Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Death in the family - Again

Death in the family - Again

Gary Steven D, age 61, my second eldest brother, died after a long illness last Sunday. A short statement and one that cannot hope to encompass a rich life, that cannot capture how much his family loved him, that cannot capture how much he loved others, how he loved life.

Gary had a joy for life, a zest for it. He was a competitive swimmer in his youth, played baseball, and was a city star in High School football, often playing both offense and defense, a true 60 minute player. He was a Boy Scout, one of the youngest Eagle scouts ever, and a member of the Order of the Arrow along with earning a wealth of merit badges. The outdoor life suited Gary, he loved doing things and watching things and making things and learning about the world about him. He was also an excellent cook and once made a Thanksgiving dinner which his family still remembers as one of the best ever eaten, no mean feat among so many decades of holidays.

He won a football scholarship after High School, but was not ready for college at that time. He joined the United States Marines and did a tour in Vietnam in the artillery. He was lucky enough to escape physical injury, but the experience troubled his spirit. For all his ruggedness and outdoor spirit Gary was a sensitive man, moved by a good poem or movie. Moved by his love of family and friends. Moved by art and beauty.

Following the war, he returned to school, joined the United States Navy and became an X-Ray technician, working in several hospitals both in and then out of the Navy. However, he was increasingly plagued by ill health, some possibly due to his service in Vietnam. He faced each problem and each crisis with courage and perseverance. Finally, his body was too tired and he passed away from us, his loving and loved daughter by his side.

In the novel "Two Years Before the Mast", by Henry Dana, he relates an incident. A self important captain of a small coastal steamer, a carrier of cheap tinware and the like, was in the habit of hailing all ships he met to boost his own small ego. One day he hailed a ship dimly seen in the morning mist, crying out in his small and squeaky voice, "What ship is that, and whence, and whiter?" Out of the mist sailed a tall and majestic schooner laden with billows of snow white canvas sails, and a deep booming voice replied, "The Begum of Bengal, 128 days out of Canton, China, carrying the spices of India to Boston Harbor, homeward bound! What ship is that, whence and wither?"

This just crushed the little skipper and he humbly replied, "Only the Marianne, two hours out of harbor, bound for Kittery Point and carrying nothing in particular." He was humbled, as we all are at times. Humbled as Gary is, as we all are, by death. But for most of his life, Gary was not the humble Marianne, he was the majestic Begum of Bengal, 61 years out, heading for harbor and rest.

I miss him.

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