Remembering My Brother

My brother died at 33 years old in the spring of 2015. My only sibling of my Mom and Dad, I wrote a bit about his death here. Some days it hits me all crazy and I’m like, wait, that really happened, my brother….died!?!? Grief is weird and life is surprising.

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Justin was extremely funny and could work a room with his storytelling. He did stand up comedy when I was in college and I would take friends from school to go see him perform in nightclubs. He could impersonate any accent he had ever heard, and quote back entire scenes from movies after watching them just once. His memory was unmatched.

He thrived on being the center of attention. As an elementary age kid of 8 or so, he learned magic tricks and performed them in front of the entire school. As a teenager he was the “Announcements Guy” of the church youth group, always leaving everyone laughing. He once performed a spur of the moment ice skating routine with a friend (not on ice) that made a youth leader laugh so hard she peed her pants.

He loved big words and creative games. And he absolutely loved to cook for others. He improvised recipes and they were always good but rarely the same twice. He loved to eat good food. Burgers were his go to choice, usually with bacon. And when we were younger I have the distinct memory of him in the kitchen making BLTs but without the L and T. A miracle whip and bacon sandwich, never mayo.

My brother loved video games. We were raised on our uncle’s Atari and later our family owned Nintendo, Sega, and N64. Justin owned other systems once he was on his own and loved to play with his family and friends. The day after his gamma knife treatment in January 2015 we were playing Super Mario Bros. together on the original NES system. He still remembered where all the secret warp levels were.

Justin loved motorcycles, snowmobiles, jet skis, ice biking, wake boarding, really anything with a motor and he was interested. He loved to go on long motorcycle rides with his wife, family and friends. He also loved racing his motorcycle on a closed course up north.

My brother was a family man. His best friend tells a story of Justin as a junior high boy telling him that he couldn’t wait to get married and have a family of his own. Surprisingly enough, that stood out as a unique thing for a pre-teen boy to say.

I remember my brother telling me about this girl he wanted to marry. After seeing them together I couldn’t imagine him with anyone else. They married, built a life together and had a beautiful baby girl, our first niece. Justin loved those two like crazy, and spoiled them every chance he had.

My brother was diagnosed with germ cell tumors in 2013 which ultimately ended his life. During those months, Justin wrote. He kept the focus on healing and asking friends and family to pray with him for miracles. And he got them! Five or six times the cancer that was there was completely obliterated, and then it would come back, over and over again. The stupid cancer was persistent. Justin’s faith didn’t waver. Incredibly, it became stronger and he became more vocal and more stubborn. He fought until his very last breath.

I hate the story of his death because I hate that he died. I miss him often. I don’t want the short story of his death to overshadow his big and bright life.

My brother lived more in his 33 years than most people live in a lifetime. I’m so glad Justin was in this world and that we have 33 years of his life to remember.

My brother was well loved. And he is very well missed.

(More stories about my brother can be found here  and scattered through the Grief Glimpse posts.)

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