I was planning on calling my brother Howard tonight, which is the second anniversary of the night our father entered hospice, to take his final breath 2 days later. Only if you have lost one of the people in the world that you know loves you, can you understand how profoundly comforting it can be to tell and hear once more the story of their death; the audience for that tale is strictly limited to those who were there. Howard was there for every grueling moment – honest, dignified, prickly, tender – making me and Pammy his sisters immediately, as if our families had always been unified, perhaps because our dear older sister Felice had schooled him so well in big brotherhood.
Instead, tonight, I mark the second day of saying goodbye to Howard, whose sudden death on Saturday seems so impossible, there is no word in my vocabulary equal to the telling. The brutally painful requirements of the last details of his life are being faced by sister Felice and her mom and husband, far away in Colorado, and our family is learning yet again to live without one of those who loved us. And his death, so out of sync with reality as to seem implausible, stands as the cruelest of facts, but is no summation. But I can say this: how I came to know I had a place in my brother’s heart is a story I will gladly tell to anyone who will listen.