When I was born, my brother Robert was 13 months old. I was the red-headed baby sister who rocked his world. He was one grade ahead of me in school (and another brother was one grade below me!) so we were involved in a lot of the same activities and were always peers. We became closer as adults; we were at BYU together for a year and a half. Looking back, we saw each other every day but once. We lived in the same apartment complex for a year, he let me borrow his car, and numerous times we met for the Mexican plate lunch in the Cougareat. We wrote letters to each other when he was on his mission and during his journalism internship in New York City. He was the one who encouraged me to have a “big adventure”, inspiring me to move from LA to Boston (sight unseen!) which was probably the best decision I ever made.
Almost 20 years ago it was his turn to rock my world when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. A devoted husband and father of three young children, he had a promising career as an award-winning sports writer and was the bishop of the Boca Raton Ward in South Florida. His diagnosis was followed by surgery, radiation, chemo, some months when life got “sort of” back to normal, then more surgery and a blood clot. The paralysis of his left side and seizures marked the beginning of the end of his life.
I’m grateful that I was able to spend lots of time with him; both of us living on the east coast made trips to see him easy. I’m single, which afforded me the opportunity to care for him and help his family. It was so good to joke around and banter with him like siblings do. I lived with his family the last two months of his life, being supportive in any way I could and taking care of him as he became confined to a hospital bed.
Robes lived only 18 months from the diagnosis and I sat with him when he passed away. I have never stopped missing him–he has left a gaping hole where my older brother should still be. I can’t count how many times I’ve wanted to pick up the phone and ask him about the Miami Heat playoff games, or tell him an embarrassing story about myself, or ask his advice. His family is my family. I have tried to stay close to his kids. My niece, who is serving a mission right now, was 3 years old when her dad died. I have tried to make the memories of her father come alive for her. She lived with me in Boston for 100 days before her mission and she asked me to tell her stories about her dad, so I started a google doc of memories from our childhood and many nights would share a story she had never heard. I mailed a letter to my nephew almost every week of his mission in Argentina. When my other nephew turned 10 he traveled to Boston alone to join me on a 25-mile bike ride to raise money for the Brain Tumor Society — and then he did it for seven more years.
We all feel a huge loss in our lives with Robes gone and I miss him everyday. It’s hard to lose a sibling. (And a dad.) But I look forward to being with him when the time comes, and the promise of eternal life has helped me remember that I can plan to rock his eternal world when we meet again.