#323 – Dick Bernard: Taking Leave…Brooke, Vince

Sometimes events intersect and their very intersection adds to their individual meaning.
Such happened in my own life during the last two weeks.
It began with a phone call on Jan. 20. I heard Cathy gasp, and say “oh no.”
The call was about her niece’s 8-month old daughter, Brooke, hospitalized in critical condition with severe bleeding on the brain. She was not expected to survive. It was a genuine shock. A day earlier Brooke had been a normal, happy, eight month old child, born May 5, 2010.
Within 24 hours, an e-mail arrived from my cousin, concerning her brother and my cousin Vince, age 58, in the hospital “and is not expected to survive. Multiple systems are failing….” With Vince, the announcement did not come as a shock. He had not been well.
January 22, Vince died. Brooke followed January 23. One eight months old; the other nearly 59 – too young, yes, but 58 years older than little “Brooke-e” as the minister described her at her funeral, renaming Cinco de Mayo, “Cinco de Brooke-e“. Less than two months earlier he’d had Brooke in front of the congregation, he said. Like everyone else, he was still in shock.
(Click on photos to enlarge them)

Vince, January 17, 2000

Brooke on the family Christmas card, December, 2010

For Vince, there was no funeral. He was not married, and his surviving family members lived long distances away. His dog and two cats were rescued after his hospitalization and death. Memories are being shared in phone calls, letters, photos and e-mails. Best as I know, he would not have liked a funeral: crowds were something he abhorred. He was very intelligent; one sister described him as having the highest IQ in the family – and the family was blessed with very high IQ’s.
Most of us had not seen Vince for years. When he left his town, as for his brother’s funeral in 2000 (photo above), he came across as a very good humored guy. But life in the spotlight was not his kind of life. My guess is that he departed as he wished: no pretense, cared for, but not too many people to deal with. His struggles behind him. “Free at last…” to borrow a phrase.
Brooke, on the other hand, with all of eight months of living behind her, packed the church for her funeral. Her Dad is a policeman, and police care for their own: there had to be 100 or more law enforcement officers at the service, and they were an honor guard for the family.
She was eulogized, and laid to rest in the Church cemetery.
One hundred years ago, a death of someone her age would have been quite common; but today, an infant death is almost unheard of, and brings much grieving.
The whole town, it seemed, was out at the wintry cemetery where little Brooke was buried.
Vince’s ashes are now with the family…a tangible memory of his having been in our company for almost 60 years.
Funerals, memorials, ashes, are for the living, not for the dead.
All of us who were touched in any way by Vince and/or Brooke have our own thoughts on what their deaths mean in our own living with others, and in our own lives.
In their way, they teach us lessons about ourselves.
I feel blessed to having known them, their parents, siblings, grandparents and everyone in their circles.
They are at peace.

The cemetery where Brooke was buried January 29, 2011