Memories of a brother taken too soon

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Column by Burt Lindsey


The first rich memory I have of my brother is him coming home from the Army in 1964. He was 20 and I was 13, a teenager looking up to his big brother.

Twenty-eight years later, my brother was dead at a too young 48.

A lot happened in those years. You see Willie was an alcoholic. I guess that’s what eventually killed him, in a roundabout way.

Another memory of my brother Willie is how he used to foul a lot when playing basketball and how we used to argue about that. That doesn’t matter so much now that he’s gone.

Wouldn’t we all change some things that we’ve done if our lives could be lived over again?

I remember playing golf with him. He always swung too hard and wondered why he couldn’t hit the ball like our older brother Martin. I guess Willie was just stubborn like me.

I think back on the few times we ever had serious talks, mostly about his relationship and drinking. He always had a beer in his hand. Probably the biggest battle of his life was giving up alcohol. I think you only can help those who want to be helped.

One night he called me to bond him out of jail. After paying his $100 bail, we had a nice talk about all the negatives of drinking and he promised to stop taking all those risks, especially driving under the influence.

The sobriety lasted about three months before he landed in jail again. This time, a girlfriend posted bond.

Willie worked 14 years for General Electric but would miss work and drink sometimes. He eventually lost a good job. I remember they gave him a lot of chances.

Is it easier to get along with family when you are not thinking about their issues or concentrating on your own shortfalls? Lord knows where I would be without him.

One positive thing that sticks in my memory is how much that he loved his daughter. She went everywhere with him, even to one of his favorite bars.

She was only 4 years old when he died and probably didn’t understand much about what happened. She was definitely the love of his life. I’m sure she remembers him with a lot of love 20 years later.

My brother was killed on June 24, 1992. I know that I love my brother, but I also know I judged him.

We all have faults. Would we change how we treat a loved one if we could step back in time?

One Wednesday night in 1992, I was sitting in church thinking about my brother and feeling kind of down.

Everyone else was upfront praying. As I lowered my head, someone touched my shoulder. I clearly heard, “Everything will be all right.”

I looked behind me, but no one was there.

It wasn’t my imagination. My hope is that it means my brother is in heaven.

Burt Lindsey is an Elizabethtown resident.