A Painting, A Photo, and A Memory

You never know how things will turn out or how they might affect your life when they do. My husband was one of nine children. While growing up, they were a very close-knit group of siblings. Once marriage and children began taking each away from the group, the relationships became somewhat distant. Several moved to other states, some were too busy raising their own children. Others, like my husband, were not telephone people. If someone called him, that would be fine, but he was not the kind to make the call. He still is not. All too often, one sibling would call the rest and relay any news but often, just to keep us all in touch. Through the years, as life demands, we all aged and, the siblings began to succumb to illness: one was by heart attack, another by complication of rheumatoid arthritis, still there was that dreaded cancer. Jerry left us a few years ago leaving behind two sisters and two brothers, one of which is my husband, Richard. When I married into the family, I was never treated as an in-law. I was treated with the same love, warmth, and respect as they treated each other but then, none of the in-laws were treated as outsiders. The family was always that close, even as the miles pushed us apart. As I said, Jerry left us a few years ago. When I met him, he was tall, husky (not fat just, well, husky), jovial, and loving. He lived in New York; we were and still are in Florida. While we did not see each other often, there were the monthly phone calls. Then the calls began to change. Jerry was diagnosed with cancer and it did not look good. His doctor said he might live six years, six months, six days. His cancer was aggressive. Jerry lived fourteen months. His son called a few days before he died, and I advised my husband to fly to New York. I was taking care of my invalid mom who lived with us and could not make the trip with him. Jerry died while my husband was there. It was almost as if he waited for his brother for a final goodbye. A few days later, my husband called and said he was on his way home and gave me his flight information. When I picked him up at the airport, he was toting a very, large box – one he did not have when he left. Jerry's urn? It was one of Jerry's requests that he be buried in the Gulf of Mexico, a place he dearly loved to visit, which he did as often as possible. The following day, Rich called his friend who had a gulf-worthy boat; ours was only for shallow water. John was eager to volunteer his assistance in this sad undertaking and said he would be honored to take my husband to bury his brother. The sea-burial was set for the following day. When Rich arrived at John's house with Jerry's ashes, John handed Rich a dozen long-stemmed, white roses. “You can't send him off with nothing. Hope these'll do,” John said. They were better than, “they'll do”. About two weeks later, we received a large package, delivered by UPS. It was a beautiful painting of a small row of houses set on the water. With it was a note from Jerry's children (all five adults) saying, “Dad never told anyone that his hobby was painting. He was always afraid of criticism. Going through his paintings, we found this one and we knew, since you live on the water and love to fish, he would want you to have it. Please accept this from dad and all of us in gratitude for everything you did for him and us while you were here. We all love you.” Each of his children signed the card. They could have kept the painting to remember their dad but chose, what, to others might have seemed a simple gesture of thanks, was, to my husband, a world of love. The painting hangs prominently on the wall in our dining room for everyone to see. It is just a simple reminder of the love between two brothers and the closeness they, with their other siblings shared throughout the years. While I was not able to attend the sea-burial, John was kind and compassionate enough to take a photograph for me. I did at the beginning of my marriage and probably will always feel, even after all this time, that being part of the Brennan family is something to be cherished, never taken for granted. We still have my husband, one brother, Bill, two sisters, Pat, and Joan. Phone calls are now more frequent and finally, finally after all this time, my husband (after slight encouragement from me) will pick up the phone and make those calls. We only live once and should vow to remain close to our siblings. You just never know how things might turn out and those we love will be taken from us affecting us in ways we cannot even at time imagine. So, my dear friend and brother, Jerry, until we meet again, even after these passing years, we still have your painting, the photograph, and loving memories of the wonderful person you were, a loving and caring man. Not a day passes that we do not think of you with love and affection.

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