Wife and I left early the morning of Tuesday, August 22nd, for the visitation that evening, and memorial service the next morning, for my brother. It's about a 7-8 hour drive, depending on traffic and number of stops made.
When his wife first called to tell me he had passed away, she did not yet know what she would do as far as any arrangements, other than to have his body cremated. She wanted to know when I could get there and I told her I could easily be there by the following day, or even later that day if she wanted me to.
Of course I knew I had a vacation planned and we were scheduled to leave Thursday the 24th, but I didn't tell her that. If we had needed to cancel or reschedule, we would have done so.
As it turned out, that did not end up being necessary. Her son, my nephew, called later in the day to fill me in. With the memorial service being the morning of the 23rd, we would be able to drive back and get home in time to get things together and leave for the airport around noon Thursday.
Wife and I discussed whether or not we could, or should, do that. We decided if we could pull it off logistically (getting all our work taken care of), there was really no reason we should not go.
That's not to say we didn't have to work fast and furiously to make it happen -- I was pretty much on the phone with my staff until I walked out the door and Wife was doing tons of last-minute stuff as well.
We arrived in plenty of time for the visitation at the funeral home that evening. Hundreds of people came and there was a steady stream for two hours. It was very touching for so many people to come and honor the memory of my brother. I knew only a handful of people who came -- a few family members and some old friends.
But my sister-in-law and her sons were very gracious and went out of their way to make sure we were included as part of the family.
Wife and I spent the night in my old hometown, about 30 miles south of where my brother lived. On Wednesday morning, the day of the memorial service, Older Son was able to join us. He happened to be working in Dallas for part of that week, and made arrangements to drive part of the way Tuesday night and drove to our hotel Wednesday morning to go with us. It was very nice to have him there.
The memorial service was a lovely tribute. I know people have different views on funerals, memorials, etc. but I found it to be comforting and uplifting. My brother's grandson, my great-nephew, sang, as did another gentleman, and the officiating pastor gave a very appropriate, brief message.
I thought so much of my parents during the service and in strange but very real way, felt their presence.
We drove back later that day and arrived home that night. To be honest, at this point I was a bit numb to everything that had happened over those past 48 hours, and that continued through our vacation. The reality sank in, however, as soon as we arrived home, and I am very much dealing with the grieving process now.
But I know, from having lost both of my parents, that it is healthy and necessary. There are sad moments as I think about the fact that he really is gone and we won't talk again in this world, but there are many moments I smile when I think of him. I keep remembering things from our childhood, things I have not have thought of in years, and I cherish those memories.
My brother and I were two imperfect people and two very, very different people. There are things each of us could have done better and done differently to have made ours a better relationship.
But there is no reason to dwell on any of that. I am thankful that, for the past decade or so, we did much, much better. And I'm especially glad I got to spend some time with him three weeks before he passed away -- a visit I did not expect to be our last.
I'll keep holding on to the memories, which I'm sure will become even more dear as time passes.
Next time: a report on our spectacular Irish vacation!