We buried my brother, Denny, in August. His second heart attack in 8 days finally did what infantile hydrocephalus, 45 years of hard physical work, Lupus, inter-cranial bleeding and loss of his eyesight (in that order) couldn't do. He was 67 years old. Mom left us in the fall off '82 with a stroke. Pa went in the summer of '95, Alzheimers and prostate cancer. Norm, our neighbor growing up, died of alzheimers and old age a couple years back. Norm's brother, Merle, went the same morning as Denny. My best friend Ken, went a year ago last spring in an auto accident; Richard, a friend from high school, 10 years ago in an accident at work. And another half dozen or so...
I've reached that stage of life that Pa warned me about. I was complaining about having to put on a groomsman's monkeysuit (tux) for yet another wedding and he told me to shut up. He said, " Enjoy every single wedding you go to. The first half of your life is all weddings. The second half is all funerals." I didn't REALLY get it then. I do now.
Denny was, technically speaking, our half-brother; as Mom had been married and widowed before she married our dad. Denny was 17 when Mom and he came to the ranch. And in less than 4 years, he had 3 half brothers. And God blessed us with him. He fed us, changed our diapers, drove us to school functions, laughed when we did and cried when we did. Denny loved us, unconditionally. Every family should be so lucky as to have a Denny.
There's so much I could say; so much I want to say, but I'm not sure how. I could talk about Denny's huge heart and how he'd give you the shirt off his back. I could talk about his reliability, as rock solid as the eastern sunrise. I could talk about his love of country music or his being developmentally challenged. I could talk about his sunny disposition and the way neighbors lit up smiling when he'd walk in; or the profane teasing we all engaged in back and forth the way blue-collar boys and men do. And Denny certainly gave as good as he got in that department.
We got to spend some quality time with him that last week. And for that I'm very grateful. But it made the funeral that much rougher to get through. There was a good turnout for the sevice. Seems we wern't the only ones that loved ol' Denny. But then, most of these funerals have had pretty good turnouts. Which is logical, since funerals aren't really for the departed. They're thrown in the guest of honors name; but they're for us, the ones left here, trying to make sense of things.
And so, I'm sitting here tonight, going over the too long to-do list before the Santa season, and remembering, and laughing some and crying some; and ruminating; trying to make sense of things. Which will just drive you batty, I know. Because there's a lot of things I'll never figure out. But I do know one thing and that's that Denny loved me. He loved all of us. And we loved him. His love in our family wasn't a raging river, or a wild thunderstorm kind of love. It was the big boulder, the sign post, the landmark; that when you passed it you knew you were home. Because that landmark is always there and it always means that same thing. You're home. You're safe.
When I hold a little one on my knee, that's what I hope s/he feels. That feeling that Denny gave us...gave me. Home and safety. Santa's here with solid, boulder, landmark love for you. Here, at least, you're safe. Denny's gone now, but that love remains, It's part of me, the way it was part of him. He gave it to me. His first, best gift-that he ever gave me. And now it's my turn to give it to my grandkids. And to every kid who sits on my knee at Christmas.
Denny can die. I can die. But Santa can't die. And that kind of love...it never dies.
I'm hoping your upcoming season, and all your sesons yet to come, are full of that kind of love. Have a blessed Christmas.