Yesterday we celebrated Kelly’s birthday. My brother Ben suggested we release balloons in Kelly’s honor. In Florida, we set our balloon free at precisely 9:53 am CT—the moment of Kelly’s grand entrance into this world in 1958—and watched as it floated upwards until we could see it no more.
There were tears and a heavy heart. Still there was a bittersweet satisfaction in acknowledging Kelly’s birthday. We love him; we miss him; we grieve his loss.
Death is ugly and we cannot, indeed should not, try to make it palatable or explain it away with pious platitudes. Death is a cruel reality in life—ugly, brutal and fearsome. It is an intruder and a thief. The vital living relationship I had with my brother is disconnected by death. Kelly is not returning my calls. I miss the sound of his voice. It is as if I am stumbling in the dark reaching out to find him, to embrace him, to laugh with him—all to no avail.
Kelly was created for life and had a fearless zest for living it. When death strikes suddenly with hurricane force winds at high altitude or hounds a ailing loved one mercilessly over time, survivors feel cheated and experience a kind of dizzy disorientation. Somehow we know in our hearts it is not supposed to be this way. Kelly was made for life and yet he is gone, swallowed by the mountain.
John Donne warned death not to be proud. Death will face its own mortality. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (I Cor 15:26). I believe death’s gloating grin one day will be wiped away forever. Until then I lament my brother.