May 28, 2012

Day Is Done
Memorial Day 2012

My Brother, My Hero

I never spent much time with my brother, Larry. We had different mothers and he was a generation older than me. We shared a father and a last name; little more for many years.

When I was a young adult and newly married, my father reconciled with Larry and it was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. Unfortunately, it was to be short lived. But as they say ," 'tis better to have loved and lost than . . . "

My brother was a sergeant major in the US Army. He served several tours in Viet Nam, was married to Emma, his Italian bride whom he met while serving in Europe and together they raised three wonderful children. He was nearing his retirement while stationed in Turkey. That's when the dormant and ugly head of Agent Orange began to suck on and snuff out the life of my dear brother. The months that followed the first tell tale signs of what was to come were gruesome and heartbreaking. His was a death beyond measure. My father, newly connected to his son, closed up his home in Florida, and together with my mother, drove to Fort Hood Army Base in Texas where my brother was hospitalized. He spent the next several months at my brother's dying bedside. Day in, day out with no exception.

God works in mysterious ways. Though my father and brother lost many years between them, those final months at Larry's bedside allowed a reconciliation to behold. I can still see my Dad feeding Larry, wiping his mouth  after every spoonful and kissing him hello and good-bye as if they had always had this rapport.

The end was painful for Larry as was the entire journey of his greatest battle fought; that being the fight-to-the-end with Agent Orange.

Military funerals are exceptional. We watch them on television, but observe from afar. Participating in one is an honor, though heartbreaking. They reach into your soul and leave an imprint  that you carry forever.

The day of Larry's funeral was rainy. Gray Texan sky, broad and wide, with raindrops softly falling. Tears from heaven, I thought. I held myself together until that unparalleled moment when that solitary soldier appears upon the knoll, bugle in hand. My heart was heavy with sorrow, but little did I imagine the overwhelming throbbing pain I would feel when the bugler raised his trumpet and began his solitary song. A moment in time that lives with me now as do my memories of my brother, Larry.

May all those who served and gave themselves for us look down upon us this Memorial Day and bestow upon us the strength and bravery that they showed in their final hours.

"Day is Done . . . God is Nigh."

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