I was wondering if it was a little too soon for me to post about a really sad thing that happened just a few days ago. But it occurred to me that maybe the best way to write about something tragic is from a time close to it, where you feel it the most, so you remember with the most clarity.
This past week, we lost a friend. Our friend Brendan went home to heaven. And when I say our friend Brendan, I mean OUR FRIEND. As in, if you ever met him, he was your friend. And if you never met him, trust me, he was your friend.
Brendan was just 46, which I think we all know seems just way too soon to leave this earth. And in case it wasn’t clear how many people are crushed by his passing, just a moment on his facepage is all you need. To say that the comments of “miss you” and “gone too soon” are from far and wide is an understatement. We’re talking hundreds of people from all corners of the earth, and these are just the ones who posted on his page. The memories are outstanding. The recollections uniquely descriptive.
That is what Brendan did. The impact he had on your life, no matter how big or small, stuck in your brain, so that when you started a story with “remember that time that Brendan…” the story was crystal clear.
For all the hundreds (and maybe thousands) of times that we visited the fabulous Pheasant Inn restaurant in exotic Briggsville, Wisconsin, you’d think those dinners would run together. But the night we ran into Brendan and his family while waiting in the bar is clear in my mind as if it was last week, even though it was more than a decade ago.
For all the nights we all stayed up and played cards or euchre or some random game involving poker chips and cash, the night Brendan taught us a new game and insisted on throwing in an extra dollar here or there so we could keep going is a crystal clear memory.
For all the campfires we had as a kid, I specifically remember a time when Brendan got into (more than a usual amount) of trouble and pouted like you would.not.beleive.
When Brendan met my husband for the first time, his natural inclination was to dunk the hell out of him.
Even the last time I saw Brendan, just a few weeks ago up at the lake, I remember that brief interaction from start to finish, him sauntering across the back of the lake, shaking hands like he was the Mayor of Summer. “There’s Brendan,” said my cousin, as he came over, talked about the family, said he’d just come up for the day and was getting ready to head back.
And when I told my 10-year-old son that we had lost Brendan, he remembered him as “Joe’s brother who once tossed me around the back of the lake.”
For whatever reason, Brendan had the unique ability to ingrain himself in your memory, to preserve his likeness in your conscious, to make such an impression on you that even if you only saw him once or twice a year, and even if those interactions totaled just minutes, you remembered every second of it, even years later.
A few years ago, we lost Brendan’s son Andrew, also too soon. And when Andrew passed, Brendan spoke to us about “purpose.” The Priest who delivered the homily at Andrew’s funeral spoke about how hard it is to make sense out of tragedy, but that we should remember that every life has purpose. This struck a chord with Brendan. When I was leaving, Brendan said goodbye to me and my sister. “Remember, every life a purpose,” Brendan said. “You’re a writer, Marney, write about that.”
It is a struggle to think about the truth that Brendan is gone. These past few days, he is everywhere. He is in the lyrics of the songs on my radio. He is in the face of that loud kid cracking up his parents at Father’s Day breakfast. He’s in the sound of the kids down the street lighting up firecrackers and bottle rockets. He’s in the summer breeze. For as clear as you could recollect a time with him when he was alive, it’s even more apparent now. Even more crystal clear in the memories of those of us — the hundreds and hundreds of us — who are left behind.
I think for the past few days, the only thing that so many of us have thought is, WHY? Why did this have to happen? And why Brendan? But what it comes down to is, with Brendan and with all of those in our lives to leave us way too soon, it’s not about why. It’s not worth our time and sadness and effort to constantly look for the answer to that question, the answer that will surely never come. Instead, it’s our duty to remember what is more important — that every life has a purpose. Brendan fulfilled his purpose beautifully, as he reached out, touched so many, and left behind a legacy of laughter that will never cease to be. His purpose was to touch those around him, even those who merely just brushed past him in this world. And man, did he ever do it well.
Godspeed friend, and safe home.