I lost my brother Keith on June 2nd. He was only 42. He had a heart attack due to a blood clot of undetermined origin. I say that, but I feel certain it was due to the kidney stone crushing procedure (lithotripsy) that he had undergone the prior day. He had chest pains a couple of years ago and had had a heart cath done. The doctor said his heart was in excellent health.
I was dripping wet, stepping out of the shower, when my wife shoved the phone in my face and told me I had to take the call. I wondered what in the world was so important. She thought something had happened to my dad, since his girlfriend had called, crying. Daddy got on the phone by the time I got on and lowered the boom. "Your brother's dead!", he exclaimed. I know that he was in shock, having just lost a son, so I forgave the bluntness.
Problem is, I had two brothers, so I asked him which one. I wouldn't have liked to hear either name, of course. That opened a terrible wound, of course, which will be slow to heal.
Keith worked for a big package delivery company, and had known hundreds of people. He was well-loved, and it showed at the funeral home, where over 500 people signed the book that night. The next day, at the funeral, there were on the order of 1000 people in attendance. I was hurting, but gratified that so many people had shown their love.
Keith leaves behind a grieving widow and two little girls. They are his legacy. We didn't talk as often as I'd have liked; he had moved an hour away, and we were both busy working and doing the things families do. I regret that now, but I look back and know for the most part that we always loved each other and had some wonderful times together.
Keith's impact on his extended family was remarkable. He married into a family that was a kind of touch-me-not bunch. We had been raised showing our affection, always saying we loved each other. Apparently it was infectious, because over the years Keith's in-laws changed. He had come to a peace with the Lord back in 1989, and living it in front of his in-laws, once again they were changed.
I guess as big an impact as Keith had on his family was fine with the Lord, and he figured he'd let him come home. Oh, how I wish he'd let him stay for awhile. I miss him terribly. The worse thing is that it took his death for me to see exactly how special my brother was.
If I learned anything from Keith's death, it's that you need to keep your loved ones close, and let them know you love them. Keith and myself, along with my other brother and sister, had all begun to end our conversations and visits with a big "I love you". I'm so grateful that Keith knew how much we loved him. Now we have to adjust to his loss, and be thankful that the Lord blessed us with Keith's presence for a time. It will be tough...