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Mon Feb 12, 2018, 10:59 PM

40 years ago today, my life changed forever. [View all]

My 23 year old younger brother, and only sibling, died unexpectedly in a scuba diving adventure gone wrong. Probably a cold-induced cardiac arrhythmia. He was going to do some underwater photography under the ice of one of the many lakes in western upstate New York.

I was at work, in the pediatric clinic of the small base hospital on Yokota Air Base west of Tokyo. I had only been there about 3 weeks. I got a call from the Red Cross. I went back to NY for about 10 days, and then returned to Japan. The military community is typically quite supportive in times of difficulty, and that was certainly true for this devastating experience. Nonetheless, it was a very difficult time, because, although people could relate abstractly to the loss of a sibling, no one there had known my brother, so I could not share memories with anyone. Essentially, I had to grieve by myself. I did not realize, for a very long time afterward, years and years, how atypical that was. Most commonly, one has family and long term friends around to lean on.

I have found, as the years go by, that this early loss of my brother almost negates my early childhood in a strange way, as I have no one to share childhood memories with. Sometimes it almost feels as if I imagined him. I refer to it as a biological loneliness.

He had no children. I'm not an aunt. We didn't live near any relatives - neither of my parents, nor any of their siblings had stayed in their home towns - aunts, uncles and cousins lived in Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, and Arizona. We saw each other, at best, once a year. It wasn't until moving to the greater Chicago area in 1994 that I was around people with large extended families that are conveniently nearby. I envy that.

My soon-to-be 96 year old mom is still here, and sharp as a tack. We live 12 hours apart. I hope she makes it to 100.

One of the things that you discover when you lose a sibling is what a large club you have become a member of. It's not something people talk about a lot, and it's a silent injury in many ways, because you don't walk around with a visible scar on your face, or a cast, or a crutch, so people don't know you are not the same person you used to be.

Please know that I'm not discussing this here tonight out of a need for pity or consolation. I'm not an unhappy person, and there has been much in life that has been and still is joyful. It just somehow seemed right to acknowledge the 40 year mark of the loss of my beloved brother, Tom. I still miss him.

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Reply 40 years ago today, my life changed forever. [View all]
3catwoman3 Feb 2018 OP
cilla4progress Feb 2018 #1
3catwoman3 Feb 2018 #10
cilla4progress Feb 2018 #11
kag Feb 2018 #54
MaryMagdaline Feb 2018 #2
yardwork Feb 2018 #3
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3catwoman3 Feb 2018 #63
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Jarqui Feb 2018 #34
3catwoman3 Feb 2018 #39
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stopwastingmymoney Feb 2018 #6
Skittles Feb 2018 #7
3catwoman3 Feb 2018 #15
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CaliforniaPeggy Feb 2018 #13
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RestoreAmerica2020 Feb 2018 #19
3catwoman3 Feb 2018 #22
FM123 Feb 2018 #20
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onlyadream Feb 2018 #23
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Honeycombe8 Feb 2018 #25
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Historic NY Feb 2018 #37
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