Five years ago, Arleigh was 12; Hanan was 10; Bria was 5; and Jack was four. Five years ago I was sitting at a computer lamenting on the fact that after a wonderful two weeks my Mom was headed back to the mainland. I have no idea who won the Super Bowl five years ago. What I do know is that the world stopped spinning for my mother and our world would be forever changed. My stepfather, Ned called and told me to sit down. I thought he was messing with me. I should’ve known I shouldn’t expect a call from him. He called to tell me that my brother had died.
This weekend I got to chat with a friend who didn’t know Tye. To call him a character would be an understatement. She asked me when he died. I had a minute of forgetfulness. It was our first year in Hawaii. I couldn’t remember, five or six years. It seemed like yesterday and a lifetime all at once. Dates are not seared in my brain. I don’t miss Tye more today than I did yesterday. I miss him more in moments. I missed him on Saturday when Bria scored. I missed him at Hanan’s play. I missed him when Arleigh saved the house from a fire. I missed him when Jack scored as high as the rest of his class on a test. I especially missed him when a couple of weeks ago I was walking in from recess and one of my students said, “Mrs. Stiff, one of my spelling words is poop!” Tye would have died in a fit of laughter to hear than he thought p-o-p was poop.
I struggle today with what to say. How do I remember Tye without upsetting Mom? There is no way that I could be as entertaining as him. As I considered what on earth I could possibly say, I thought about what Tye’s legacy would be. There were many times that my kids would be driving him crazy. It was hard for him to be around little people who craved attention as much as he did. He would say that it was unbelievable how I had the patience of a saint until I didn’t and then he wanted to leave the country. It’s probably still like that. I’ve been in fifth grade again last week. The class that I was with is particularly focused on empathy and I think of all the things I could say about Tye he had an abundance of empathy.
Tye always rooted for the under dog. Empathy is laced into the pages of his book. Sometimes it was in an arrest that broke his heart. Sometimes it was in being excited to watch his nieces and nephews. He lived his life feeling for others until it hurt. There were many middle of the night phone calls when he couldn’t shake his emotions. He felt for other people and always found a way to reach out. He was always looking for the next way to help or how he could do more. His book and his life mission was to help first responders understand how to be empathetic in their response while staying safe. I can’t think of a better way to describe the character of my brother and it is truly a wonderful legacy.
He was also full of stories. There are so many stories. I think I ask every year. If you have a story to share, I would love to hear it. Tye would love to know his name and his stories are living on. He loved for the attention to be on him. So today, I’ll give it to him.