24 August 2009

Original Guitar Hero, Unplugged

On His way backstage, God kicked the cord out of the wall. The amplifier fell silent, the aural void near to bursting the eardrums when my Big Bro passed away. The Stratocaster solo that was his life cut off, the guillotine falling and we were in shock, unaware that a sentence had been handed down.

Sentence is unfair, perhaps. I am fully cognizant that his death was not a punishment. It is an inescapable fact of our existence that we are all not meant to last. Knowing it is inevitable does not lessen the pain, I am sure you would agree. Pain. Far too often it has been my travelling companion in the last few years. I have written three eulogies, now, in my life. I daresay I am becoming an expert.

Terrible occupation, it is, writing signs for people that I may be a limner of the departed. It is a spike of irony that Big Bro essentially taught me to read when we were kids, before I even started first grade. His eulogy another sign for me to paint:

Big Bro had a kind heart and beautiful, troubled mind. Growing up that trouble made him hard to reach, sometimes. As time went on, we drifted apart, the moon and the sun shining on the same sea but different waters. Our orbits were no longer the same. If I thought I was the sun, I forgot my partner the moon.

The sun, however, has a long memory for love. Eventually I came to see that Big Bro was my reflection, and I was fortunate to have it. We began to reach one another after years in different parts of the sky. I was humbled by his love and pride in me. I was astonished at his protectiveness. I was blessed that we could share these things.

Big Bro fought a lot of demons in his life, in his body and his mind, but one place he was happy was out on a boat, deep-sea fishing. It was there that he was happiest, absorbed in the joy of rolling waves and catching fish. He was happy, I think, because some demons cannot cross open water. It was there that he could be at peace, and I am pleased to know that he found some relief.

Big Bro made me realize that I am not the sun. If anything, I am closer to being the sea: restless, hungry and not the same without the moon to change the tides.

Big Bro was also a skilled guitar player, self-taught, and in love with music. It made little difference to him if he became a rock star, he simply loved to play. He could listen to songs and just start playing them, as if it were like breathing. His favorite guitar was a blue Stratocaster, and it had pride of place on his living room wall.

God kicked out the cord, the Marshall stack went silent and the stage was suddenly bare. My hands grasp at the phantom shape of that guitar neck, and my heart aches at the thought that he won’t be around to teach me to play. Big Bro is gone now, and I sit silent in the front row, echoes of a brilliant power chord fading into memory. Brilliant, strange and lovely.

Rock on, my brother, wherever you are.


  1. Gumbo,you are to writing what Big Bro was to music. love ya oldman irish

  2. Beautiful.
    Hope you are well and holding up ok.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your brother, Irish. Sounds like a wonderful guy. Peace to you in this difficult time. Thanks for visiting and for your kind comment.

  4. I'm sure that where ever he is, he enjoyed that.

  5. ...because some demons cannot cross open water. Haunting. Losing a brother can't be easy, my heart goes out to you.

  6. That's one of the reasons I love eulogies so much. . .

  7. Beautiful tribute. He would have loved it.

  8. That is powerful - both the emotion and the writing. My wife's father was very similar to your brother - he had several regionally famous rock bands, and died too early. Only God didn't kick out the plug, he did.

  9. A great tribute to your brother. Sometimes it's not easy to stay close to siblings, but their essence always stays with us. You capture your brother's beautifully.

  10. That tribute was simply lovely. I bet your bro wold have loved it, and maybe even set it to music.

  11. Shared pain is lessened and shared joy is increased and both parties are made the stronger by it, this I believe before all else. Thank you for sharing so eloquently. May you and your family soon find the peace that dwells on the far side of sorrow.

  12. I like what you wrote about your brother being happiest on his boat fishing. The sea does that to me also. I can get lost in living every moment when I'm on the water. He found his peace.

  13. Hey, I dont know you but I found you through the Daily Writing Exercise blog and I just have to say Im so incredibly sorry for the loss you're going through. I can only imagine how I would feel if I were to lose my brother and I don't know how you cope. You're an incredibly strong human being and I wish you a lifetime of happiness.

  14. Paul and I just returned from a visit to his niece in GA. Paul lost his brother, her father, brutally and tragically last summer, and I know their pain continues but it does lessen as time goes on. Hang in there, it gets easier. I've seen it.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...