Eulogy For Another Brother

my brother Danny Joe at his wedding in the 1990s

Daniel Joseph Struck, my brother

This is a photograph of my brother Daniel J. Struck, or DJ, or Danny Joe as I always called him and still do, in the 1990s right after his one and only marriage. But he lived alone a long time. He had three great kids and just became a grandfather, and he died this past weekend, probably from a heart weakened by years of battling alcoholism.

Although I became distant from Danny Joe, like all my sibs and although that was never my intention, I never, ever stopped loving him for the kind, quiet, vulnerable and brave person he was. My best Danny Joe memories are: That photograph I can’t find of me at age seven or eight, wearing blue pajamas and bright red slippers with fuzzy trim, sitting on the braided living room rug and holding my brother in a strangling hug that he endured with that smile; teenage Danny standing up to my father with his fists clenched and me silently egging him on from behind my mother’s piano; watching him through the front storm door window, playing with my kids and other nieces and nephews on the front sidewalk instead of hanging out with the grownups at a family party; the Christmas he was celebrating sobriety and he and one other brother were the only siblings who met me for lunch in Huntley IL; and all the years and dozens of times he reached out to my daughter, encouraging her, no matter his own struggles.

Alcoholism, like many addictive behaviors, can be lethal. To those who must stand by and watch, it feels like helplessly witnessing the slow suicide of your beloved. And if addiction takes their life, the grief survivors feel is indescribable, even though your beloved is finally free from their tormentor.

#addictionawareness #addictionrecovery #unconditionallove  #youarenotyouraddiction

 

Death and Life

Through September and into November, in between marathon Art Bag Lady writing sessions at the Berea College library, I have been engaged in a number of art experiences with at-risk and artistic youth via the after school program with William Wells Brown/LEXengaged @UK, and the Day of the Dead festival at the Living Art and Science Center.  I’ve also been stalking (well, walking!) the historic Richmond KY cemetery — thus the title of this post, Death and Life.

Last year, just 8-10 weeks after Owen’s death, was very difficult. Halloween was a nightmare, November, except for a day or two, a blur. I am so grateful, therefore, to have this year’s celebratory life and death holidays and my involvement in them for comparison.

As part of LEXengaged I helped facilitate a field trip and scavenger hunt at African Cemetery #2 with dozens of little and big students taking photographs of headstone symbols and writing about the unique markers they found. It was a beautiful day, and beautiful to watch the kids interacting with the space and one another.

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I am most grateful to have been involved in the upbeat and positive Day of the Dead Festival hosted by the Living Art and Science Center on November 1. The nearby Episcopal Cemetery was open and embellished with candles and decorated altars; there were colorful dances in the street, food vendors well worth the wait, and art activities inside that I helped facilitate.  It was a joyous, wondrous evening despite the rain showers.

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In looking for a place to get my daily walk in Richmond, KY, I decided to check out the old, historic cemetery,  have been entranced with new memorial art every time I visit.  Some of the stones are quite old, and many so personalized it is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It is a bummer that picnics are not allowed!

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