April 27, 2017

September Will Never be the Same for Me Again

My brother Kevin loved baseball. All three of my brothers played the sport throughout their childhoods, but Kevin was the one who pursued it all the way through college, pitching for the Auburn Tigers from 1997 to 2000, until his elbow was so injured that he couldn’t play anymore. He went with me to many an Atlanta Braves game over the years, and was beyond thrilled when one of his former Auburn teammates, the award-winning Tim Hudson, was traded to the team we grew up supporting.

As we grew up, Kevin completed two B.A. programs (one in Business while at Auburn and one in Accounting at the University of West Florida) and his MBA at my Alma Mater of Georgia State University. He then went on to earn his CPA certification, something that took him much time and effort to accomplish. He also went through the rigorous and lengthy training required to become a special agent for a department of the federal government, all the while supporting his growing family.

I say all of this in the past tense because Kevin died a year ago today.

I won’t go into any dramatic details about the why or the how. Suffice it to say that the movies aren’t all just a load of malarkey. If a federal agent is killed, they really do send agents in subdued suits driving dark, nondescript sedans to inform the next-of-kin and immediate family. And watching them approach, accompanied by local law enforcement, is by far one of the most grounding and unraveling experiences a person can ever undergo.

My brother left behind a wife and three children. He left behind two brothers and a sister, a mother and father, a grandmother. He left behind more aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins than you could imagine. He left behind a promising career…the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance. He left behind an inevitable wave of grief.

I write this and think of the things Kevin missed this year. Our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, the flip of a calendar to a new year, his youngest daughter’s first birthday. More selfishly, I think of events in my life that I would have wanted to share with him. The purchase of our new home. My daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. The publication of the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy, realizing a life-long dream of mine.

But I also think of everything else Kevin left behind. He left behind thirty-three years of wonderful memories spread over thousands of people. He left behind in me the certainty that there is something more to life than just the brief span of time we dwell on this planet, even if no one really knows what more there is. He left behind three beautiful children who will one day walk in their father’s footsteps and know that their father was a great guy who had an arresting, dimpled smile and the desire to succeed at anything he did.

Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows how difficult this was to write. And most writers out there also know how cathartic the experience has been for me. So thank you for reading what, for me, has been the most important blog of my career. And I would truly love to hear from you if you have any input or experiences of your own to share. For now, I’ll leave you with my final farewell to Kevin:

Dedication from Central:

This book is dedicated with love to my brothers,
my twin, my angel, my rock:
Michael, Kevin, Mark
All sisters should be so lucky.

Comments

  1. Brenda Lynn says:

    Raine, this is a beautiful tribute to your brother’s much too short time on earth. Like you, I am sure that there is something after this life. I believe that we will all have that Great Reunion Day on the other side. I have lost a 16 yr. old nephew in 2000, the same year we lost my mom. Then in 2004, we lost a niece on the other side of the family. the only way I have found to make any sense of it is to accept that it is God’s will. He has plans that we no nothing about, but I accept that His plan is perfect and we will be reunited one day.

    I know that you will be one of the people telling his sweet children about their daddy and what a wonderful man he was.

    Hugs and kisses to you,

    Brenda

    • Raine Thomas says:

      Thank you so much, Brenda! Your thoughts are right in line where mine have been this past year. I appreciate you taking the time to read and post. The support is invaluable!

      All my best,
      Raine

  2. Dear Raine, You express the multilayers of grief very eloquently. I sympathize with you for the pain of this anniversary (and so many other days that carry the emotional weight of remembrance). Yes, writing can be cathartic. It doesn’t eliminate the grief but allows us to somehow create some meaning for ourselves and others. Writing also honours the memory of those we have lost. Blessings my dear and thank you for writing this difficult yet important blog. Warm regards, David

  3. Vicky says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. My family are everything to me and I can’t even begin to imagine what you and your family have been through in the past year. This is a very moving tribute and a my thoughts will be with you an your loved ones today.

  4. Kelly Gamble says:

    Thank you, Raine. I’m also very close to my brothers, and reading this made me cry for you. It’s a beautiful tribute to your brother, and a reminder to the rest of us to cherish every day.

  5. Melody says:

    That was so beautiful. *sniffle*

    It makes me especially emotional because me and my brother do not speak. We have to treasure every moment with the ones we love. I’m going e-mail this blog to my brother. I’m sure that Kevin has been with you this entire time, watching over your daughter and his own children. <3

    • Raine Thomas says:

      Thanks so much, Melody! I sure hope that your brother takes something away from it if he chooses to read it. That would provide one more purpose to what is otherwise a tragic experience. I really appreciate the comments!

  6. Thank you for this heartfelt blog, Raine. I’m the father of three teenaged boys who are growing up with a strong spirit of competition, sometimes way too strong for my liking. I hope that they will one day settle down and learn to treasure the fact that they each have two brothers – brothers they can count on, lean on, trust, and love unconditionally. Your blog will be one more thing to help me teach them how lucky they are just to have brothers.

    • Raine Thomas says:

      Your comments mean a lot, Frederick…thank you for taking the time to read the blog and share your thoughts with me. With you as a parent, I’m confident your boys will settle down and make you proud!

  7. Sometimes words can express an ocean of feelings, though I don’t think “I’m sorry for your loss” can account for how deeply sympathetic I am at this moment to your pain. My family like yours, lost a young person, who was born my cousin, but ended up growing up as my brother. His death came exactly a month after his young daughter died. It’s been six years, but I still remember getting the call.

    Even though the pain is there, I know that we will meet again someday. It might not be in technicolor, but I know that when we are all finally together we’ll be able to catch up, and spread the love once more. Your brother left an incredible legacy in every person’s life that he touched, so that you can all remind his children about the amazing Dad they had. Talk to them often about how amazing he was, as a person who lost her father at a young age, I can’t stress enough how important this is. Because sometimes we forget, we are in pain, but it is so important for those children to know how amazing their dad was.

    I’m sure that wherever he is, he’s relishing in your accomplishments and those of the family. Bet you he’s smiling widely at his sister pointing to the brightest star, just for you, as you reached your goal of publishing your books.

    • Raine Thomas says:

      Thanks, Lyn, for taking the time to read my blog and comment. It means the world to me! It also really helps hearing stories of others who have gone through similar things and knowing that, in time, the painful memories ease while the happy ones rise to the top. It’s what gets us through!

  8. Christy says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am touched by who he was and how much he means to you. Your courage in grief and your faith in the midst of it is inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Melissa says:

    Thank you for sharing such and incredibly touching and personal part of your life. It sounds like your brother was an amazing man. It’s extremely difficult to deal with the loss of those we love. I’ve lost many special people, but none affected as hard as losing my best friend and my Grandma. My best friend committed suicide six years ago. Losing her was crippling, especially the way it happened. A year ago I finally allowed myself to forgive her for leaving and never telling us why. My Gram passed away four months ago. I’ve never watched someone I love slip away more and more every day. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. Helping my Mom take care of her Mom is something I will always treasure. Death is never easy, whether it’s expected or not, loss is loss. There are moments when it hits me all over again. But I will remember and love them forever.

    • Raine Thomas says:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Melissa! Your words are poignant and heartfelt, and I think echoed by everyone who has commented on the post. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!

  10. Oh I’m so sorry. Really sorry.