I want to write about my brother.  I have no idea what there is to say.

My brother was found, unresponsive, in a public restroom with drug paraphernalia around him.  He had one shirt, one pair of shorts, two shoes, his prison ID and a dollar on him when he was found.  He had none of the pictures of our family that he used to cherish.  He had none of the letters that we wrote to him.  None of the birthday cards he always held on to.   Not even a pack of cigarettes.

I’m not sure how to process this information.

Loving an addict often results in hard feelings, pain, fear, estrangement and loss.  I knew that.  I knew it every time I put money on his books at whichever prison he happened to be residing in at any given time.  I knew it when I bought him clothes and cigarettes and I gave him my favorite, leather jacket.  I knew it when I continued to love him.  I also knew it when I spewed harsh, unkind words at him on the day I last set eyes on him.

I remember adoring and idolizing him when I was a child.  When you’re a child you don’t process the negative.  You don’t condemn.  You love.

I never stopped loving him throughout the years.  At some point in time I stopped looking up to him.  Adoring him.  I learned.  I learned about the pain and the fear.  The hurt.  I learned about harsh words and even harsher actions.  I learned what it meant to be disenchanted.

As I have aged I also learned that those with addiction likely don’t want to be addicted.  They don’t want to be disowned and lashed out at or worse, forgotten about.  They wish to be loved and cherished just like any other human being hopes to be.  They want to be trusted.  They want to have a life full of meaning.

My brother gave my life meaning in a way.  He taught me what I don’t want to be.  He taught me that unconditional love does, in fact, exist.  He made me want to help others and reserve judgment.  He created within me a caring, empathetic, loving human being who wants to continue to reach out and help others know they are not alone.

My brother’s life was not without meaning.  He may have left merely one dollar behind, but he left his mark on this world.  That’s the biggest thing any of us could hope for.  That is his legacy.


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