Sunday, October 25, 2015

More Than Words

It has been two weeks and two days since my brother died. My mother says his passing has left a hole in her heart. I tried to convince her that the space he left is filled with light and love. Because if you knew Joe, you would know how true that is – in spite of the hole.

I wrote his obituary; dredged up words from the depths of my broken heart to illuminate the life he lived and the love he gave. I tried to capture the vast spirit of a man who was a husband for two decades, a friend to all, a professor who inspired struggling students to take a chance at the next level, and a guy who exemplified a zest for living.

He is gone. The funeral programs holding those words have been stored away. His ashes are settled for safekeeping. My brothers and I have scattered to our respective faraway places. And I am at home trying to find words to a story that insist on playing hide-and-seek when I sit down to my keyboard.

We were blessed with 18 months to prepare for Joe's departure. Pancreatic cancer is not a generous disease, but for my family, God granted us time to come to grips with His will. In those up and down days of Hope vs. Setbacks, I wrote the story I’m editing now. Deep inside I know that I channeled my anger into Pax, my despair into Fallon, my hope into a happily-ever-after. But now knowing the reality of my brother’s ending, I have faltered in my developing fantasy.

Christmas - Early 70's
I ask myself if I am making the most of the talent God gave me. I ask if I’m contributing to the world in an amount equivalent to what the universe expects. I tell myself “Yes!” and then login to my laptop. And as long as I don’t glance out the window at the clouds, hear a certain song on the radio or remember watching Alice In Wonderland with Joe in the weeks before he died, I can start.

Delete a word here. Replace a phrase there. Remember to dedicate the book to my fantasy-loving brother.

Then I stumble. Falter. Forget the train of thoughts I was trying to capture. And sometimes I cry.

He would not want this. Not Joe. In fact, I am sure he is rolling his eyes, shaking his head, and insisting I move forward. If only one thought, one word, one breath at a time. He was a great guy; driven enough to prod, yet caring enough to understand that sisterly love makes me melt from time to time. In those moments now and ahead, I have to believe that my little brother will reach down to rescue me from my wallowing and nudge me back on track.

My world is filled with words. They leech from my pores onto paper when I cannot speak them. They ring through my dreams, assault me in meetings, sway my perspective when I least expect them. For the past two weeks, in the stealth way words rule me, they remind my heart that the silent, hand-holding, smile-filled moments spent with Joe outranked anything I could have ever said.
Real love is more than words.
If I've learned anything over the past year and a half, it's that: Show your love. Live your life. Use your powers for good. My words will return to me when I least expect their magic and I am certain that the ones I write from here on out will be graced by my brother’s spirit.

St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley has established the Dr. Joe Worth Memorial Scholarship Fund in Joe's honor. We invite you to help grow this scholarship so that it becomes the educational portal Joe would want in order for future students to benefit from his incredible legacy.

How to contribute to the Dr. Joe Worth Memorial Scholarship Fund at St. Louis Community College
By Mail: St. Louis Community College Foundation, 300 South Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102
By Phone: 314.539.5216 (credit/debit)
Online: (Select Dr. Joe Worth Tribute/Memorial Scholarship.)