Tuesday, June 30, 2009


If you stick with me, I will eventually come to my point. This is Bryan's story, honest.

I am in a book club with a few of my girlfriends. This summer we read Seabiscuit. I enjoyed it. To follow up my reading satisfaction, I checked out the PBS documentary on the famous Horse of the Year from 1938. It really is an amazing underdog (or underhorse?) story. Lastly, I rented the Hollywood version of the story with Toby McGuire. All three of narrative perspectives: the journalist/author who shared fascinating tidbits about the life of jockeys and our culture during the Depression in her novel, the documentary facts and and archived pictures added dimension to her words, and finally the melodramatic license used by the directors tugged on my heartstrings in the academy winning movie. I feel like I am an expert on all things horse racing right now.

But to be honest, I would not have read the book unless I had to. I am not a natural animal person. Some people are dog people, some folks love tennis, others are gourmet cooks, I love people. So I don't usually chose books about animals. But I had to for the book club. Anyway, how does all that relate to Bryan? Be patient, I'm getting there.

Bryan loved underdog stories. And the story of the broken horse and his broken jockey making a remarkable comeback fits the bill for an amazing down-and-out tale with a triumphant ending. Incredible courage and tenacity against great odds. Bryan read the book when it came out in 2001. It was a sports book. It won rave reviews. Bryan was an avid reader. He had the movie in his collection. I know he liked it. He told my parents to go see it. So last night when I was watching the movie, and the actor playing Tom Smith, Seabiscuit's quiet and reticent trainer, said his line: "You don't throw a whole life away just cause he's banged up a little. " I immediately thought of Bryan. And Daisy.

We used to have a kitty named Daisy. Actually, when we were newly married, we practiced our parenting on our two cats, Baxter and Daisy. Baxter was neurotic (thank goodness I practiced on a cat first!) but Daisy was sweet and snugly. She was a gentle lap cat. Right before we moved into our first home, Baxter ran away and sad Daisy was left to mourn the loss of her companion. Awwww! We proceeded to have babies three and four within months of moving in and I confess that I was overwhelmed. Four kids, all three years old and under. And a depressed, needy cat.

Bryan to the rescue! He took our sad cat and spoiled her rotten. I mean it. His girlfriend and he overfed her, gave her Evian water, and spent hundreds of dollars for her at the vet. Daisy cat loved to sleep on my brother's back. Bryan liked her quiet, comforting companionship.

At the end of his life, Bryan faced hard times. Hard choices. One of them was about Daisy. He was trying to get a new roommate and not everyone wants to live with a shedding, snuggle cat. A sick cat, at that. Daisy had tummy troubles. She vomited several times a day. Medication hadn't helped her. First Bryan called me and asked me to ask any and all of my friends if they wanted a cat. A quiet, cuddly cat. Who vomits regularly. No takers. Then he called again and asked if we would take her back. "No way Bryan!" was my incredulous and emphatic answer. "You are going to have to decide what to do with her, little Brother. Be a man. Either take her in an put her down since she is so much trouble. Or find a new home for her." That was my ungracious and unmerciful response. I am ashamed to admit it here. But I need to tell this story. It is cathartic.

Bryan started crying. He refused to even consider ending the life of a cat who had been his comfort through so much. Just because she was banged up a little. I didn't understand then that he was in despair and was struggling just to stay above water in the ocean of troubles that was overtaking him. He was tormented. But I didn't understand that then.

Bryan WAS a man. One of the BEST men I know. He wasn't complaining or seeking my pity for the difficult consequences he was facing. He just wanted me to help him. And I told him to be a man. It is one of the greatest regrets of my life. This conversation that I had with him. Oh to be able to take all the words back and do it all over again. Right. With wisdom, knowing what I know now. I thought I was giving him tough-love. I believed that I was avoiding enabling him by bailing him out of his self-made troubles. He was fierce in his proteciton on Daisy. What Bryan was doing, what he was showing me, was his heart. His broken, overwhelmed, desperate heart. And I missed it. Completely. And there is no way to go back. So I am writing this as a reminder to myself that things aren't always what they seem. And you can never fault with too much love, too much grace, too much mercy. I don't think you can ever have TOO much of those things. To turn back time, and take it all back. But I will press on towards the finish line in my race and learn from my mistakes. Maybe you will too.

When I think about it tonight, it makes me so sad. It almost makes me physically ill. He was being a man. A better person than I ever could be. He knew that you don't throw in the towel on others just because things get tough. I didn't understand that he identified with Daisy. They were both broken and banged up. They needed someone to help them. Bryan instinctively fought to protect Daisy, even if keeping her didn't make sense or wasn't practical. He was so loyal like that.

Daisy lives in Carlsbad with Bryan's very good friends Gary and Carrie. I am so grateful that Bryan didn't give up on her even though she was banged up a little.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An American Rite of Passage:Prom and other silly things

Homecoming 1989-Bryan, Mom, Me
One bathroom-Two kids trying to get ready for the same dance!

Bryan and a date whose name I don't even remember. Notice the year?
I only point it out since there were different girls for most dances.

Sadie Hawkins Dance
Bryan and Salina
Spring 1990

Same Year-Senior Prom-Different Gal
Bryan and his senior year sweetie Salina

Even though Bryan's Memorial Service is a blur, one thing stands out in my memory. Salina was there. I hadn't seen her since 1991 when their high school romance fizzled. But she came to remember my brother. She brought with her special mementos that I had never seen. She had saved them for all these years. And Salina gave them to my parents. Articles from the North County Times with Bryan in the pictures. His senior practice jersey for football. Photos. Herself. Her sobbing self. It moved me more than anything else that I remember from that day. There were other girlfriends there. Ones he dated for much longer. But Salina came. I was moved by that.

I guess it just make me think of how many lives he had touched in his thirty-six short years. He had many girlfriends over the years. I didn't meet them all. I can't even remember some of their names. I think I didn't even bother to forge a friendship with Salina because I assumed their relationship would be passing. But it left an indelible mark on her. And she came. And I regret that I didn't get to know her way back then: she was a sweet girl. I am so glad she came. And if you are reading this: "Salina, thanks for giving my brother happy memories and good times. And thanks for honoring those times by coming to his Memorial and giving my parents the tokens you lovingly shared. I am so grateful to you. You are kind"

Now on to some ridicule. I meant to post these in May when Prom was going on around here. Since Bob is a high school teacher, we get to experience some of the springtime hoopla, second-hand at least. And one of my friend's daughter went this year and there were pictures. It all made me feel old. I am getting ready to go to my 20 Year High School Reunion at the end of this month! YIKES! It has been ages since Bryan and I fought over our tiny shared bathroom for pre-prom primping. My mom used to always say that Bryan spent more time in front of the mirror than me. Check out the spiky hairdo on that guy! I'm telling you! It took A LOT of work AND Aquanet to achieve that look. And I remember pouting because my mom spent more on Bryan's duds than mine (she will object to this statement!). Corsages, Photos Opps, dinner reservations, what a racket! How did she endure Homecoming, Winter Ball, Sadie's, Prom EVERY YEAR for BOTH of us for five years--no six years!?! Because Bryan was still dating Salina the year after he graduated and he returned to EHS for his younger date's dances! Oh NO! Then he dated sweet Stefani who was younger still and he went to all those dances for her senior year! That's gotta be some kinda record! Seven years of that silliness.
WOW! What a mom! I salute you Momma! WHEW! You deserve a medal! I feel jittery just thinking about it. And since I have four kids who are three and a half years apart--I am getting queasy. I am not even gonna go there! I am NOT thinking about THAT today.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Six Months and Counting

I guess I was foolishly thinking that I would be healed or better or this would all be easier by this time--six months. It's not. I still think about Bryan everyday. The loss washes over me at random (and inconvenient times). I feel that aching hurt deep down inside of me and I wonder if it will ever go away.

I was at my friend's daughter's graduation and I cried because it hit me that my brother won't be there when Reilly graduates from high school. Her biggest fan won't be there to make it an incredible night. My brother's cousin is graduating on Tuesday and I lamented that Bryan wouldn't be there to tell Justin how proud he is of him. And then there are the Wednesday night family nights at my parents--it is not the same without him. Mom's macaroni and cheese casseroles make me nostalgic for our childhood. I could go on and on. I just miss him and I feel sorry for myself. And even crying doesn't make it feel better. Nothing does, some days.

Then I am reminded that Bryan is not wishing he were here. Bryan is in heaven, where there are no tears or pain or suffering. I don't think he would come back to this side even if he was offered the chance. Not even to share in these special milestones that are so painful for us without him here this first year. I am not sad for him anymore. His death, the despair in his last days, that was all fleeting. I believe Bryan is experiencing life as he was made for it. Glorifying God. For eternity. When my perspective is shifted off myself, I see his gain and not my loss. To live is Christ, to die is gain. I never understood that truth before. I am beginning to. Slowly. As time is healing my broken heart. I am not sure I will ever understand completely, all the suffering and sadness involved with losing my brother, my good friend. But on this, the six month since he left this earth, I am glad for him.

But I do wish I still wasn't so sad for me and my momma and my daddy. And every one of you who still smiles (or cries) when you think of his witty humor or generous ways. Or a glimpse of his big cheesy grin flashes before your eyes. For all of us, I am so sorry. But not for Bryan. I am truly glad for him.

I miss you Bryan. I miss your hugs. I miss seeing our mom's smile of pride when you walk in the room, gearing up for a good laugh. I miss hearing daddy talk sports over the phone with you. The Lakers wiped out the Magic and he only had Bob to share it with. My kids miss your face. I just ache for missing you. Maybe in six more months it won't still hurt as bad?

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