One of the side effects of being born to older parents is the fact that my only brother was almost 19 years older than I am. My mother had him by a previous marriage, but when she was pregnant with me, she and our father decided that he should have our surname so my dad adopted him. I was probably 12 years old before I learned all this.

That he was technically a half brother meant absolutely nothing as far as I was concerned, and my father felt the same way. His relationship with my father and I was every bit as strong as if he was my twin! I pretty much thought the sun rose and set in the palm of his hand. And he worshipped the ground my father walked on.

My brother’s first name was James, but when he was born it had been a difficult birth for both mother and child and he looked pretty bruised up. The nurse commented that he looked like he’d had to fight to get born and she pronounced him “a little Tuffy”. The name stuck – even if he personally hated it. Try as he might, everyone in the family knew him as Tuffy; everybody except me! I called him brother, and he called me “son”. Non-family members knew him as Jim.

The degree of mentoring and oversight I got from him was very akin to that given by a parent. He was involved in my life far more than your typical Big Brother. When I was preparing to join the Marines at the tender age of 17 – I discussed it with Brother first. When I decided I was going to marry the girl I was dating, I talked it over with Brother. Every major decision of my life, I ran it by him. In all things he was counselor, mentor, teacher, coach, confidante, and best friend.

For the last 48 years, except for the months I spent in boot camp or overseas, I talked to him by phone or email nearly every single day. There was one time in 1978 that he and I argued over something, and I didn’t speak to him for about a day. And then about two weeks ago he and I had some harsh words in an exchange of emails. Something I said must have really cut to the quick because he stopped taking my calls and refused to answer my emails. With him being in poor health I fretted that something bad might happen while we were feuding, and …well… it did.

Last week he had a lady friend from Canada visiting with him for a few days. He was adamant that no one else answer his phone if it rang, and so she was surprised Thursday morning around 9:45 when the phone rang and he didn’t pick it up. She went in to check on him and found him dead in bed of a heart attack.

I rushed up to Georgia that same day, and now I’ve done the crying, managed the funeral arrangements, and begun the process of settling his estate. But the business of making things right with the brother I dearly loved, must go undone until Judgment Day. The pain of losing him is made all the more bitter because of my foolishness and sharp tongue.

Know this my friends: Life is just too damn short to argue and fuss with people you love. Harsh words…once said…can never be un-said. They’re like nails driven into wood, even if pulled out – the holes remain! In the New Testament, James I believe, it says: For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanishes away.

How true that is. How very true.


Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry for your loss, especially in regards to the feud.

Take counsel in the fact that forgiveness will come, even if you must wait a little while to hear of it.

May the spirit of your brother live strong in your heart.

David said...

My condolences for your loss. May the Lord embrace your brother with His love and loving mercy.

And thank you for sharing; your advice is a poignant reminder to cherish those we love while they are with us.

Did it MY way said...

I am sorry for your loss. Brothers have a special bond. I lost mine 47 years ago, and still recall the special times spent together.

God Bless

tjbbpgobIII said...

It seems to be that way always. So many times I have procrastanated and then saw a loved one die. I vowed each time it would never happen again and we all relate to your story in this and your latest post. God bless your family and take good care of your new sons.