Faith Grief

My Brother Died Last Summer – And Then These Seven Things Happened

My brother died last summer. He was 36. It was a freak accident on an improperly maintained houseboat. I was not there but I hear it was ugly. He was electrocuted by the boat. Gone in a millisecond, there was not anything anyone could do.

It was like a movie; I got a call at 1:05 in the morning from my cousin telling me what had happened. The next few weeks and months are now just a blur in my memory. But I have since refocused, and these things happened:

1. My miscarriages were given a purpose.

My husband and I have lost six children to miscarriages. After several losses we found out I have a medical condition that requires medication to be administered through an IV when I am pregnant. My brother, an engineer for San Bernardino City Fire, had the medical training needed to start my IVs. We spent countless hours together over the course of the past few years while he watched the medication that brought us our children drip into me. I am so thankful I had that time with him. If I had “easy” pregnancies, I would have missed out on all of that. The losses of our babies now have such sweet memories of my brother attached.

2. I found out my baby boy could only protect me for so long.

I got the call with the devastating news just seven days after I found out I was pregnant. While the next nine months were a mix of emotions, the flood gates were not opened until after I delivered our baby boy this past February. I now know my son was protecting me. He needed me to be there for him; and so I was. Once he safely made his debut into this world, that protection was gone. A year’s worth of emotions have now been crammed into three months time. It has been a bit brutal. The pain is deep and every few days it hits me and it takes my breath away. Sometimes I just start crying. It is like the tears got stored up and now they need to find their way home.

3. My tribe grew.

They say you find out who your friends are when life gets hard. I have learned this lesson over and over throughout my life. This was different though. Not only did I find out (again) how great my current friends and family are, but my support system grew. It is a testimony to how loved my brother was. People from his fire family and friends from his adult life have now all become part of my tribe. A neighbor of ours who we previously had only known casually has become like family to me. And the list goes on. I have made connections that I know will be in my life forever.

4. I learned my relationship with my brother was special.

I hear a lot of people talk about how much they used to fight with thier siblings growing up. I also hear about how many siblings don’t get along all that well as adults. I am lucky. My brother and I were always close. We had our moments of course, but when I hear people talk about their siblings, I can’t relate. I spoke at his funeral about our relationship growing up. I have since had many people reach out to tell me they were inspired to make better more purposeful connections with thier siblings. This makes my heart full.

5. I found out just how amazing my husband is.

That is it. He is amazing. Not just when life is fun and easy, but all the time. I could not design a better partner to go through life with.

6. I learned that sometimes being right sucks.

I am a fairly practical person. Maybe it is in my genes. Maybe it is because I am a scientist. Whatever it is, when bad things happen I immediately start thinking about and preparing for how my life and the lives of those around me are going to change. This was no exception. I made some predictions about how people would react and what things would be like going forward. Regarding some of the less pleasant things, I was hoping I would be pleasantly surprised and I would be wrong– but most of it is happening just as I predicted. I was right and it sucks.

7. I discovered God has a sense of humor.

I was texting my brother the day before he left on vacation. I asked him when he was coming home and he said “the 11th and 12th.” I knew he meant “or” but I took the opportunity to joke back by saying “Wow, you must plan on making quite an entrance if it is going to take you two days to get home.” It actually took him five days to come back to us and he did make quite an entrance. He died out of state in a national park, so getting him home took some time. Some of his fellow firemen flew to him, stayed with him for several days and escorted him all the way home. The airport let us out on the tarmac to meet his body. It made the 4 o’clock news in Los Angeles. There were over 700 people at his funeral. He did indeed make quite an entrance.

The emotions surrounding my brother’s death are confusing. I feel sad to have lost him, but happy to have known him. I am mad his death was so ugly, but am glad he had a beautiful life. I feel lonely without him, but am surrounded by so much love and support.

I never know how to end articles like this so I will just say “Johnny – I love you and miss you and can’t wait to see you again.”

About the author

Kelly Ruppert Bryan

Kelly Bryan is an Emmy-award winning wife and mother of two, living in southern California. She is the Vice President of Technology for Knowledge Relay and teaches Geology part-time at both Cal State University at Fullerton and Coastline Community College. She also dances competitively with her husband in a country-ballroom dance circuit. She is passionate about sharing her life experiences surrounding her troubled first marriage, her journey to find her amazing second husband, her battle with recurrent miscarriages and her attempts at balancing family, work and fun!

2 Comments

  • How heartbreaking to lose a sibling. I experienced some of these same insights after losing my mom. This is beautifully written and a great tribute to your brother. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I am sorry for your loss. It is a painful season that I know will never really end – but these takeaways help me appreciate life.