It is Saturday morning – 48 hours removed from the news of my brother’s unexpected death. I would like to begin by saying thank-you to all who have offered, and continue to offer, prayers and condolences to both myself, and the entire family. Your kindness and support has been both encouraging and strengthening for all of us. When I get the opportunity, I will attempt to call each of you and personally thank you for your many kindnesses. Please know that you are loved and much appreciated.
A Long Day
Yesterday was another long and grueling day. I drove my wife and parent’s up to my brother’s Condo in Chatsworth. We arrived there at around noon where we met up with my nephew, Michael, his wife, Heather, and my great-nephew, Albert (who is the spitting-image of my brother – his grandpa). Tears flowed as Michael and I held each other in a long embrace. So much was said though nothing was spoken during that lengthy hug.
It’s hard to believe that my nephew – my brother’s youngest -- is 33 years old. Understandably, he is taking the death of his father extremely hard. As we were talking, he stated that down deep in his heart, he always knew that one day he would be the one to find his father dead. That inner thought that he carried became an unfortunate reality that has left him – and the family – shaken.
We believe that Mike had a heart attack and died instantly as he was on his computer. After all our calls and attempts to locate Mike, my nephew drove down to his home. He said he was crying as he drove, knowing on the inside that it would not be good. He found his father on the floor in the computer room. Sadly, he had been there for several days. It was a horrible scene for my nephew –or anyone, for that matter -- to have to experience.
Nearly five years ago, my brother went into the hospital for open-heart surgery. The only reason the family found out about it was that the hospital called his closest relatives to make post-surgery arrangements. He hadn’t let anyone know that he was going to have heart surgery. That was typical Mike. He was a character. He did his own thing and marched to the beat of a different drummer. He was a bit of a social misfit, independent and reclusive. So not having any contact with him for an extended period of time was not out of the norm, it was actually par for the course.
I think that Mike didn't quite know where he fit at times -- especially when it came to our family. He enjoyed open space, whether it was the wide expanse of the ocean, the bigness of the desert wilderness, the grandeur of the mountains, or even the openness of the internet -- it was open space and he fit there.
Needles in a Haystack
We assisted my nephew going through my brother’s house to find financial documents, insurance papers, and personal effects that he needs for legal purposes being the next of kin. We also wanted to assist him with any funeral arrangements, etc. As you can imagine, it was quite difficult just to go into his house, even with odor neutralizer. Yet, with tears in our eyes and sadness in our hearts, we spent hours going through his house sifting through cabinets, drawers, closets, boxes, papers, junk and a whole lot of memories.
A Bigger Picture
Upon returning home last night, we all were exhausted. Not physically, for that was the easiest part. The day left us mentally and emotionally spent. Throughout the day, we had experienced highs and lows, tears and laughter. Yet out of the bad and ugly came something good. It was a silver lining. A positive opportunity arrived in the midst of a negative scenario. We were able to reconnect with family that had previously been disconnected – family that is wanted, family that is needed and family that is loved.
Last weekend, Tara had the Disney animated movie “Lilo & Stitch” playing on the big screen for my great-niece, Bella. I walked in on the ending in which Lilo says, "Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind." That line has been reverberating in me ever since. That is what this is all about. That is the bigger picture. Bigger than me, my siblings, or my parents. It truly is all about family... and no one should get left behind -- in any sense of the word.