A Letter To My Baby Brother

Dearest Baby Brother,

Happy birthday darling! I wish that I could deliver this greeting In person, but since you died so young, that is impossible. Based on my beliefs, which were yours as well, I believe that you are up there in heaven, healthy, and watching over all of us. At times, I swear that I can feel your presence all around me, and I find that quite comforting.

This letter is not meant to be a downer. No, I want to celebrate you, and tell you how blessed I feel to be your sister. Although it has happened ever so slowly, over the years, the good memories that we shared, outweigh my grief over losing you. Grief is funny that way — it affects each of us in different ways, and no one can decide when another person “should be over it.”(I hear people say this much too often, and I am quick to refute that claim.) Now, instead of tears borne of grief, I cry tears of happiness at the mere memory of you.

You see, I finally reached a sense of acceptance and peace about your death. I am not saying that a day goes by that I don’t miss you, but the raw hurt, sadness, and anguish has been replaced with the joy of sharing a life with you, and the pride of being your big sister.

The wonderful memories of you are too many to name. Yet, I remember the day that Mom brought you home from the hospital. I loved you from the moment that I lay eyes on you. As the oldest, I assigned myself your protector, and vowed that I’d let nothing happen to you.

I remember that after great-grandmother could no longer keep up with you, Mom placed you in daycare. At first, you hated it. Every day, for a month or so, you could be found by the gate, crying and waiting for Mom to pick you up. You insisted on wearing sunglasses, so that the other children wouldn’t see you cry. I remember those times that I picked you up from daycare, and we walked home with your hand in mind, as you told me about your day. I held your little hand for dear life.

I remember that you were always funny, and could make us laugh. I remember that when I got pregnant, right after high school, and compounded the problem by moving out to get married, you never disparaged or showed any disappointment in me. Regardless of what others thought, you didn’t care. In fact, although you are only 9 years old, I remember you taking at least two buses to see me, and ultimately, your first nephew in our teeny, little apartment. Your actions touch my heart to this very day. And, you were a great uncle who loved and delighted in your nephews and nieces.

As you grew older, you were a constant source of pride, and although I thought it impossible, I loved you more. You graduated high school, and moved on to college. You were living in San Francisco, and had just finished your final year at the University when you were diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I was in awe of the strength, grace, and faith with which you faced the situation. I remember your determination and zeal to overcome the disease. I remember your insistence that life would go on, so you decided to move away from home to seek your Masters in Communication. Although you didn’t love to see your diploma, Mom treasures it, as it sits in the frame that you bought for it.

Alvin, you were, and remain, a blessing to me and even though I was the oldest, you were always a wise old soul and your life and death taught me, among others, things like:

  1. Love never dies.
  2. To tell those that you love, how much you love them and what you mean to them~~often.
  3. To be brave in the face of adversity.
  4. To take risks.
  5. To be kind to others, but don’t be a doormat.
  6. To speak up for yourself.
  7. To speak up for injustices.
  8. That loyalty, truth and trust are traits that one should live by.
  9. To maintain your sense of curiosity.
  10. To be true to yourself.
  11. To live life to its fullest.
  12. To know all of your options, before making a decision.
  13. That wisdom is not age-dependent.
  14. To appreciate, appreciate, appreciate the small blessings in life.
  15. To constantly count your blessings.
  16. To live a life that you can be proud of.
  17. That you are never promised another moment.
  18. To defend your family fiercely.
  19. To savor life with all of your senses.
  20. To be adventurous.
  21. To love outside of your comfort zone.

All in all, I remember a man who exemplified a zest for life, an incredible spirit and was the epitome of a compassionate and caring person. Your positively touched the life of everyone who was fortunate enough to have been in your presence. You were a loving brother. (I mean, what brother hangs a picture of his big sister up in his high school locker?!?! lol) Sweetie, you were a blessing to me, and I am a better person for having known you. If given the opportunity, there are things that I long to share with you, but I am comforted by the belief that I adequately conveyed to you how very much I love you. About that, I have no regrets. Besides, I believe that you are already privy to everything that I wish to share.

I still love this quote from this earlier post about you:

“And you will continue now, and forever, to redefine your relationship with your deceased loved one. Death doesn’t end the relationship, it simply forges a new type of relationship – one based not on physical presence but on memory, spirit, and love.” ~ Ashley Davis Bush, “Transcending Loss

I am a lucky person for having shared a life with you, and as I expressed in the above post, you will always be my dear, sweet brother. I’d have it no other way. Thank you for being, and enjoy a heavenly birthday.

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My Favorite Oldies Rhythm and Blues/Soul Talents

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Music. I love music–all types of music from country, new age, contemporary, jazz, rhythm & blues (a.k.a. R&B), reggae and more. The only genre of music that I am indifferent to, is opera. I was never exposed to it, and as I grew older never developed an appreciation for it.  Of all the genres however, rhythm & blues is my rock.

I grew up listening to what is now considered “R&B” music. I fully realize that the music you grow up with often plays a huge factor in dictating your future likes and dislikes, and that my choices will invariably differ from others. As a teenager,  I used to sit alone, in a dark room, jamming to R&B tunes on the radio. I knew all the words and sang my heart out. I have an okay voice, but believe me, it is nothing to write home about. Anyway, I find that there was, and still is, heart, passion and soul in the R&B oldies that is rarely replicated in today’s music.   Regardless of the time or place, the oldies will invariably stop me in my tracks and send me careening back to that girl singing her heart and soul along with the music that she loved. It is not easy for me to whittle my loves down, but I’ve listed them, as well as little tidbits of information about each one.

  1. Aretha Franklin I adore Aretha Franklin. She instills heart and soul in her songs, and does so better than anyone that I can think of.
  2. The Staple Singers This is a family group consisting of among others, Papa Staples and his daughters. Like many of that era, their music has its’ roots in gospel music.
  3. Al Green He was also known as the Rev. Al Green because in 1976, he was ordained pastor of a Memphis, Tennessee church located down the street from Elvis Presley’s Graceland.
  4. Marvin Gaye When Barry Gordy, head of Motown records, first heard Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” he refused to released it fearing that it was ‘too political.” Although the song refers to the ills of the day, I find that it is equally applicable today. Sadly, in 1984, Gaye’s father killed him.
  5. The Jackson Five Okay, before you call me on it, I admit that the group also sang pop songs, but they also sang R&B and soul music. Given the amount of time that I spent singing and dancing to their music, I can not in good conscience exclude them.
  6. The Temptations A five man group, the Temptations were known for their dance moves and flashy dress.
  7. Ike and Tina Turner A husband and wife duo with a tumultuous relationship. After severing ties from Ike Turner, Tina Turner became a popular solo artist.
  8. Stevie Wonder He was 12 years old when he recorded Fingertips I and Fingertips II.

As I said at the outset, this is an incomplete list of the musicians who affected me throughout my childhood. Yet, they are representative of the music that touched my heart and is seared into my soul. To this day, I am apt to burst into song when I hear a familiar tune.

More than that, I’ve come to realize that,

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ~Maya Angelou

Much like books, music is a balm for my mind, body and spirit. Through music, I learned the value of acknowledging, expressing and understanding complex emotions. Through it, I learned that music could be my voice, whatever my thoughts and feelings, and that I was rarely alone in those feelings.

What about you? Do you have any music memories? How does music influence you? I’d love to hear.

Blessings, Lydia