When Endings Aren’t

brettwalk

By Mark E. Smith

Endings. Where does one begin? Yes, that’s a haunting double entendre because the question is just that: Where do endings begin and where do we begin with endings?

Over the holidays, I was at my friend, Brett’s, house visiting his parents. I haven’t been there since he passed away last year of multiple sclerosis. I think I assumed Brett’s absence would be clear because, after all, he’s passed on. Yet, as I strolled along the sidewalk leading to his house, I looked up to his bedroom window – the room centered around a hospital bed, computer desk, his artwork and assorted eccentric collectibles – and I felt he was there. I realized in that moment that the end of Brett’s life that I’d assumed at his funeral, wasn’t. What, then, had changed with Brett’s passing?

Upon entering the house, I saw pictures of Brett in his trademark professorial glasses, and his artwork, and his room. We all ordered Chinese food just as before, and Brett constantly came into the conversation. Where was the end, the part where Brett was gone forever?

Brett wasn’t gone. He was there with us in very real ways. No, his mother can never hug him again – and I don’t know how a mother deals with that kind of pain – but I realized that evening that Brett will always be present with all of us who knew and loved him.

When it comes to life and death, where are the endings? Of course, we all know that there are no real endings, not even with one’s passing – it all carries on with us. Life is a journey and although the path may change, the experiences, memories, the impacts made on us never end – they merely evolve as our path continues.

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Something About 17 Years

Dr. Brett C. Weber 1969 - 2014
Dr. Brett C. Weber
1969 – 2014

By Mark E. Smith

Sitting at my desk in my bedroom on a Friday night, it all goes through my head. My 17-year-old is at a birthday party, her driver’s license and the SATs behind her, colleges filling up our broken mailbox with admissions invites. And, my serious girlfriend is at her place, doing the whole bi-coastal thing as we figure it all out. And, as I stare at the message Internet forum that I’ve run for 17 years, it pisses me off, to the point of angry tears running down my face. And, I want to tell them what it’s all really about.

Yesterday, I watched one of my closest real-world friends and longest members of our online community, Brett, lay in a casket — eyes closed beneath his trademark glasses – after 17 years of fighting multiple sclerosis with an open heart, brilliant mind, and the deliberate hands of a painter – and you people are trying to argue with me about how much power chair batteries cost? Brett’s dad hugged me and didn’t want to let go because I carry with me a part of his son. I held Brett’s mom’s hand, and stared into her eyes, seeing a pain I’d never seen or felt – a mother lost her son, the same age as me, and that’s something I never wanted to see and pray that I never have to see again. But, I know I will because many other families face a loved one with a progressive condition. So, while you all are focused on the pettiness of an Internet message forum and the price of f-ing power chair batteries, Brett’s parents face the stillness of his bedroom, all of him there, but he is gone. To love and be loved is a desire Brett and I shared, talking about it to a philosophical level late one night years ago in his bedroom. And, it’s the ultimate lesson that his life and his death reinforced in me – to love and be loved is all that matters.

And, I’m reminded that my girlfriend and her little one will light up our home again in just a few weeks, back to me, the east coast, to love and be loved with my daughter – all of us.

And, I have to get up early tomorrow to fix our broken mailbox to receive more college material, go grocery shopping, and then figure out what needs cleaning around the house – the stuff dads do.

And, life goes on. Only it’s different, where the small stuff in life matters less and less, and my girlfriend and our precious daughters – to love and be loved – matter more than ever. And, Brett’s not here.