On Tuesday, June 30, the world became a darker place. A bright light was extinguished.
I come from a large family. I am the youngest of eight children, but there's a large age difference between me and the rest of my siblings. My oldest brother is nearly eighteen years older than I am. Consequently, I pretty much only grew up with my youngest brother, Clyde, who was only eight years older.
There has never been a major event or crisis in my life where he was not there for me. Until now. Because this time, the crisis was losing Clyde. As many of us do with the people we love most, I just took for granted that he would always be there.
Clyde adored my sister-in-law, Sandee. At first, I wasn't quite as happy about her. I liked her. But when they announced their engagement at a family barbecue when I was a teenager, I could only think that she was taking my brother away from me! But Sandee stole my heart almost as quickly as she had stolen Clyde's, and it aches for her now, too. As deep as my loss is, Clyde left behind a wife, four children, and seven grandchildren who are devastated by theirs. None of us can imagine our family without Clyde in it.
My brother was an extraordinary man. He was the smartest person I have ever known. He delighted in corny jokes and stupid puns. And The Princess Bride. He cared most about people. He was deeply involved with his church and a youth leader for many, many years. He had a special gift for youth. He was like a second father to more kids than I could count. He had a ready smile, a quick wit, and an amazing level of patience and understanding.
He loved music. As kids, we would see how long we could carry on a conversation using song lyrics only. Or we would sing along with the radio (I'm dating myself here), turn the volume down and keep singing, then turn it back up and see who had stayed with the song best. Of course, being the little sister, he teased me mercilessly. One time, we were driving to Canada to go camping. And we were being siblings in the back seat of the car, on a road trip. We stopped for gas and he got out to buy a soda. We pulled back out of the gas station and headed down the road. After about twenty minutes, my mom said, "Do you kids have your seat belts fastened? Suzie?" I said yes. "Clyde?"..."Clyde?"..."CLYDE?" No answer. She turned around and saw the empty seat beside me. "WHERE'S CLYDE?" We had driven off without him, and I never said a word. When we got back to the gas station, he was sitting nonchalantly on the curb, drinking his soda. He just shrugged and said, "I knew you'd be back, sooner or later." He forgave me. But he let up on the teasing for the rest of the trip!
I could sit and talk with Clyde for hours, late into the night. I could talk to him about anything. He always listened, and he never judged. What I wouldn't give for just one more long conversation.
Clyde's last days were spent doing what he loved doing most: enjoying nature and camping with the people he loved most, his family. He had wanted to drive up to Alaska for years, and the whole family had planned this trip for several months. They had a week together before the accident that would end with their motorhome rolling over, and claiming his life. Thankfully, no one else in the family was seriously injured. And if the accident had to take one life, I know my brother would have, without hesitation, stepped forward and said, "Make it mine."
His final gift to me was to leave me secure in the knowledge that, if I we were able to have that final conversation, it would end with him saying, "I love you. Take care of my family."
His was indeed a life well lived. He loved and helped people any time he could. He was never too busy to help. He touched lives everywhere he went, and so very many people loved him. He will be greatly missed. What could possibly matter more?
Board certified executive coach, mentor and life strategist.
"Change your thoughts and you change your world."
--Norman Vincent Peale