19 January 2023

My Brother, My Greatest Teacher

When I was asked to write something in remembrance for my brother, I immediately agreed. 

How hard, I thought, can it possibly be to stand up and say a bunch of great things about one of the best men I’ve ever known? As it turns out the words big enough, important enough or profound enough do not exist to express the love and respect I have for Jason. 

Jason was my big brother. He was my protector, occasional tormentor and possibly the world’s worst babysitter; but most of all, he was my greatest teacher. 

He taught me how to count change when I got my very first job. 

He taught me all the things about guns and how to sharpen a knife in theory if not practice. 

He taught me the meaning of “stewardess” as it applies to drilling holes. 

He sometimes showed me how not to speak to customers when we worked together at Blythe’s. 

He taught me that you can’t limp wrist a revolver. 

On occasion, he would hog tie me with zip ties and leave me alone to figure out how to escape. And so I learned not to be frightened by any potential kidnappers, unless they happened to be carrying real handcuffs rather than zip ties. 

He taught me dozens of ways to take guns away from bad guys while we drank in his kitchen.

He probably taught me a million other small things, but then Jason also taught me the really big things, the ones that end up shaping the person you become. 

He taught me work ethic; to take pride in any task I was doing, even if I was just taking out the trash. He tried to teach me the importance of punctuality. 

I’m quite certain that most of the lessons I learned from Jason weren’t intentionally taught. Throughout my life, he demonstrated that morals are not adjustable or negotiable. He taught me integrity, loyalty, decency and empathy. He showed me that personal feelings aside, to ridicule or humiliate another human being is simply not done; that to stand silently by while others do so is equally unacceptable, and I learned that every human being is deserving of respect and consideration.

During those years that we worked together at Blythe’s, Jason would often speak of our boss in a way that made his respect and admiration for Les evident. And although it was never a conscious thought, I came to realize that I wanted to be the kind of person that my brother would hold in such high regard. In that way, then, Jason taught me to be a better person.

He showed me what friendship should look like; the love that can exist between men, unrelated but recognized as brothers.

Somehow Jason was able to teach me that love can be unconditional, and more importantly that I deserved it. 

We had our moments, our arguments, our knock-down, drag-out actual wars every time my parents went to the grocery store… and there were times he let me know he didn’t agree with my choices, my lifestyle, that he didn’t like my decisions and at times didn’t actually like me. 

Yet I was blessed with the knowledge that nothing I did could ever make him love me less. Which even as a parent isn’t an easy thing to instill, especially in teenage girls, so the fact he was able to do so as a young man is pretty astounding.

Towards the end of his life Jason showed me what it means to truly be a warrior. When he was first diagnosed, when that doctor walked in and said the words “stage four” my heart hit the bottom of my feet. I knew he’s just handed my brother a death sentence. Jason’s response was to simply say, “Well, okay. How do we get rid of it? Let’s kill this thing.” And from that moment until his very last breath, he fought like hell. 

You’ll hear sometimes after a person has died that they’ve “lost their battle with cancer.” 

Jason never did. 

Cancer may have killed him, but not for one single moment did it ever beat him. Even though there must have been times he was scared and in so much pain, he never considered giving up.  

Throughout the entire fight, he never expressed any type of self-pity. He never asked, “why me?” and even though the rest of us said it, over and over again, “this just isn’t fair” there wasn’t a single instance that he even agreed aloud. 

I’m afraid I didn’t offer much in exchange, although I did have the occasion to teach him why we never drink tequila purchased from a clearance section of the liquor store.

The character of a man can be measured not only in the way he treats others, but perhaps more so in the way he is regarded by the people in his life. 

My brother was a man who inspired I don’t know how many people to make a trip to my parents’ home during those last few days to squeeze his hand, give him one last hug or a kiss on the cheek; to say goodbye and to let him know that he was loved.

Jason brought dozens of men and women together, to sit, stand, hold his hands, share stories and memories and to ultimately watch over him and wait; no matter how painful we found it; so that my brother, when he left this world, did not leave alone.

He was a man who inspired people to call from places all across the country that last day, so they could tell him they were honored to have known him, and to wish him an easy rest. 

The men that he called brothers made sure that as he left this world for the next, he did so with dignity.

He was a man whose friend’s stayed, hours after he’d died, to help find, count, unload and catalog all of his weapons. Without them we’d still be finding pistols tucked into weird places.

Men who were strangers to us drove from I don’t know how far or from where to help our family navigate our fog of grief and determine which heavy things they needed to help us move. I suppose it was their way of paying respect, or honoring his memory, but ultimately, whatever the term used, it was love. 

There hasn’t been a single day since Jason died that I haven’t felt the pain of his absence. The hold he left in our hearts can never be filled. But I find comfort in the knowledge that as Jason died, he did so with the assurance that every single moment he spent here with us was well-lived and so , so incredibly well-loved.

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that you found the right words to honor Jason. Now I really wish I had met him. It is evident from your eulogy that wherever he is on the other side, it is a better place.