Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Eulogy for Brian. Different. Not Less.

At 10:07AM this morning my sweet cousin Brian passed away.  His body was ravaged by both disease and treatment and couldn't hang on any longer.  He was a sweet and simple soul and his mother, sister and family will miss having him here to remind us of the joys that little life victories can bring.  In the coming days we will gather to remember Brian and to give comfort to those he left behind. 

My first memories of Brian come from our toddler years - getting into mischief when we discovered that the extra door in my bedroom led outdoors to the yard.  Once there, we decided the best fun would be to toss a few rocks at the cars riding by.  When we broke a car window and the driver stopped, so did our fun.  We learned together about damaging behavior.

As we grew, I began to think of Brian as more a mysterious being in my life than a simple playmate.  He was different. He spent many hours rocking in his chair making repetitive sounds that to my young ears seemed to be like indian war cries..."Ay yi yi yi...Ay yi yi yi".  He didn't socialize like others, and his hearing loss made it hard to communicate with him.  By the time we were both teenagers, our families were spending more time together on weekends at a nearby campground, where Brian loved to select special pieces of wood to burn and then douse in water, sand, and burn, and douse, and sand until he created beautiful natural sculptures.  He demonstrated a true affinity for an inanimate object that the rest of us had just seen as scrap wood...and it became an incredible element of beauty and life.

Soon I went off to college and when I called home I learned Brian was trying new things.  He was working outside the home, he was communicating with others, he was building his own community.  After a time he moved into a group home and began to learn about living with others outside the family.  He found independence and a sense of achievement in managing his own space and time. Ironically, the medications that helped Brian achieve greater independence in life, also damaged his kidneys, and a few years ago, Brian had to face regular dialysis treatments.  A difficult treatment for anyone, for a man with autism, it was especially trying.  But he overcame this difficulty too and was able to survive a kidney transplant that gave him back so much freedom and health. 

Brian had many challenges in his life.  Challenges he met through the love and patience of his mother and father and sister.  Challenges he met with the different abilities he was given to make up for those he was not.  Foremost in our memories about Brian is that the simple directness of his thinking meant that he had no artifice or malice.  Brian's satisfaction in life was a good cup of tea, a football game on tv, a sub sandwich delivered to his door. 

His life ended too soon.  I feel that Brian had many more lessons to teach me.  Patience.  Priorities.  Focus.  How to know and enjoy the simple things in life.  So now that he has gone on before me, it is my job to learn on my own.  To remember to not throw stones.  To remember that a simple block of wood can be a beautiful piece of art.  To meet the challenges of my life with patience and a simple step by step process to get to solutions.  To enjoy a good rocking chair, a hot cup of tea, our favorite team playing football, a sub sandwich delivered to our door. 

Most of all, to know that being different does not mean being less.


JeannetteLS said...

beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am sorry for your loss, and for the loss felt by others who knew him.Take care.

Jo said...

Ohhh, I'm so sorry for your loss. Autism is such an interesting condition. If you get a chance, you should watch the movie "Temple Grandin" with Claire Danes. Temple Grandin said if she could wave a magic wand and get rid of her autism, she would not do it because it is part of her, and makes her who she is.

Brian sounded like a very special person.

Carl said...

Brian was a sweet soul and we will miss him. Your tribute was lovely sweetie.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Wenderina. Your words and the sentiments they express are lovely. Though you and the rest of your family will miss Brian tremendously, I know that you are all so grateful that you had him for the time you did. Take care. xo

Sue said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing his story.

AmyBow said...

i am so sorry for your loss Wendy. your post was beautiful and wonderful and i know that Brian was - and will continue to be loved.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I hope you are speaking at the service. This is a moving and beautiful eulogy.

Jude said...

Thank you for bring more insight to a life I didn't know enough about. The few times in our life that I was fortunate to be around the family, I enjoyed short moments with Brian.