Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pressing Pause

The following post is my eulogy that I wrote on the occasion of Bryan David Klungreseter's Memorial. In it, I vowed that I would keep telling my brother's stories. I have been keeping that promise for my kids and me here in this blog. It has been cathartic. But there were two parts to my pledge and it is time for me to begin on the path to fulfilling the second part.

My neighbor's husband of 20 years left his family and the forlorn wife and teenage daughter have been struggling through these hard times. Like every part of their lives, even their lawn has been affected by their loss. They do not have a man to look after the yard. My other neighbors decided to show love to this family by waiting until the mother and daughter left overnight for a camping trip to give a make-over to their neglected yard. Weeds were pulled, sod installed, colorful flowers planted, sprinklers repaired. Their yard looks lovely this morning. Now when these hurting gals come around the corner into view of their driveway and housefront, this beautiful act of love and service will confront them, not the overgrown dying yard that once reminded them of their loss.

My brother, of his own accord, contacted a home for the families of incarcerated criminals and asked to adopt one at Christmastime. Bryan advertised at his restaurant asking for donations and let my parents and I know, told some of his friends to help collect enough things to make a family without a mom at Christmas feel a little bit less sad. He single-handedly arranged for this family with young kids to be blessed at Christmas time. He bought the feast. He asked for the children's wish list and made sure each item was checked off. Bryan arrived in his Santa hat and joyful heart and made the afternoon sweet and beautiful. It was not awkward or dorky. His sincere and genuine compassion on their hurting family was well-received. It was love in action.

There were other times, like when we had tons of leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner and Bryan decided that we should pack up plates with all the fixings and deliver them to Grape Day Park. It was a park in Escondido with a large population of homeless folks. We walked all around that park for an hour. You know we did not encounter one person that evening in the park with or without a home! But it was his heart for these unknown (and unmet!) homeless folks that stays with me.

Other times, Bryan organized relief efforts for a battered women shelter near his home. Or for the needy people he heard about. He gave generously to all the causes I solicited money for--Cystic Fibrosis Walks, Youth Camp scholarships, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the countless times he invited along a lonely soul to whatever gathering he was a part of! Bryan had a heart for the down and out. And then there is all the ways he served and loved me and my family. We were the direct recipients of so much of his lavish generosity and love.

I said all that to say this: remembering his life as I wrote Bryan's eulogy made me want to be a better person. A person who loves people and pours out his life for them. So that is the next step in my healing journey today. It is time for me to get up from sitting in front of this computer and live like Bryan did. I committed to that over four months ago. Today, I resolve anew to pursue that promise. I want to make my brother proud. I want to make my Lord proud. Since I have so few resources just now, I need to be selective in how I spend my limited time and energy. And I think my kids have seen me sitting here a little too frequently of late. I want them to remember that I loved HUGE like their Uncle. I promised.

I will finish telling his story. Here. Someday. Maybe sooner rather than later. I did pledge to that. I want to have these words bound in book form so that one day my children can read it to their children. I still have a heartload of stories. But right now I need to begin to look for ways and places to pour out my life into others like my brother did. So I won't have as much time for blogging. Thanks for joining me each post as a tribute to my beloved brother's memory, his short life. It was right and good that I did it. And it is right and good that I stop for awhile. Maybe when I begin again, I will have some stories of love lived out like the ones I shared about my neighbor and my brother. I promised.

Eulogy for My Brother

I gave this eulogy at my brother's memorial on December 22, 2008 in front of a packed out church with standing room only. Rows and rows of people standing--people I have never met in my life.
Stand tall.

Good morning. I’m Kelly Fitzpatrick. Formerly Kelly Klungreseter. I am Bryan’s only sibling, his older sister. First off, on behalf of my entire family (and there are a LOT of us!), thank you for putting off your Christmas festivities to be with us today and for joining us in celebrating my brother’s life. It means so much to us. Thank you. Bryan loved a good get-together! I wish here were here with us.

The day before Bryan died, my kids and I gathered around the phone and called Uncle B and left him a voicemail message. We blasted a favorite carol of his, Little Drummer Boy by Jars of Clay in the background. In unison, we sang that we loved him, we missed him, and we couldn’t wait for a visit so we could all watch “A Christmas Story”. Uncle B style. His amazing memory knew every line so he could fast-forward through Ralphie's obscenities to make it G-rated.

Bryan’s cell phone records indicate that he listened to that message. So at least my kids know that Uncle B heard those important words, “We love you!” before he died. But I find that I have more to say. Death is a teacher with painful lessons. Lessons we oftentimes can’t or won’t learn in the clamor and chaos of our busy lives. I have only been enrolled in this school, where death instructs and everything seems to stop when you commence with its severe syllabus, for seven days. This week, I have learned that I cannot wait to do important things. Family pictures, get-togethers, thank-yous, belly laughs, big hugs, I love yous, I’m so glad I’m your sister. Unfinished business. Unspoken words. Great loss. Remorse. Regrets. Even guilt. There is all of that right now since Bryan died unexpectedly, unbelievably. So this morning, I would like to say out loud the words I would say if Bryan were here with us now (and he is, isn’t he?).

Bryan was my first friend. He was my oldest friend. Bryan and I were very different. But we shared every milestone I CAN'T remember. And he was a part of every one I CAN. Since we were only 10 months a part, I learned to skip, skate, ride bikes, play baseball, right beside him. We fought fiercely as children but we always made up. I kept my eye on him, he watched my back. When other kids were playing in the cul de sacs of their tract homes, we only had each other out in the boonies. Poor guy! I know he always wanted a brother. He played barbies with me. I played army with him in the avocado groves behind our childhood home. We built forts and wore fatigues. Bryan protected me on the school yard at recess. He endured all the teacher comparisons. We watched soap operas together, poured ice cold water over each other’s heads in the shower, found particular joy in scaring each other while hiding behind doors or under beds. He stole my earrings. I stole his sweatshirts.

My little brother. When his first love broke his heart, we cried and rocked together. I never told his secrets about the parties and the “Poof”. My brother stood beside my husband as we made our promises to one another. Bryan was there for the birth of our first child. All those yucky pink gum cigars! I still chuckle when I think of husband Bob and Bryan standing in front of the mirror clipping their nose hairs together and howling like babies. He took me shopping for beautiful clothes or gave me gift certificates for hair cuts or Clinique when money was tight for Bob & me or when I was feeling frumpy. Bryan’s generosity was boundless. And his taste was better than mine. He’d buy me two cards for my birthday, a funny one and a sappy one. Bryan knew intuitively when I was sad and he would stop at nothing trying to cheer me up or fix it. His big hugs helped drive out the hurt inside. I will miss them.

I wrote his resumes and wrapped all his Christmas gifts. He took me to every cheesy, tasteless movie that came out—and I went, just so I could be with him and laugh. My brother made me laugh—big belly laughs. He made everyone laugh. He was my historian. Bryan’s memory was uncanny—only surpassed by his gift for story-telling. He loved to tell stories. His, mine, yours! I loved to see his eyes light up and hear his latest “version”—Bryan’s stories got better with each telling. He is the only person I have ever let order my food for me in a restaurant. Bryan loved good food, eating it, cooking it, sharing it. He hated to be alone—so he usually arrived with a posse of guys or a beautiful girl on his arm. He was a people person. He was polite to waitress, grocery checkers, old ladies, strangers—I don’t think he ever met a stranger.

But as much as I loved Bryan for being an amazing brother, I think I loved him most as the uncle to my children. Uncle B spoiled them all silly. They celebrated with glee when Uncle B was coming. Cherry-laden Shirley temples, spooky stories by the fire with coco, blanket fort building, story reading, flowers at ballet recitals, tips at t-ball games, Toys-R-Us shopping sprees, many Disneyland trips, Legoland fun, ice skating, snow tubing, treats! My brother, my children's beloved Uncle B, spared no expense, no effort to delight his nieces and nephews. Thank you for teaching my kids how to be a really good sibling. You read to them (Skippy John Jones Forever!), colored with them, crawled around in the dark playing hide-and-seek. You always brought the fun, the treats, the stories. Reilly, Kate Marie, Samuel, Aidan, and Peter adored you, my brother. So did I.

Bryan, you had a huge heart. You were a giant of a man. You did everything BIG. I miss you. Thanks you for 36 years of good times, belly laughs, happy memories, amazing stories. So my brother, as the only one left to carry on our parent’s legacy, today I commit myself to live more like you did: pouring myself out into people. I have never known a bigger people person in all my life. You have always been the one who looked out for me, looked out for mom and dad. Now that job falls to me, little brother. I will do my best to make you proud of me, like I was of you. I will keep telling your stories. Thanks for making my story, with you in it, beautiful. I love you Bryan.

Train Rides

Bryan lived in Carlsbad. They have a Surfliner--or commuter train that runs up and down the coast stopping at each of the beach cities here in Southern California. We would meet Uncle B at the depot near his home and take the train down to Old Town for some yummy Mexican food. Once, he wanted to go to the Children's Museum first and then head to downtown San Diego. Bryan was always full of fun and exciting ideas to do as a family. I loved that about him. But he never did anything cheap. Hanging out with Bryan cost some serious cash. Either for my parents or him--bless their generous hearts. My family usually picked up the tab for our Bob and me and the kids to play. I think Bryan would have had lots more savings if he hadn't been so willing to hang out and finance our family time. This was a fun day--one of many. I am not sure who is going to pick up the mantle in our family and plan to do these kind of fun things but I sure hope they continue--in Bryan's honor. Hey mom, wanna head to Old Town for some chips and salsa soon?
There are other times and places that were stellar that I will tell here. I don't have a photograph to commemorate these fun times but I have the picture in my mind: of his excited, boylike face, thrilled to be headed to some neat place with our kids. So that Peter can experience, even second hand, his Uncle's amazing zeal for life and creativity, I will tell you about Padre World Series games, Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Picking, the best slurpees in the world at Toontown, staying late for fireworks and snow at Disneyland, buying out the stadium at Storm Games on Family Nights, and more. And I will remember Thanksgiving past and football games in the mud, wrestling matches and mat maids, black diamond ski slopes and night skiing, Washington Park and his first homerun, Air Band and Born to be Wild, "I Got Friends in Low Places" Karaoke. My mind is racing with images of his wide grin, ear-to-ear and eager for an adventure. Always the life of the party, the center of whatever was going on. But it will have to wait for now.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Some tan guy, Briann, Daddy, Reilly, Jacob, Katelyn, Mom, Aunt Rebecca, Uncle Karl (my dad's younger brother), Kerstin, the coconut gal is not related

My baby returned home last night from her week long trip to Hawaii with her grandparents. Reilly arrived bright-eyed at 12am. I tried to stay up--but Bob sent me to bed to wait/sleep :). I had to leave my warm bed and put on some clothes to greet her sleepy-eyed at the door. It was worth it! Her smile was radiant. She flew into my arms and held me tight. I breathed in the smell of her and enjoyed the feeling of her ever-changing body next to mine. She is getting tall--over five feet now. I can't hold her in my arms with her bald little blond head fitting perfectly under my chin. She is not a baby anymore. But she will always be my baby. Even if she does reach the over six feet tall height predicted for her.

I missed her. The rhythms and routines of my entire day were messed up without her here to make it all "right". I kept counting heads (the bane of a big family--counting heads!) and reminding myself that "incomplete" feeling was temporary. We would be together again soon. I managed our separation by telling myself over and over again that it was just one week. She was having the time of her life. A once-in-a-lifetime trip. I am glad for her, she is safe with my parents, etc. Convincing self-talk! But I missed her.

Reilly left paradise to return to us. Bryan is in Paradise today. And one day my family will all be reunited on the Heavenly Shores, where death is just a memory and tears are no more. The Banquet Table will be set with a feast and we will be together. A luau to blow your mind! I can't wait for that day. Reunited. This separation is just temporary. I am glad for Bryan. He is having the time of his eternity! I am using the same self-talk I used this week with Reilly. But I will be so glad when Bryan wraps his big loving arms around me! I miss him.
I know, I know. I end so many of my blogs that way: "I miss him." But that is the reality of my days. And I know it is true for my mom and dad. Until the Reunion.

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree...

My kids in front of Mission Santa Barbara the year Reilly was in fourth grade. CA History trip up the coast visiting the missions and the State Capitol in a rented RV. Visiting Mission San Gabriel the year I was in fourth grade. The year my daddy "helped" me make my mission project. He made my mission out of a styrofoam ice chest, spray paint, toothpicks and tiny bells. He even made palm trees out of pipe cleaners. This was before craft "kits" ! Boy was he mad when Becky Pool's father made a mission with a real stained glass window and electrical lighting! He was armed and ready the following year when Bryan's project was due--he made sure he got Mission San Gabriel again!

Reilly, Kate, Aidan and Samuel at the Grand Canyon.
Peter is in my belly and unable to join the photo :)
February 2006

Me, Mom, and Bryan at the Grand Canyon
Summer some year

My kids playing a board game in a rented RV.
Somewhere on the coast of California-Summer 2007

Dad playing cards with Bryan and me in our godparent's Hy and Shirl's borrowed RV.
Somewhere in Nevada--sometime in the 80's.
Bob and I are following closely in the footsteps of my mom and dad when it comes to family trips. That is by design. As a child, my family never had fancy vacations.Yet I remember them as the sweetest times in my childhood. Camping, RVing, playing games, visiting family, eating Sugar Pops, and fishing. I think I loved the simplicity of just hanging out. I still do. As an adult, my hubby and I are trying to capture or create that same sweetness for our children. I am not sure if Bryan wanted in on Disney Cruises and other expensive trips to faraway places. As an adult he certainly liked fine things but he never travelled too far from home. But I do know that he and I shared loads of laughter and love and great memories as a result of our parent's wonderful gift to us--their legacy of togetherness. Thanks for planting the seeds Mom and Daddy.
PS-I put some seventies tunes on for today--to help transport you to the day. This was the music of my youth. Thanks Daddy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Kelly. Kelly Lee. Kelster. Kel. Babe. Momma. M-OOOOMMMM! Mom. Mommy. I answer to many names. I know by whom I am being addressed when I hear the name they use. I have never been a fan of pet names or shortened names. I like each of my children to be called the entire name their father and I chose for them. We did spend months arguing, I mean agreeing on it. I like their names. I do admit that some nicknames are endearing. Especially if the name's meaning is a shared secret or a charming character trait. Bug, Kate the Skate, Sam-mandoo, BIG Fire, Petey Boy--all names Bryan gave my kids. I get a embarrassed by some pet names though--they feel like too much information. But I do give credence to the idea that names are meaningful--more than just a trendy accessory for life. Bob and I were careful to make certain that each of our children's names had "meanings" we could live with. We intentionally shot down some pretty cool names just because they had meanings like raven-haired (not likely with our genes) and crooked-nosed (very likely with one of our genes but not something one would want to draw attention to), tile layer, warlike, strong-willed. You get the idea. So names are meaningful.

Bryan answered to a bunch of names in his 36 years. BK, Klungie, Son, Brother, Snoos. That last one is the scene-stealer. My dad has called my brother that nick name ever since Bryan was a little guy. I have no idea what it means. Now every time I think of that nickname, a lump forms in the back of my throat and I can't swallow. My dad doesn't have anyone to call "Snoos" anymore. There is no one to call my father and say, "Hey Pops!". That was my brother's special name for my dad. I call him Daddy. Always have. Even though I am a big girl now.

Now I am not trying to diminish the pain I feel as I navigate through the grief of losing my only sibling. It stinks. But Bryan was not my son. I read somewhere that the greatest loss one can ever endure is the death of a child. The parent-child bond is supposed to be the strongest. It makes sense to me, only now that I have children. I guess that is why God chose the parent-child relationship to show His great love for us (John 3:16).

Today I stared intently at my own sons, all three of them, and could not even fathom the agony and despair my mom and dad face in the aftermath of Bryan's death. I am not sure I could survive it. But I know from witnessing my parent's journey this far that they did not believe that they would survive those first hours, days, weeks, and now months. The wailing, the tears, the glazed-over anguished eyes. I remember. But they ARE making it through. They are clinging to each other, their Faith, and their hope of being reunited with their son when it is their turn to go Home. God's ways don't always make sense to me, but I am choosing to trust Him because God has demonstrated His love for me in ways I can never understand. Like giving His perfect Son on my behalf. God the Father had a bunch of names for His boy too. Messiah, Redeemer, Emmanuel, Christ, Savior. I wonder which one was His favorite? Jesus was the one He gave Mary to name her little baby. It means "The Lord Saves". I will have to ask my Daddy what his special name, Snoos, means.

Monday, April 20, 2009


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Long before Alcoholics Anonymous adopted this prayer as their own, my Grandma Birthday claimed it. As a little girl, I remember seeing a beautiful plaque with the words of this simple prayer on her wall. I did not fully understand the words when I was young. I do now. There is a lot of power packed in those few lines.
I have noticed a reoccurring theme in my life recently. A conversation that I have repeated many times in the last two weeks. With Bob. With my best friend. With myself. With God. I don't like doing hard things. My wise husband summed up, "I want the mountain top experience without having to climb the mountain." As for me, I would prefer to take a little pill right now to make my heart feel happier. And I would also prefer liposuction and a lapband than continuing in my futile attempts to rid myself of pernicious belly fat at five thirty in the morning. I think a house cleaner and a laundress to keep on top of the piles and loads around here is in order. Who wants to clean house in this lovely spring weather? I would like to enjoy a vibrant spiritual life without having to pick up my cross and daily follow my Savior in obedience even in the little things, thank you very much. I am a selfish sluggard. I know it. I reluctantly acknowledge the ill consequences of this very fact. But I just don't want to do anything about it. I don't have it in me.
I used to think if I just had enough faith, I could pray my way out of doing hard things. Or maybe I thought I wouldn't have to face them at all? That didn't last long. Then I tried the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" technique for a while. Bought into the whole,"God helps those who help themselves" theory. Became a regular legalist trying to save my own soul. That didn't get me very far either. So here I am today, a firm believer in Grace alone. I've got nothing in me that can earn the free gift of Grace. I can never repay the favor. I realize my worth entirely because I finally (sort of) understand the Price my Master paid for me. But here is where I get tripped up: I do sincerely want to be known for accomplishing great and heroic things, hard things (for His pleasure, my God's reputation-not just mine). I just don't want to do the work required to actually DO them. You know what I mean? I want it to be easier. Less messy. Way less effort and endurance on my part, if you don't mind.
Alas, I am old enough to know better. Life is not like that. Bryan and I talked about this stuff. I never quite figured out how to convince him of my hopefulness, my enduring optimism (the right word is faith). I firmly believe that though I am a work in progress, He who began it all will be faithful to complete it in His perfect time. I will be made beautiful. And God's definition of beautiful, for those of you who may think it means resembling Angelina Jolie, is to look like His sweet Son Jesus. I could never convey that to Bryan when we talked of these things without sounding simple. My brother wanted to do hard things, good things, be a noble heroic person. Just like me. Something we shared in common. He was somewhere in the middle of the learning curve that I just described when God decided to complete the work and take him home. I don't know why. I can't fathom why I am still here trying to figure it out and his race is done.
Back to Grandma Birthday's prayer, because that is how I think of the Serenity Prayer in my brain, I remembered those curly calligraphied words on her wall. And I prayed them for myself today. Bryan doesn't need me to pray for him anymore. I don't have to try to convince or explain these thoughts to him to be understood. He gets it all. Where once he saw in part like I am left to do today, he sees completely now. I envy Bryan. So I seek the Lord to help be peaceful in the face of things beyond my control: my 6 feet tall Amazon stature, an aversion to olives, my children's inability to hang up their towels after showering, my brother's death (you didn't expect me to be THAT vulnerable, did you?). I pray today for courage, His strength, to do hard things, even when I don't really want to. And God help me with a healthy dose of wisdom today as I try and figure out which is which.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I'm not sure what happened to this pic? But check out the funny faces!

Uncle B & Reilly Lee Montage
My firstborn is away from home for the very first time in her young life. Besides grandparent's houses, Reilly has never even been to a sleepover. My parents took her to the Hawaiian Islands for a weeklong visit with my father's family there. My sweet girl was elated and excited. Her grin made her face glow for days as she anticipated all the hype: her daddy has always wanted to go so Reilly has heard about what he would do in Maui for years. Reilly barely slept her last night home and couldn't even eat breakfast yesterday because of her "excited belly"--her name for the butterflies she gets before thrilling events. My little miss is blossoming right before my very eyes. At times the only word that I can use to describe her is "radiant" especially when she dances. Her daddy and I are so proud of the lovely young lady she is becoming. She is our pride and our joy--to steal a cliche. My heart is nearly bursting with expectation and anticipation when I think ahead to her bright future.
This trip was a treat, a reward for all the growth we have witnessed in her this last year. Plus my daddy is a softy and since she had such a hard year with medical issues, he wanted to pamper her. The right of the first born. I used to be his little darling! I have been usurped. No longer the apple of his eye. And that is perfectly alright with me. Though I do wish I were with them in Maui right now :)
Here is the sappy part--you knew it was coming. Bryan will not be here to watch her grow in beauty and grace. That nearly breaks my heart. He adored her. The right of the first born again. They shared a very special bond. She wasn't nicknamed smiley Reilly for nothing. And she reserved so many of her best smiles for Uncle B. Even though she is quiet with her grief, not demonstrative and open like Kate and me, Reilly misses him greatly. So I rejoice that she is enjoying herself today. Momma misses you, my honey bee, my sweet pea (just in case she reads this!). I miss you too Bryan.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


So weird. I logged on to write my blog today just after searching for a sample of the new U2 CD "No Line on the Horizon". I have been wanting to check it out. No luck.Then I signed in here and who should be blaring on this very site but U2--singing their "Beautiful Day"? Close enough. It's a U2 day. Although I never remember my brother being especially fond of U2?
That is the weird thing about a one-side storytelling attempt like this blog. Bryan is not here to round out my stories, to share his perspective, to add what I overlooked or left out, to correct me. I am trying to tell his story. But I can not truly accomplishing that. I have been kinda struggling with that this week. I do have many more stories to share but when I try and share something that captures the essence or just really "shows" Bryan, I am at a loss. I can't do it. I am not him. I can't give the motivation or feeling for why he was who he was or did what he did. I can only give you my view of it. I can only offer bits and pieces of my collage of memories of my brother. I can't make you "see" him or enjoy him or understand him if you didn't know him while he breathed. I won't be able to do that, no matter how hard I try, even for my sweet Peter boy. He will grow up "knowing" the Uncle B I created here. So I feel like this is all a little bit foolish and mundane and useless today. This blog will never be able to do what I set out to do with it.
I tried to remember Easters in the Klungreseter household. I am so scatterbrained and forgetful. I feel like someone snatched a good portion of my cerebrum while I slept last night. My mind is just not what it used to be. I can't conjure up one Easter tradition or morning memory with of my brother when we were little. We did not celebrate Easter together as adults as he usually worked and we usually attended a Resurrection Celebration so I could not even use a more recent story. As I was reading some other blogs I follow and enjoying their offerings of Easter photos and memories, I felt sorry for myself. I can't remember any Easter stories with Bryan.
He would chime in with, "No way sister! Don't you remember that time when..." if he were here to tell his own stories. He had a seemingly endless supply of memory on his hard drive. Wish you were here Bryan to be my storyteller. You are so much better at it than me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Yesterday I was scurrying around trying to get my act together so that we would be on time for baseball. Bob helps coach the boys and I decided at the last minute to get a pick-up game of softball going for the girls. I needed some bases, an extra bat and a glove. I couldn't find mine for my life. Then I remembered that my brother "borrowed" my first baseman's glove. The one my daddy bought me special when I was a high schooler. Since it was not in Bryan's stuff, I am aware that it is gone for good. And it only made me chuckle.

Growing up, Bryan and I had a on-going battle of "borrowing". Okay, it was mostly me borrowing his stuff. I need to confess that at the onset. Especially since my dad has finally figured out how to add his comments to this blog. Keeping me honest :) Anyway, I took Bryan's clothes without asking all through high school. This was the '80s--so cut me some slack. Cut-off sweats and flojos were in style. Besides, form-fitting clothes weren't as trendy as they are now--so I liked his baggy stuff. Even my girlfriends got in on the deal. Once, Bryan recognized one of his sweatshirts on my pal Terri. Boy was I busted when my mom found out. I tormented her by "borrowing" all her stuff with out asking too. So she and Bryan were on the same team--pitted against me.

But you know what they say about payback? My mom spends an unconscionable amount of time grinning when she hears me say things like, "Kate! Bring me my brush RIGHT NOW!". And, "Kate, I need one chapstick and I just bought five. Get me one NOW!" Or, "KATE! Where are my shoes. You don't even where my size yet!". So mom is vindicated. And Bryan is getting the last laugh. I had to use one of my kid's gloves at softball yesterday.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Mouse and His Boy

Alright, enough preaching already. I will get off my soapbox and get back to some funny Bryan stories. No apologies though; I can't help myself when I remember that tomorrow isn't promised to any one of us. I just wanted to make sure we all know that Jesus saves. Easter does that to me.

Okay, so we have lately had some issues with rodents around here in the Fitzpatrick home. First, an infestation of little mice. Bob went to work with dozens of tiny traps and laffy taffy. I think we caught ten the first two nights. Then a discovery of great big rats in the garage and shed and junipers caused him to put a few huge well-placed rat traps around the outside perimeter. Disgusting. Rodents gross me out. They freak me out too, if the truth must be told. I wake up in the middle of the night fearing one has eaten a way through my ceiling (they were in the attic) and is peering down at me with its hungry beady eyes. EEWWWW! I am ready to bring in the professionals but I must let my man be our fierce protector.

When I was a kid, Bryan was the rodent specialist. I told you about the mouse he shot clean through in the bathroom while protecting the women and children in the house. Okay, just me. He was only saving me. And then there were the squirrels outside my parents window. He was annoyed by their terrible chirping, could never figure out where the sound came from. When he finally surmised that it was the squirrels who had built a condominium complex in our back slope, he set up shop in the laundry room with his BB gun again. He began his systematic extermination of the critters. No more early morning alarm clocks from non-rent paying squirrels. Rodents. Disgusting.

One spring he was in charge of mouse trap patrol. He set them up and cleaned them out. Not a job for the faint of heart. Bryan carried out his duties with determination and valor. And then he went to check on a trap that had just went off. He found a tiny little mouse struggling and writhing in pain. The peanut butter untasted. Bryan went all sappy. He freed the mouse. Made a little shoebox hospital for it. Ministered to its medical needs as best as an untrained teenaged boy could. Even placed some water and a bit of cheese beside its injured body. He intended to care for it until it made its recovery.
My mom put an abrupt end to those delusions. "Get that thing out of my house Bryan." Out it went, into the cold dark night. I almost get choked up when I think about it.

Bryan was distraught about a disgusting little rodent. When he woke in the morning, his first thoughts were for that hapless mouse. He ran out to see how it had fared and found it dead and cold. He cried. I am not joking. My big brave brother cried. For a mouse that died in one of the traps he set for it. Bryan gave it a proper burial. I think he mourned its death--he felt the weight of his guilt. It was really very sweet. If it weren't so funny. He was so mad at me for laughing. I was a cold-hearted human.

Bryan was not. He was one of the most tender-hearted people I know. He had the gift of mercy. He was always especially moved by the plight of the down and out and the down-trodden. I witnessed him go out of his way to help folks in hard circumstances over and over again. I will save those stories for another time. Today's story shows how even the animal kingdom benefited from Bryan's merciful heart. And so did I. Though I still insist the mice and rats stay OUTSIDE my home.
Matthew 5:7

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Good" Friday

Easter is my favorite time of year. Bryan and I differed in almost every way, didn't we? He was a Christmas kinda guy--the whole month of festivities and tradition. I am a Holy Week kinda gal--the entire week of pondering what Christ accomplished for me on the Cross. I love Spring and green grass and renewal and second chances.
I am not sure I am even allowed to do what I am about to do, but I am going to anyway. I know I could just give you the website here and tell you to read it, but if you are like me, you won't make the extra effort. So on this, the day my Savior died, Good Friday, I am printing my favorite blogger's ponderings here. Her words are so good and I could never say it better. If I tried, I would only be plagiarizing hers and I would not capture the essence of her lovely words anyway. It is a bit lengthy but worth persevering to the end.
The reason I am posting this on Bryan's Memorial blog is that if he were alive today, I would have sent this to him. Even though I knew he did not read his emails regularly, I still would have sent this to my brother. Despite it being written by a woman to her women friends--you can make the connection. So today I am sending it to you instead.
Today is only "good" because of what happened on Sunday so long ago.
"It's Good Friday. I tend to have lots of heavy thoughts around this day every year. I do love Christmas so very much but I am far more moved by the season of reflection on the Cross of Christ and the celebration of our only true hope: His glorious resurrection. We are obviously so much surer of the timing of His Passion than we are His birth. We really can say, "Approximately this many years ago, this happened right around this exact time." Anniversaries are a powerful thing.
Yesterday I served at the memorial service of a fellow servant of Christ. She was just a few years older than me and her children, both boys, are the same ages of my girls. Belinda and I don't really have a family history together, though. We have a shared history of faith. Years ago, I suppose somewhere around 1990, I started teaching my first ungraded women's Sunday School class. (skipped a paragraph on purpose--sorry Beth)
But back to Belinda. Early on in our class, this darling, petite blond (bleached, liked yours truly) entered our ranks with a personality that stole the hearts of every person in the class. Or, then again, it was her story that stole our hearts. She became quite a center of attention because she'd battled breast cancer several years before and it had come back with a vengeance. By the time I got to know Belinda, the doctors had told her that cancer had spread to her bones all the way from her skull to her knees. She was covered. Almost hopeless. Only that wild woman absolutely refused to give up. Her boys were still young and she intended to see them to manhood.
I have no idea why things work the way they do. I've seen mothers just as determined to raise their children yet die of cancer in only a few months. These things are only for the fathomless mind of God. We can't figure them out for the life of us. But if I were to offer a little conjecture, with His permission and patience, I'd tell you that maybe He gave Belinda those extra years (somewhat like Hezekiah) so that she could teach a tight-knit group of women how to put their faith where their big mouths were. She sought the Lord for Scriptures then told us what to pray for her and how to pray and that, if we were going to doubt, not to bother. And all of this in the most winsome way. She had the cutest personality ever. Several in our class nicknamed her Bubbles. I never could bring myself to do it. Too cool, maybe. But I tell you what I did call her. I called her a warrior. As I told them yesterday, I have never known a more courageous woman in all my life.
Some years later, I was asked to move to a different Sunday school hour to teach and I left my beloved Dayspring Class to the plans God had for them. Most of those women stayed intact and still study and worship together today. Belinda came to my new class many times but it was so large that it did not lend itself to the closeness we'd all enjoyed before. By this time, we no longer had the same need to pray for Belinda anyway. She was thriving. God had indeed given her what she'd so vehemently asked. There were others who moved to the top of our prayer lists.
Then about six months ago, at a Tuesday night Bible study, I saw Belinda at the altar weeping during praise and worship. (Our worship time is also an open-altar time and it is very, very special.) I went to her with haste and she looked up at me with an expression I'll never forget. "Beth, it's back. And if the Lord doesn't heal me, I'm going to die."I felt it in my gut. I knew this time He was going to take her Home. That somehow her job was done. Though her assignment was undoubtedly much broader than this, God had used her to teach a group of women (of all ages, praise His Name!) how to pray with wild faith. Our lives had been changed forever. We'd seen first hand a little of what God could do.
Yesterday morning I grabbed my Bible, my black purse, and a prayer journal from 1994 that I'd taped a precious blonde woman's picture on and headed to my church. We celebrated Belinda Edgerton's life in a chapel packed full of people from all dimensions of her life. She'd made a mark on everybody from her coworkers at Shell Oil to her neighbors right there on her cul-de-sac. As I reflected on her life and thought about what I wanted to share, God brought the woman out of Luke 8 to my mind who pressed through the crowd to get to Jesus.
She reached through the push-and-shove of public spectacle with the purity and simplicity of desperation. She somehow latched on to the hem of His garment and, let this fall afresh, she was healed. We don't hear any more about that woman. Lord have mercy, she must have told her story a jillion times to anybody who would listen. But somewhere over there in Israel, her body has turned to ashes just like all her friends. It occurred to me that, while we are here on earth in these flesh-and-blood mortal bodies, all we can hope for is a hem of healing. Even if Belinda had been completely healed of her cancer, she would still have gotten sinus infections, stomach viruses, bad knees, and, one day, her sons still would have gone to her funeral. She just might have been a tad older.
These bodies of ours are fashioned for a flash of time on this planet. God has healed all of us of many things but, in His great purposes, we can only grab the hem. Even a miracle of instant restoration from a terminal disease is still just a hem of healing. One day we will trade the hem for the real Him. No more pressing through the crowd wondering if we're going to be among the few that see that kind of miracle. We will see Him. Jesus Christ, the risen King. We won't just touch the edge of His cloak. We will touch the God-man Himself in His spectacular immortal body but, significantly, one still bearing the scars of His visitation here. His wholeness is so utterly complete and infinitely perfect that we, upon the very sight of Him, will be made whole as well.
This, Beloved, is what we live for. Not for just another day here. But for that very day there.
Several months ago, Melissa had insisted upon going with me to have a dye test to follow up a suspicious mammogram. (No rumors please. I do not have breast cancer. Because my mother died with it, however, I never get the luxury of drama-less annual check-ups.) We were sitting in the waiting room and a rack was within arms reach offering all manner of brochure on various cancers. Melissa took one out after another and glanced over them, shaking her head.
She looked up at me with that classic expression of hers and said, "Life is brutal, man."
I nodded.
We both sat silently for just a moment.
Then she said one of the most profound things I've ever heard."He knows it's scary to be us."Yes, He does.
Yes, He does. He does NOT take the fact lightly that we go through medical tests to see if we have a raging cancer. He does NOT take lightly that some of you are secretly fearing that the monster has come back. He does NOT take lightly that some of you are going through the cancer treatments of your own children. I had to pause and put my hand over my mouth on that one.
Holding back the tears. Son of David, have mercy on us! You know it's scary to be us! It's almost too much here, Lord. It's almost too much.
And the thunder crashes in the heavens and the earth grows dark in the middle of the afternoon and a man, beaten to a bloody pulp, cries from a cross between two thieves, "It is finished!"And death is overcome.
One day, Sweet Darling. ONE DAY. We will trade that hem for the real Him and there will be no more sickness.
No more death.
No more sadness.
We will all be healed.
Bliss.BLISS. "

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Etiquette Bloopers

Kate took a second helping of my mom's potato salad tonight at dinner. Before she put the serving spoon back into the bowl, she licked it. Who taught that girl her manners? Her display of refinement commenced a conversation on things that grossed Bryan out. I must say that I really didn't want to have this discussion in front of my children. They did not need any new material or helpful hints on how to aggravate their siblings.
To my shame, I was the main thing that annoyed my brother. And my parents and my aunt told my kids all my tricks! As a girl, I had an entire arsenal of tactics meant to irritate and incense him. I was single-minded and ruthless. My mom used the word "mean". Just what this mother wants her impressionable children to discover about the lady who is always telling them to be kind and loving to each other.
Over dinner, my parents revealed that I used to lick the peanut butter knife and stick it back in the goober grape jar. I used to lick my spoon before helping myself to another spoonful of sugar on my wheaties. I used to slurp and suck and smack my lips until Bryan could contain his temper no more--his would release his frenzy and fury upon me just as my mom walked into the room. All perfectly timed on my part to incur the most wrath upon my brother. What a nice girl. And I am confounded by my children's antics sometimes?
I cringe to think what harvest this little "blast from the past" will reap in my life. I am almost afraid to hear them practicing the new material my family furnished for their attentive little ears tonight. I am truly remorseful for my despicable behavior. And so you can rest easy (and me too), I know I told my brother I was sorry for my childhood abuse. There is hope for Kate after all.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

Today is my very first birthday ever without Bryan calling or coming in person to wish me a Happy Day. I am sad. I held my sobbing daughter in my arms as she wept for her Uncle B. I joined her. My heart just hurts. I know that this is America and we are strong and I should be 'moving on' but I miss my brother.

I found the birthday card he gave me last year. I can hardly express what it feels like to see his handwriting, to read his words to me. I miss my brother.


I wish

our lives weren't so hectic.

I wish

we could find a way to talk, to visit, and spend more time together.

I wish

that days weren't quite so busy,

and that weeks passed less quickly,

and there were more days like today-

just for celebrating you...

I hope you always know how much you mean to me,

and what a wonderful sister you are.

Happy Birthday With Love

"Sister, it has been a rough year or two, but with your love and support I feel like I CAN get better! I love you! Love, Bryan"

I can hardly type for the tears but I want to say this. I have many regrets about what I did and did not do for my brother in the last days of his life. I feel a very heavy burden some days from the sadness of not having been beside him, holding his hand, and whispering my love to him as he was dying. I am so very sad that I did not have that opportunity, that I did not MAKE that opportunity. But then I remember this: nothing could have kept my God from having me at my brother's side if I had been meant to be there. The Lord would have moved Heaven and Earth to make a way--if I was what Bryan needed. But I was not what Bryan needed. If I could have given him what he needed, my Good God would have made it so that I was with Bryan in the end. But I do not possess, could not give him what he needed in his last moments. Only Jesus could. And He was there. Because He promises His kids that He will never leave or forsake them. Bryan was not alone in his last moments.

And I am not alone in this dark moment. I have His Word. My husband brought me flowers (Bryan usually did) and my kids made me breakfast in bed. I am loved. I am blessed. But I still miss my only brother real badly today.

Just after he left rehab, Bryan started a habit where he read a Psalm and a Proverb for each day of the month. I am not sure he continued it. But I did. And today I read Psalm 6. It was written by a man who was acquainted with grief and anguish. Even though it is not a happy, feel-good song, it helps me to remember that these emotions I am feeling are not new. Others, much more Godly than I, have had weak eyes from their sorrow. "You can't see anything properly when your eyes are blurred with tears." CS Lewis. It is okay to miss him. I trust in the God who saves. I believe in Him and His love even when I can't see what He is doing.

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you." CS Lewis in A Grief Observed

I read Lewis' words like a famished woman this week. Though I was hardly hungry on a cruise! But I was trying to understand for myself how I felt. So that one day, I would be able to comfort others with the comfort I had been given during this grief. I was trying to understand where I was in this whole grief process/program. CS Lewis wrote these word right after his wife's death. I know my circumstances aren't as trying, but his words resonated with me:

"For me at any rate the program is plain, I will turn to (him) as often as possible in gladness. I will even salute (him) with a laugh. The less I mourn (him) the nearer I seem to (him). An admirable program. Unfortunately it can't be carried out. Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again: the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare unreality, the wallowed-in tears. For in grief nothing 'stays put'. One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles , or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often-will it be for always?-how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, 'I never realized my loss till this moment'?"

I am going round and round tonight. But I am not alone. Neither was my brother on his dark night. And in case you are thinking to yourself, "What kind of strong and good God let Bryan die?" Remember this, he is not truly dead. He lives eternally, without a tear or any shame or sadness in Heaven completely healed in a reality that I can't even pretend to fathom.

WARNING! Tissues Required-Video Slideshow of Bryan's Life-Sorry the music was muted!