I just came back from my oldest stepson’s funeral: he passed away nearly three weeks ago at age 26. One of the things that fascinated him was space (yes, the final frontier); another thing that he had hoped to do was to travel around the world. He now has his wings and can now realize both passions.
I knew him as a quiet young man who only let people in when he felt he could trust them. I also knew him as a man who was a bit of a practical joker and as a man would move Heaven and Earth to take care of his two young daughters. I learned at the funeral service that he did volunteer work in Mexico, building homes for people who needed them. I also learned that he was a role model for young people who used to do drugs in that he inspired them to get off drugs. He was well-loved by his three brothers, his mother, his stepfather, his father, and me.
I sometimes wonder, If I had fixed one more meatloaf dinner or done his laundry one more time or let him know that his daughters occasionally were ill-behaved or urged him to go to rehab, would he still be here today? I now know that he was a young man in chronic pain who used painkillers just to function daily. One night he took too much, fell asleep, and never woke up; his younger brother and his children’s mother found him the next day.
I now grieve, not for the quiet young man in pain I knew, but for the vibrant young man I wish I knew. More than that, I grieve because I wish I could have told him that he was a good young man and that though he and his father sometimes didn’t see eye-to-eye his father undeniably loved him. Now I have to tell my two remaining stepsons that they are just as much a blessing to me as they are to their mother — I missed that chance with their big brother. Don’t pass up opportunities to tell your loved ones how you really feel about them. Tell them now before they get their wings.
June 4, 1981 Jeremy Edward Bourke February 12, 2008