him how much his love and support meant to me over the past three decades. But I can write through the grief. In a story, I can share all those things with a brother of the heart.