For Lawrence

Lawrence Marine

Filing into a pew reserved for family members, I looked for my siblings: Carolyn, who became an athlete under her older brother’s supervision; Bob, his shadow who knew him best; Barbara, so young she thought he was the school principal when he came home on leave; Blaine and JL, toddlers who responded to the happiness his return visits brought to our home. I included myself, the middle child who idolized him. When I realized I had counted only six, I thought, “But that’s wrong. We’ve always been seven.”

It would take time to learn to live with Lawrence’s absence.

Waiting for his funeral to begin, I revisited the wave of grief that jolted me from myself when Bob called with news of our older brother’s heart attack and death. An overwhelming sense of profound loss overcame my usual constraints, and I mourned, my emotions raw and unrestrained.

When young, I knew my parents would probably die before I did, but assumed my siblings and I would move through life together, dying en masse when very, very, very old. More recently, I understood Lawrence’s problematic heart would one day fail him, but didn’t know that when it did so, it would break mine as well.

In the days following the news of his death, I called my siblings; they called me; we called each other again as we tried to process our loss, to make it believable, to acknowledge that death had entered our ranks and now walked among us. If our steadfast older brother had died, so could we. We were now the generation that would slip away — a few at a time at first and then with increasing frequency — as the world went about its business.

A year has passed, but I still feel moments of loneliness for my brother, Lawrence. I sense the hand that steadied my bicycle, the voice that made Mom laugh, the teasing that never became mean, the gleeful cackle that punctuated our lives. I see the long, slender, adolescent body stretched high in a cottonwood tree hanging a swing and then pushing me in it if I asked politely.

I remember the marine sergeant who answered my letters at length and danced — so poorly it hurt to watch — at his wedding. I see the proud young father who posed for pictures holding his first child cradled against him with one hand and his college diploma in the other. I hear the voice of the middle-aged man who wept when he called to tell me his beloved daughter, the same child he held after his graduation, had died at sixteen.

Helen Keller said, “Those you have loved deeply remain part of you forever.”

I take comfort in the truth of her statement; but my heart still misses a beat when I realize that now we are six.

Adapted from an earlier column published in the Craig Daily Press. My apologies to my Craig readers for the repetition of content, but I wanted to acquaint my blog friends with my oldest brother and what losing him has meant to me.

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47 thoughts on “For Lawrence

  1. Janet, I wept when I read this post. It is heartbreaking to lose part of our close family and realize that part of our lives is gone forever. You brought this home in such a loving and familiar story. We lost our beloved son-in-law two years ago to cancer, and will always feel the sting. So sorry for your loss.

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    • Thank you for your empathy and understanding, Kayti, and I’m sorry for your family’s recent loss. A wise friend once told me you never get used to the loss of a loved one, but with time you learn how to deal with it.

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  2. “Those you have loved deeply remain part of you forever.” Helen Keller said it well. This post brought back memories of a man that was a younger version of my Grandpa. Thank you, Aunt Janet. The void we feel at his loss will always be present. But, I know he will always be with each of us, forever.

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  3. Thank you for this. A loving remembrance and a reminder of those who leave holes in our hearts. In our family, we still have two of my father’s cousins, now in their nineties. We call them “the top of the heap” and recognize that they are our last buffer to that final stage.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your loss and your memories of Laurence. I am lucky not to have lost a sibling yet but as the eldest in our family I am starting to see friends and acquaintance of around my age pass away. It makes me sad but also to try harder to acknowledge and treasure those I am close to.

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  5. The death of a loved one affects us deeply. But the joyful memories we carry helps to keep them close in our hearts. You painted a sweet memory to share with your readers.
    May God continue to bless you with loving memories of your brother.

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  6. A beautiful, sad tribute. You are so right – when we’re young we expect that our parents will one day die before us, but never our siblings. You all have many happy memories of your brother – may they comfort you despite the sorrow.

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    • I just returned from a family reunion where stories of Lawrence were shared. Telling stories of our loved ones has long been a strategy my family uses for comfort and healing. Thank you for your kind words and wishes.

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  7. Oh gosh….I’m writing this and the tears are streaming down my cheeks and onto my computer key board……what a touching, beautiful expression of a sister’s love and dedication to one’s sibling….You skillfully create a “picture” to share with all of us and then skillfully take us down that emotional path with you…Thank you for sharing such a personal, intimate side of yourself, Janet……What an honor to have been his sister….. ❤

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  8. I just caught up with your blog and somehow missed the column. Lawrence seemed bigger than life because he did everything first. For me he set most of the personal goals I hoped to achieve in life and then cheered me on when I achieved a few of them. His passing brought a lot of self reflection in the areas where I came up short of his example However it also took away some of the fear of that final step. Thanks for the heart felt column and the wonderful memories it brought back.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed my tribute to our brother, Bob, and that it brought memories back to you. I always knew Lawrence influenced you and your goals. Most of my Lake Shore memories feature you and Lawrence together, having a good time even when he teased you. I’d say he did a good job encouraging you and cheering you on. I know he was proud of you. He was always kind to me, paying attention to me when I could have been lost in the melee of you, Carolyn, and Lawrence. We were lucky to have him.

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  9. Janet, each time I read your loving tribute to Lawrence I’m tearful, and think you must have shed tears as you wrote. The comments from your blog friends and family are so understandng of your loss and his special place in your life. I’m moved by their kindness.
    “A Mother’s prayer is that her children continue to love and care for each other long after she’s gone.”
    Your beautiful writing shows a prayer was answered.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lawrence sounds like a wonderful brother who lives on in the hearts of you and your siblings. Thank you so much for introducing him to us.

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