The detective was kind, but straightforward. My brother Bob hadn’t shown up for work. His colleagues were concerned when they couldn’t reach him. Two of them went over to his place, and found he’d died in his sleep.
He was only 57.
Over the next days, I moved through the dark fog of shock and denial. How could this be? An avid traveller, he was getting ready to go to Antarctica, the trip more than any he was looking forward to. Finally, he had agreed to come visit me for a few days in the fall. He’d always had somewhere more exotic to visit, so I was touched he was able to schedule us in.
Slowly, we pieced together what happened. He’d been to work Friday, all seemed well. He’d played with his drumming group Friday night, and with another Saturday afternoon. Again, he was in good spirits and appeared to be fine.
Then he went to bed Saturday night and never woke up.
Some years ago he’d told me he had Marfan’s syndrome. “What’s that?” was my response.
He explained that people with it are usually very tall and have some heart issues. “They think Lincoln had it,” he said. Twenty years ago, Bob had heart surgery, and he was 6’4”, so he fit the profile. His manner was so matter-of-fact, so it’s-no-big-deal, I barely gave his news a second thought.
What a mistake.
I now know how Marfan’s syndrome affects all the organs in the body, and that often when a seemingly healthy person dies suddenly, the death can be traced to Marfan’s.
But that was my brother, stoic and reserved, not wanting to bother or worry people. And over the next days, as I spent time with his coworkers and drumming buddies, I gained a great appreciation for the impact he had on their lives.
He had worked for the same company for nearly thirty years, and many of his coworkers had been there for over twenty years. They talked of the nearly flawless computer programs he wrote, his patience in mentoring, his brilliance in coming up with solutions no one else had thought of.
We laughed as we shared our stories and memories of Bob, all the while knowing there is no way to replace his gentle soul. He’s left a deep void in many lives, one that will be impossible to fill.
I’m grateful for the years we did share, that he seized the opportunity to follow his passions. He travelled around the world, camera at the ready. On his return, he shared his adventures through the pictures he took, letting the rest of us see what he saw.
For me, Bob’s death is a wake up call, to not put off spending time with the people who are important. Because one day they won’t be there.
Farewell, dear brother. You are deeply missed.