My brother Tim was adopted. To look at the two of us, you wouldn’t have guessed that. In fact, though he was seven years younger, Mom would sometimes mix up our baby pictures. We had your typical sibling relationship – loved filled but able to fight like cats and dogs over nothing.
Tim passed away on August 23, 1995. He never met my daughter Amy though they are much alike – talented with art & music, loving to cook. Before he became ill with pneumonia (which took his life after battling other complications of an AIDS diagnosis), he told me this baby was a girl. Confirmation of this fact occurred after Tim’s death.
There are two strong images from Tim’s funeral that stand out for me. One is of his feather being placed in the casket by his partner. Tim was Sioux Indian. For us, it was an acknowledgement of his brave battle with an illness which (at that time) carried a death sentence as well as a way to honor his birth heritage. The second was of my Grandmother crying and saying she wasn’t sure what to do as she had never expected to outlive a grandchild. I spent the service holding hands with her as we celebrated his life and his joining with the saints that had gone before him.
First, a recent Huffington Post blog by Suzanne Braun Levine titled A Quilt For Charlie: Remembering My Brother Who Died Of AIDS helped me realize the importance of sharing our experiences and our stories. You will find Tim’s quilt in block 05308. It was lovingly made by my Mom and little sisters.
Having a family member diagnosed with HIV in the 80’s was terrifying. Tim wanted quality as well as quantity of life. The public perception of HIV brought panic and prejudice not only on the individual but sometimes on their family and friends. I was a lucky one with mostly supportive friends and coworkers surrounding me.
Second, I want, in the words of Noah’s Dad ( a status I read on the same day as Suzanne’s post), people to know:
ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE ARE WORTHY OF LIFE!!
We all touch people around us in good and sometimes bad ways. It is our responsibility to make a positive contribution as we are able. Tim was no exception. I treasure the pieces of art he left behind. They remind me of the talented man I had the privilege to call brother.
That is why I do what I do.
Where some might see a frail older person with little left to contribute to this world, I see a person with things to share even if only the squeeze of my hand or a tear in their eye. I know they have touched others. Usually they can still share their stories and their ability to love.
Where someone sees a child too small to make much of a difference, I see someone to remind me of the awe and wonder the world holds. Someone who explores things using as many senses as they can or are allowed.
Third, loss is a part of living. People we love die. We lose jobs, an ability, our health. We don’t get a part in a play or make a team. Loss brings grief. It is a normal human experience but one not to get lost in.
Sharing Tim’s story is part of acknowledging the loss and the grief. But it is also celebrating what he brought to my life. This beautiful piece of music speaks to many of my feelings.
- You matter.
- You make an impact on those around you.
- We all leave a legacy.
- Loss and joy both are part of life.
- Grief is normal. If you feel stuck in it, seek out professional help.