You’ve gone, and we have been left behind.
I feel sadness and anger and guilt and pain and so many other emotions.
This is why so much great art is about tragedy.
We live our lives. Our bodies fall apart. We die.
A couple of images have stuck with me over the past week.
One is this: I see God opening his arms for you and giving you a deep hug as he welcomes you to heaven.
But I know that you didn’t believe in such stuff. And I don’t want you to come back as a ghost to haunt me. So I’ll go to the other image.
With your death, there is a rip in that fabric.
It’s a rip that, over time, will be repaired. But there will always be a scar there.
We are not the same now as we were earlier this month.
You’re gone. But here’s the thing: You’re not gone.
You are still with us in the fabric of our experiences, in the fabric of our existence.
You have touched each of us in unique ways. You have helped shape us.
You touched and shaped Trish and your kids and grandkids.
You touched and shaped your brothers and sisters and your nieces and nephews.
You touched and shaped the little ones in the next generation.
And you will help shape the little ones still to come. They will be formed and taught and nurtured by the family that you helped form and teach and nurture.
After your death, one of my earliest realizations is that I had known you longer than anyone else alive had known you — and that you had known me longer than anyone else.
This week, I went through the family photos I had, and I realized how much we shared our childhood. And how much, for all our differences, we were also very much alike.
I remember the time we got into trouble together. I was maybe eight, and you were seven.
There was that new house being built on Washington Boulevard a bit west of Laramie Avenue. Only the basement level had been put in. So there were these bare walls surrounding a sea of mud.
I don’t know, but we climbed all around that construction site and got a bit muddy.
Well, not exactly. We got really and deeply muddy.
There was so much mud on our bike wheels that we had to walk the bikes home.
We came up the back stairs, and I guess it was Dad who saw us there and, well, he got kind of angry. He had us take all our muddy clothes off and spanked us and put us in the bathtub.
We washed up — I can imagine how darkly dirty the water was — and got in our pajamas and were sent to bed.
Then, Dad went out to the back porch to take our clothes and put them into the washer.
They were so caked with mud, though, that he got angry all over again and came into the bedroom and spanked both of us a second time.
Ah, well. We deserved it.
In our family, of course, baths often played an important role.
For instance, when I was about seven, I fell out of the top bunk and cut my lip.
I was bleeding a lot but must have been still half-asleep because, instead of going for help, I crawled into the bottom bunk with you, David.
Being together with you was a kind of help, I guess.
So, they put us in the bathtub and washed us, and — voila! — found that I was the injured party. You were simply an innocent bystander. Or by-sleeper, or something.
David, you and I went to a lot of John Wayne movies as we grew up.
Sometimes, we took Tim and John, such as when we went to see the movie “The Sons of Katie Elder.”
John Wayne was a lot like Dad, and we tried to emulate both of them.
You and I learned to be strong and dependable. We didn’t whine. We sought to solve the problems we faced. We bore burdens. We sought to do the right thing. We took responsibility for ourselves.
This really came home to me this week when I remembered that great family story — a real epic, a true saga. The story of you walking home from downtown.
Okay, it’s a Sunday, and you go downtown with your friends on the el. At some point, they ditch you, or simply lose track of you, and come back to the neighborhood.
You’re fine. You’re maybe eleven. Being alone downtown isn’t scary. Or not too scary.
You know all you have to do is to take the quarter you have in your pocket, get on the el and you’ll be back at Lake and Laramie in a short time.
But you get on the wrong el.
So, you walk back downtown under the el — I’m sure it was the Ravenswood Line — and then find Lake Street and start your trek west.
It’s about seven miles from downtown to our house. And so it is pretty late in the afternoon when you finally reach home.
Mom and Dad have had the cops out, scouring the neighborhood in search of you. I rode in one squad car; Dad rode in another.
So, for two or three hours, there’s been high drama in our house, and the fear is ratcheting up.
And you walk in the back door.
Mom bursts into tears and hugs you, and, when she finally gets her breath, she says, “Why didn’t you tell someone you were lost? Why didn’t you ask someone for help?”
You and I, though, weren’t trained to ask for help. We were trained — and we trained ourselves — to solve our problems.
You saw the problem, and you solved it. Besides, as you told Mom:
I wasn’t lost. I knew where I was.
David, you spent your life doing that — taking responsibility for your life. Facing the challenges that life threw at you.
A year ago, when we put together the Reardon history, there was a question that each of us answered:
“What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?”
Your answer was:
“What I want them to remember — I tried. I gave it my best shot. I didn’t shirk my responsibilities. I tried. I gave it an honest, sincere effort.”
That you did, David. That you did.
We will always miss you.
You will always be a part of the fabric of our family. Part of the fabric of our lives.
We love you.
Patrick T. Reardon