[guest post by JD]
Tonight, after a year and a half struggle with leukemia, my younger brother passed away. He received spectacular care at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, where he had been hospitalized since August of last year. He will be laid to rest at the Air Force Academy where he was a Cadet.
He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a good friend, a pilot, and as good of a person as I have ever known, or will know. In his professional career, he was literally a rocket scientist, making rockets, missiles, and fuselages for people like the USAF, IDF, etc. he served in Iraq and in Bosnia, then again in Iraq with KBR.
As a person, he was 15 months my junior, the best man in my wedding, the Godfather to my oldest daughter, and despite having a wildly successful career, was as mischievous and carefree of a person as you would ever meet.
Godspeed, little bro. Heaven just got a little more interesting tonight.
This friend of my brother’s did a better job of describing him than I could ever do. These kinds of things we are only now learning about … I am using his words, absent the names. This is who my little brother was.
When I was at USAFA, I struggled mightily internally, horribly depressed with the choice I’d made, in constant struggles with a culture I wasn’t quite able to adapt to as I was transforming into a very different person than the one who had entered. By my second year there, the struggles turned into serious depression on the verge of self-harm. A few friends were my life line, encouraging me, reaffirming my identity, giving love and support. Nobody was more loyal, more loving, more supportive and more consistent in his care and protection of me than Brian. I don’t know if I’ve ever had anybody stick up for me or have my back in the worst of times more than B.A. It is not an exaggeration for me to say that he may have saved my life with his friendship.
When I decided to leave USAFA, he was the one who took me to the airport to say goodbye forever to that life. He was the one reassuring me that I was making the right decision. He was the one who knew, probably even better than I did at the time, that I belonged in a different place and that my future happier, better self was waiting to be born back home in Madison.
The last time I saw him was in Madison. He came to visit and we did the State St. thing, coffee shops, book stores, bars. . . He couldn’t stop smiling at me, seeing how right he’d been, seeing how happy I’d become. “You made it!” he said.
I just found out this morning that BA died of leukemia. I’m so out of touch with that old life that I don’t really have anybody to share my grief with (except for you, Tim,who I thank deeply for your generous time). So, I’ll awkwardly use facebook to eulogize a man who made my life so much better.
B.A. you were a huge mountain of a man, a midwesterner like me (Bears fan if I remember correctly, forgiven bro), simultaneously no-nonsense and full of frivolity. A wicked sense of humor, righteous sense of rage, and a deep, deep well of kindness and compassion for your loved ones. You were the type of guy everybody wants to have around, never a burden, because you worked hard, your played hard, you were never small-minded, and always focused on being a decent human being. You were one hell of a decent human being, my brother.
“Here’s a toast to the host / of those who love the vastness of the sky… ”
To you, Brian. You made a dent, you are deeply loved, you will be sorely missed.