November 30th would have been my brother’s 58th birthday. When I first learned of his illness, I wrote this letter intending to send it to him, but instead, I read it to him in the hospital. He asked me to share it. I condensed it for the newspaper and Facebook
I could send you a Facebook message – but what I have to say seems more fitting for a personal letter. I am bothered by the brevity of life. We have lost friends, grandparents and Mom and Dad. And one day we will say good-bye to each other. Since you’re older, I’ll let you go first.
Recently, I was told I look like Uncle Rich. But often I see you in the mirror, sometimes I see Dad. I’d love to talk to him.
Much of my musical appreciation I owe to you. You amassed a large music album collection. You taught yourself to play piano, guitar and harmonica, which still impress me.
We had our pretend band in the basement on
Street. We played along with Mom and Dad’s Fats
Domino record. The A side was “When My Dreamboat Comes Home”, but the B side
was our favorite. Dad said he heard “So Long” so often he doesn’t know if he’s
coming or going. You played the piano,
and I played the drums on a stool.
Badminton rackets became guitars, and we played along with “Sugar,
Sugar”. I think we got that record from
a cereal box.
Then you started buying records. Derek and the Dominoes, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airman, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and Papas, Abba, etc. On your stereo was “Hangman,” “Venus,” “In the Year 2525,” B.J. Thomas, Sly and the Family Stone and “Hair” by The Cowsills. Anything from 1969 will always remind me of you. You would send me tapes of songs from college. I remember “Long May You Run,” “Wish You Were Here” and “
I learned to love animals from you. I remember our crazy black cat, Smokey, Lady, our Collie, and a fat, black puppy you snuck into the house one night. Joe, Barney, Patrick (and your other dogs) were all special because the way you treated them. Instead of commands, you conversed with them. “Edgar Sawtelle” was you in so many ways.
You taught me how to play Frisbee. We played with pink rubber curlers that became alien creatures. We played with tile samples (probably asbestos); in the winter we built forts in the basement using blankets, books, and tables. Mom made us take them down in the spring.
You protected me from bullies at school, even if it meant you would get hurt. You and your friends, John and Dan gave me my first beer. We went to parties together – well maybe not together, but we were both there.
When I hear a thunderstorm, I think of calling you and Terry to share the excitement like we used to when we shared a bedroom. When we stretched out our hands we could touch both walls – maybe even beyond.
You were the first one I knew who wore jeans to church – my kids do now, but you dared to do it first. When you were tired of clothes you had worn for months, you would hand them down to me, and I would destroy them in a few days.
We learned to read by reading comic books. “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Big Red”, or anything by James Kjellard makes me think of you.
Dan, you see the world through the eyes of an artist – you see all the beauty God created. You taught me many things, and I learned from you. Now, please learn from me.
As a boy I followed you; Jesus asks you to follow Him. You may not have long to decide. I plan on going to heaven, and I want you there. Pray to Jesus. He may not heal you in this life, but he can give you eternal life in the next. You just have to admit that you need Him as your savior. See you later.
I love you Dan,
Dan died three days after I read him this letter.