It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen him.
I’ve been trying to find the right words for this post for days now. I want to make sure that I say just the right things. Being vulnerable is hard, especially when the subject is a sensitive one.
Let me start by giving a brief background. Back In the early eighties around the time I was 11 or 12, my cousin, Charlie came to live with my grandmother. She lived right next door so in my eyes as a kid, it felt like he was living with us.
Charlie, in many ways, had the mind of a child even though he was an adult. He lived a very challenging and often abusive upbringing that I believe contributed to him being who he was. So him coming to live with my grandmother was sort of a do-over for him. It was always fun growing up with him around. I saw him nearly every day. What started out as a cousin moving in next door turned into a brother living next door. I can still hear him calling me “little brother”.
Charlie would literally give you the shirt off his back, the last nickel in his pocket, or the food right off his plate. I could talk for days about the million little things Charlie did for everyone and I’m not even doing his memory justice.
I just wanted to write this for him. For me. To remember him. Charlie died twenty years ago today. He was hit by a car walking home from the store late one night. It was dark and the driver simply didn’t see him. I won’t give all the details; they aren’t necessary. I remember where I was when I got the call. I remember my knees buckling and going to the ground. I don’t think I’d ever been given such heartbreaking news before in my life. I felt like my heart had been pulled from my chest. The worst pain I’ve ever lived through. Losing someone or something is never easy but Charlie’s sudden death was something I just wasn’t prepared for. I’m truly glad for family and close friends that were there for me during the weeks and months that followed.
Charlie’s funeral was very special but also challenging in many ways. Charlie wore overalls that day and every day before that day. Nearly every man there wore overalls in honor of him including myself. As the minister in charge of the funeral I spoke over Charlie and I know some minister acquaintances thought I was underdressed for the occasion. Charlie though would have thought it was perfect!
Time has healed my heart, but I have moments when his memory still brings tears to my eyes. Charlie will always be remembered for being my other brother and the incredible role he played in me being me.
I could go on forever but I just wanted to reminisce for a minute. This post may not inspire as much as I’d like but like I said I just needed to do this one for me.