In my life my brother has never been out of my mind or out of my heart. Since his death, though, I’ve been flooded with memories. In this morning’s newspaper I read of the horrible brush fires ravaging California and more memories swept over me. Here’s the main one associated with those California fires. While he was in college my mild mannered, soft spoken brother jumped out of helicopters to fight forest fires. He knew more about burning forests than most of us ever want or need to know.
Tom and I grew up in isolation without electricity and sometimes without indoor plumbing. Our father was a cowboy. We lived on ranches too far away for friends to come visit. During summers we rarely saw anyone our own age. What we had was each other along with our parents, sections and sections of land, hundreds of cattle, horses, dogs and a lot of chores. We were ranch hands and we worked hard. There was nothing unusual about our climbing on our horses before sunrise to round up cattle.
Our parents had very little money and they certainly couldn’t afford luxuries. Toys were luxuries and so we had few. What we did have were our imaginations. We made toys out of nails and sticks and bailing wire and created worlds in which those toys lived. We narrated and embellished their adventures.
It is no accident that both my brother and I became writers. We lived childhoods fictionalized and made real by our imaginations. Tom read every word I wrote and responded with his serious edits and observations. We also wrote stories and screenplays and novels together.
Because we lived in such isolation, our bond was unique. Sometimes it seemed that we only needed each other. He became my protector and I became his number ONE fan. Though based on today’s turnout I apparently wasn’t his only fan. I still claim the number ONE title though.
I don’t think losing a sibling is never easy nor should it be. My protector died. Life seems very different now and not quite as safe.
In addition to being my protector, Tom was someone who, along with Linda, accepted and loved me for what I was regardless of what life and society might have expected me to be.
You all know that Tom had a passion for writing. He left two big projects unfinished. I don’t feel sad about those unfinished stories. Instead, I’m pleased and proud. Despite his health challenges, he died doing what he loved and holding the hand of the wife he loved. He never stopped writing and he never stopped loving. We should all be so lucky to die doing the work of our hearts and holding the hand of the person we love.
I’ve lost my protector. However, I have my family and we will protect each other. In my mind and in my heart, though, I have NOT lost my big brother. Tom will always hold that position in my life now and forever.
I’m honored he asked me to speak today. I’m honored to have been his little sister.
I love you Tommy.