It has been a while since I put thoughts to paper. With some anniversaries passing, there has been a lot on my mind. I will begin with April 10, the one year anniversary of Brian losing his fight against diffuse gastric cancer. I can’t stop asking myself, “why him?” It could have just as easily been me. I carry the same gene mutation. So why him? To justify, I believe the answer lies in the fact that his star shined brighter. To me it was the subtle, or not so subtle, things he did that made him special. This is the guy who did not hesitate to walk through a mall in footie pajamas to have his picture taken with Santa. The same guy who brought a pie at the market and asked the baker to write “Life of” on it because it was part of his annual academy award celebration to have food items representing the best picture nominees. Someone who wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself and make others laugh. If you didn’t hear his version of his visit to the CNN building or the one about being trapped under a trashcan full of mulch, you missed out. I won’t share them here because his versions were priceless. They still bring a smile to my face.
Brian was my roommate for 17+ years. Joe, Brian and I shared a bedroom for about 10 years and Brian and I continued to share a room after Joe got his own room. We were often on the same basketball or baseball teams. You would think that during our teenage years, we would have wanted more separation but that wasn’t the case. I remember him telling me he decided to attend St. Joseph’s University and asking if he could put my dorm, Greaton Hall, down as his dorm preference. Why would I mind? I am proud to call him my brother. I am blessed to have many great memories growing up with him and Joe. Many of those college memories I keep to myself, not because Brian would be embarrassed, but because Brian would tell the stories better.
When I think of Brian, I think about how important family was to him. I will share one story for now, but as I think back on this day, I wish Brian were here to tell it. Conor and I met Brian and Matt at Great Adventure one summer. We had a fun day going on on rides. Brian suggested that Conor and I ride Rolling Thunder. This roller coaster existed when we were teenagers, a wooden coaster over 30 years old and riding it you could tell. I should have known when Brian said he wasn’t going on but Conor and I went on anyway. The first roller coaster I ever road where part of the scare was feeling that the tracks might break while you were riding. It shook the fillings in my teeth and banged us around good. I commented about how awful the ride was when I got off and and Brian smiles and says, “I know. That’s why I didn’t go on.” He could have said, “You don’t want to ride that.” What he knew was that the nostalgia of riding that roller coaster one last time was still worth it for me and he was right. That was Brian, subtly making things happen.
I grew up admiring my brothers, Joe and Brian. As the middle child, I thought I was suppose to be an example to my younger brother, but I wanted to be much more like him. He excelled at many things. He was the best at engaging people in conversation. He would have made a great late night talk show host. The questions were always about your life and what you are doing. Many of my memories are watching him interact with Conor and Kiley. It was never just, “so what have you been doing?” It was always followed by a series of questions or “Tell me more about that.” Years ago, I was waiting for a flight at Philadelphia International Airport. Jim Gardner, the 6ABC news anchor was waiting for the same flight. He was engaged in a conversation with an elderly couple. I could not hear the details of the conversation, but I could see from Jim Gardner’s mannerisms that he was interviewing this couple. Their life story was important to him. That was Brian when he spoke with you. Your life story was important to him.
As the one year anniversary of my total gastrectomy approaches, I will share other stories. For now, I will say that everyday I’m reminded as I take my supplements that my life has changed. I don’t worry about my CDH1 gene or diffuse gastric cancer thanks to Brian. He is and always will be my hero. Over the past year, I have cried many times. Several times a week, recently. I miss him. While his stories live on and make me laugh, I’m reminded that he is not around to share them. The beauty in life is that I never know when some random life event will remind me of Brian. The smile and tears battle. It doesn’t matter who wins. Brian is with me.