A eulogy that came way too soon

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJuly 4, 2013 

My brother, Kevin, and some family friends were on their way to play a round of golf at some course on the outskirts of Indianapolis and were traveling on Interstate 465, a large highway that encircles the Circle City, when Kevin spotted blue lights in his rear view mirror.

After pulling to the shoulder, the policeman exited his vehicle and strutted to the driver's side window where my brother had his license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance at the ready.

"I've been waiting for someone like you all day," the cop grumbled.

"Well," my brother responded. "I got here as fast as I could."

Dumbfounded, the policeman smirked and sent Kevin and his buddies on their way.

That was the person who I and so many others lost June 10 when Kevin died unexpectedly at his home near Indianapolis at age 28, a sentence that is as surreal and heartbreaking as any I've written in my life.

Since I received that late-night phone call from my father, I've had conversations through sobs about my little brother's final arrangements, comforted friends and family members through my own heartbreak and criss-crossed the map as we drove from Indiana to upstate New York, where Kevin was laid to rest June 19 in a quiet corner of St. Mary's Cemetery in South Glens Falls, N.Y.

I, too, now have a burial plot beside my brother in that same graveyard.

Parents are not supposed to bury their children, nor are siblings supposed to eulogize one another at such a young age, but this is the painful reality my mother, my father, my sister and I must now confront. But we confront it together.

For the past three weeks, writing is how I've prevented myself from being swept away by the waves of profound sadness that so frequently wash over all who knew Kevin as we remember the funny, brilliant, kind-hearted yet stubborn man we still love so dearly.

As is often the case when life breaks our hearts, there are several important lessons I've learned from this horrific ordeal that will henceforth leave our family photos incomplete.

The first being that Capra was right: No man is a failure who has friends.

A handful of close friends and family drove hours at the drop of a hat and jumped aboard expensive, last-minute flights to be with us in those first few, chaotic days where, when we weren't crying, we sat in stunned silence, unsure which end was up.

We relied on them for strength and support, and they provided it without hesitation and in spades.

My parents returned home last week to find more than 100 sympathy cards crammed in their mailbox and I stumbled, bleary-eyed into my apartment Monday night after 15 hours on the road to find my refrigerator and freezer stocked and my kitchen counter piled high with food purchased by my colleagues here at the paper.

In a situation that so often feels so cruel, unfair and unjust, it was nice, even for a moment, to feel lucky.

If you ever doubt the positive impact you have on others, wait until tragedy strikes, as it inevitably will, and see how many people come out of the woodwork, offering to lend an ear, a hand-up or a shoulder to cry on. Or make a casserole.

The second is to live life with no regrets. Tell the people you love that you love them. Every day and as often as possible.

I am fortunate that, to the day he died, my brother and I, though very different people, loved one another dearly. There were no words left unsaid, no unresolved conflicts or hard feelings, and I can only imagine how such circumstances would make an already painful situation all the more excruciating.

I was lucky to have Kevin as my brother as my parents were to have him as a son, as his friends were to have him as a friend.

He was complicated and three-dimensional but a good, kind and decent man. I wish you all could have known him.

This week, in honor of my brother, a playlist of some of his favorite songs, some of which would ordinarily never find their way onto one of my playlist, and I know how happy that's making him.

I miss you, little brother.

  • Heart, "Alone" -- Kevin was obsessed with this song since we saw a Canadian woman slay it at The American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World last month. Couldn't get enough.

  • Toto, "Africa" -- I will never understood what about this song my brother found so appealing, but he listened to it at least once a day for the last two or three years.

  • Something Corporate, "Watch the Sky" -- A song that will be a little tough to hear for a very long time.

  • Fall Out Boy, "The Phoenix" -- The last song my brother played for me.

  • Skrillex, "Bangarang" -- A remnant from Kevin's dubstep period.

  • Owl City, "The Saltwater Room" -- One of my brother's favorite artists. He would always try to convince me how great this stuff was. Never bought in.

  • Jim Croce, "Lover's Cross" -- Kevin and I grew up on this music. My dad was a giant Croce fan.

  • Glen Hansard, "A Parting Glass" -- A song my brother would have loved.

  • Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

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