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.