Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Growing Pains Part 1
Growing Pains Part 2
Growing Pains Part 3

Doug's casket was rolled out of the church to a song that he wanted to be played at his funeral, "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)." It was performed by the music director of our church who had an amazing voice and I think he knew my brother from his volunteer work at church. He preformed the song with the same vibrancy and bravado that Streisand does in her recording from the movie soundtrack. I had felt a smug sense of amusement that my brother had picked such a dramatic exit for his funeral. It was completely appropriate and should not have been any other way.

The year after his death flew by, assisted by the marriage of my sister in the summer and the excitement of starting high school in the fall. I could not wait to get out of middle school and leave all of the horrible memories in the past.

My classmates knew that my brother had died and it was only after we were in high school that some managed to ask me the specifics of his death. "How did he die?" they would ask. I would reply without flinching, "He had HIV and developed AIDS." Their eyes would enlarge after a few seconds and realize what I had just told them. The next question out of their mouths was always, "How did he get it?" From the first time I had heard this query it enraged me. However, I gave my inquisitors the benefit of the doubt. After all I had sat through the same sanitized lectures on STDs that always seemed to focus more on the less politically charged maladies and only devoted about five minutes to HIV. But really I wanted to say to them, "I could tell you he got it from a blood transfusion and scare the crap out of you. Or would it make you feel better if I told you it was because he was gay and had unprotected anal sex? Which one would you like? Which version of the story suits your middle class suburban microcosm reality?" I knew what they wanted to hear and I wouldn't dare give them the satisfaction of even mentioning my brother's sexuality. Calm and cool I would look directly into the eyes of the person posing the absurd question and answer them with an unmistakable tone of admonition, "Does it matter?"

Two years after Doug's death, and after many design revisions, the headstone for his gave, and the future grave of my parents, was put into place. My brother had initially wanted to be cremated but changed his mind before he left for Europe and wanted to be interred alongside my parents. Underneath our last name on the gravestone where my brother is buried it reads, "Memories Keep The Spirit Alive." Some might think that the telling of my brother's death a bit macabre and perhaps an affront to his life. On the contrary it was in his dying I witnessed the commitment of my family to each other and the unfathomable love that my parents have for their children. His dying showed me the importance of family and loyalty to the ones you love. In Doug's death he showed me selflessness even in the face of his own adversity. I wanted to tell this story because it was in his dying that he demonstrated to me the true spirit of his life, the spirit of a life worth living, a life that has shaped who I am today, and a life that I hope to emulate so brightly that even in death he could see me and know that I am his brother.

On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you'll see who you are

On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being
Outshines every star

You'll feel part of
Every mountain, sea and shore
You can hear from far and near
A world you've never, never heard before

And on a clear day
On that clear day
You can see forever, and ever, and ever, and ever more


Blogger Jim said...

Adam this is a beautiful slice of your life, thanks to you for sharing it with us.

Good response to those detail seekers. Its was loss, a huge fucking loss, does it matter how it manifested itself?

Something tells me this shaped your path into Immunology, yes?

10:29 PM  
Blogger Darin said...


Simply. Powerful.

11:50 PM  
Blogger BRETTCAJUN said...

Very moving Adam. I try to be selfless in my life also. What a wonderful thing you have done... remembering your brother and paying homage to him. Thanks so very much for sharing this part of your life.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. Jim, part of the reason I wanted to go into research was because of my brother having HIV. Mostly though it was because I didnt want to be a doctor and I despised anything related to business.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Spider said...

What a perfect song - and a perfect inscription on the stone... you have such a close and loving family - you are a very lucky man!

10:19 AM  
Blogger tornwordo said...

Really, really nice. Reading the lyrics at the end made the hair on my neck stand up.

7:35 AM  
Blogger jjd said...


2:59 PM  
Blogger jeremy said...

Your words are a great testament to your brother's life and your family's love.

3:37 PM  

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