Several years ago my husband observed that—for an only child—I still always have a brother. That guy I can trash talk with/at, who lends me tools or music, and who probably feeds me pancakes. Last week two different old friends called me “sis” in their texts. Neither of them called me that before, but the appellation was love received.
It defines me, being sister to these men.
The brother I lost this week was love. A word cloud of tributes to him would rain largest: joy, laughter, light, talent. Over twenty-some years he became a light people followed. Literally. Folks followed his band. And probably the band he formed after that one.
I heard him before I first saw him. Steadily picking a mandolin on his front porch. I yelled a sweaty moving-day-something across the street about Hatfields and McCoys. His door was open from that day on.
These open door people, these beams of light.
We’d lost touch a little before I became a parent. I imagined bringing my own kiddo to one of his shows to reconnect. I imagined sharing another good meal. I saw the gleeful hugs, the how’s-your-moms, the HOW-many-kids, the homecoming dance. I also imagined learning of his death in a headline. Only one of those things happened.
I turn 42 today, and I’m mad he can’t chat with me, call me by my full name. Not that he had my number. But if he had called (there is magic, after all), it would be the familiar, electric joy we had for more than half my life. Or maybe it would have been sad, but that would have been okay, too.
It will take me a while to listen to any of his music. I’ll probably have to avoid bluegrass altogether, for a spell. I have listened to a gospel song a few too many times — Goin Up Yonder.
If anybody ask you
Where I’m going
Where I’m going soon
I’m goin’ up yonder
I’m goin’ up yonder
I’m goin up yonder
To Be with my Lord
I don’t think he was into God in this way, but he sure did bring us all closer to the Devine while we were all down here, together.
Thanks for the love, brother. May you be able to feel that love now.