In Memory of My Brother

This Monday marks the third anniversary of my brother’s death. His death came just five months after my late wife, Michelle’s death. This time in my life was by far the hardest for my family and me. Below is a passage from my book Letters to My Daughter, where I recount that tragic day.

Faith was only six years old at the time, so she didn’t know Shannon very well. Last night and this morning, I shared many stories from my childhood that involved Shannon.

We all miss you, Shannon.
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On Friday before the Monday Faith and I were to leave for our trip, my mother was at work when her boss told her that someone was in the breakroom who wanted to speak with her. She was given no more details. When she entered the room, a detective told her he had some difficult news. She braced herself, thinking that perhaps her 94-year-old mother had died. Instead, he told her that my brother, Shannon, two years my junior, had just been killed by a drunken driver.

The truck had hit Shannon’s vehicle broadside, dragging it several feet and pinning it against a building. The other driver fled the scene. Shannon’s neck was broken. He died instantly. The news devastated my mother. She and Shannon had remained very close over the years. Now he was gone.

My mom called my brother, Josh, and his wife, Stacey, who came to her workplace. They hugged and cried together. Then they all went to my grandmother’s house to tell her about a loss that no one thought possible. Her grandson was dead.

That day, I was to meet Mike and Jody as well as Pastor Danny at the country club for lunch, followed by a round of golf. I arrived early, sipping a Diet Coke. My phone rang, and it was Josh. I sensed a trembling in his voice. Then he uttered the same words that my mother-in-law had said when she informed me about Michelle: “I don’t know how to tell you this.” I closed my eyes and braced myself for whatever it was. Mike and Jody arrived just as I got the news. “Oh my God, oh my God,” was how I responded.

When I hung up the phone, Jody gently recommended that I text my friend Sydell, the principal at Faith’s school, to let her know what had happened. Jody would pick Faith up and let her stay all night with her family as I made the two-hour trip to be with the rest of the family. I pulled out of the country club in stunned disbelief. I couldn’t even pray.

Shannon and I grew up together. We were only two years apart chronologically but were worlds apart in our personalities. Nonetheless, we spent a lot of time together until I entered the teenage years and found friends my age.

As I drove, I recalled an instance when I was about 10, and each of us had a pony horse. The horses were also great for pretend play. Often, we dressed up in our cowboy suits, complete with other attire, such as cap guns and boots. We imagined we were the Lone Ranger and Tonto. The Lone Ranger was always my choice.

We also played a lot in the holler. For those who didn’t grow up in Indiana, a holler is a valley with a creek at the bottom. We played there for hours on end. We were typical boys who just loved to play outside. (Video games had yet to come on the scene.)

Even though we had grown far apart through the decades, the emotional bond built while we were kids was still there. Now Shannon was gone. There was no chance to say goodbye. No more chances to rekindle our friendship. I would never see him again.

On Friday before the Monday Faith and I were to leave for our trip, my mother was at work when her boss told her that someone was in the breakroom who wanted to speak with her. She was given no more details. When she entered the room, a detective told her he had some difficult news. She braced herself, thinking that perhaps her 94-year-old mother had died. Instead, he told her that my brother, Shannon, two years my junior, had just been killed by a drunken driver.

When my mom walked into the room, she immediately came over to hug me, and we both broke down. Then she asked me why Michelle and Shannon had to die so close together. I had no answers. I wasn’t trained for those kinds of questions.

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Orr, Tim. Letters to My Daughter: The story of how one family overcame tragedy and loss.

SHARING IS CARING

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