The man on the left is my father. His brother, my uncle Dan, (my total favorite guy growing up) sits next to him.

When Dan was on his two week honeymoon in the Caribbean in 1938, he wrote to my father and told him how much he missed listening to the radio.

Yes, that’s right, he wrote my father letters on his honeymoon. It was a chatty letter in beautiful script and I have it in my special drawer.

Dan died at the age of 57 from cancer and my father took me into the hospital to see him in Boston on what turned out to be the last night of his life. I was a sophomore in college. I could only stand at the door of his room ashen faced. I couldn’t make my feet move. My father bent over him, stroking his forehead, talking softly, words fluttering wings over this dear sweet man, reassuring him that he was there. He was not alone. They were together.

Years later on a blustery autumn day I would sit on the floor by my brother’s bed in his home, the day before he died, talking softly, words I didn’t know I had. Once more words fluttering wings over an only brother, dying from the same disease at the same age, words reassuring him that I was there. He was not alone. We were together–words, autumn leaves swirling outside his window, all falling quietly down onto his closing eyes and the beckoning earth.

A small radio sat on his bedside table.

©Pat Coakley 2008


16 comments on “Brothers”

  1. This says so much in so few words. I wish I could write like that.

    I never had a brother. I wonder what that would have been like . . .

    Very nice, Pat.

    (on a side note: your dad looks a bit like William H. Macy . . . )

  2. Are you kidding: “I wish I could write like that”?

    It was your piece “Whiskers”, about your grandfather, that inspired me. The lump left in my throat after reading it yesterday just wouldn’t go away until I wrote this and now, thank you very much, my eyes are all swollen and a I look like a character in “The Blair Witch Project”.

  3. I have the urge to reach through the screen and just give you a bear hug, both Dan and your brother were blessed to have you and your father at their side in those moments, reassuring them and loving them, it is one of the greatest gifts you can give another. I hope that when my day comes that someone will love me as much as they were loved and would do the same for me before I cross.

    I love the fact that you still have his letters and the memento’s that go with it, warm memories and smiles, beautiful!

    Have you written about your father and his brother before? They sound amazing characters, full of life…

  4. Thanks, Sanity. I’m with you on the the things-you-hope-for-when-my-day comes list. Right now, I have to go put on some make-up (don’t tell Razzman) so I won’t scare those in my path today. Seriously, when I was younger I could cry and two minutes later look fine. Now? Plastic Surgery is needed.

  5. No one gets to win the game. We only get to play it for a while, and we won’t know for how long. The important thing is to enjoy it and make sure others do as well.

    Beautiful post and a good day for remembering. It’s June 6th today. Today means “loss” for so many families.

    Turkish Prawn

  6. Turkish, right you are about the date. The other post I was considering was how I grew up watching black and white newsreels of the Normandy Invasion. I knew what a C-47 looked like when I was 7 years old! But, this seemed more to the point of “loss” so that’s why I chose it. One day, I’ll post about DC-3’s. Thanks.

  7. Pat, you are too kind. One thing I do appreciate about your writing is the way you say so much with such simple phrases. You take the time to get all the words right, so reading your work is like a quick, sudden jolt of electricity. My writing tends to meander . . . the punch is often buried amid the flotsam. But I’m working on it . . .

  8. The weight of such things.

    It’s a moving tribute to your uncle and brother that you loved them so much.

    The thing I’ve noticed about grief is that I’m glad I don’t have too many occasions to get used to it.

  9. I like to think people never really die, they just leave for a while. It may seem like an eternity, but it’s only a few moments before they reappear in thoughts and memories.

  10. This one is extry-good, my friend. As we say down south….

  11. I am literally sobbing as I type. This story has touched my soul so deeply. Maybe it is because death is so close in my own life. I don’t know.

    This story is so beautiful. I will cherish it…. thank you for this gift today.

  12. It’s my first time visiting here, Pat. In my life as a physician, I have always been impressed that one of the things family’s teach/pass down is the way to handle death. You had the very best, most compassionate instruction, and you learned well. How beautifully you relate these experiences! I will be back.

  13. Thank you, old friends and readers, for taking the time to write. And welcome, essiewb! I appreciate your comment. I think you are so right. We are taught how to handle death. And, we don’t know we learned it until the moment comes.


  14. This is so beautiful and painful, Pat. As always, your writing is exactly right, that perfect. So glad Dan had your dad and your brother had you, so grateful to you for sharing.

  15. I picked this post as a random selection from your archives ( knowing ahead that any post would be read worthy.
    How can i even say where this touched me.
    We’re so unprepared to comfort and understand the strangeness and inevitability of dying.
    Seems as we grow in years, this becomes something that with any enlightenment we get better at.

    Such a very moving and succinct writing here Pat.
    I’m going back into your archives now, so pardon me while I take an hour out of my day and read all of you.

  16. Thank you Bonnieluria. Having looked at some of your paintings, I wish I had the ability to paint that room, with the colored leaves swirling past it, it was a corner room so there were many windows. I suppose it would make me too sad to look at it, but it truly is etched into my memory. Thanks for your generous comments. I’m so happy I’ve discovered your talent as well.

    Girlgriot: you always find a way to say you like something in a new way. That is a gift, you know!

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