Most people knew Brett Hershey as a fun-loving, accepting, hilarious person with an infectious personality. He was all those things and much more. But to me, his sister three years his elder, Bertle, as I affectionately called him, was an intricate part of what made the time of our youth spent in Oxford, Ohio such a fond memory.
Most people would agree that Brett was one of the funniest people around with the most unique sense of humor. He had a way of making the simplest task fun, the mundane an adventure, which I appreciated because I am seriously lacking this ability. I also admired his carefree temperament when I felt the self-imposed weight of the world on my shoulders. As a brother he was almost impossible to get in an argument with because he just didn’t get riled up about silly things. If ever I got annoyed with him, it was most likely my bad attitude at fault.
Brett, AKA “Brett the Bruiser,” always wanted to be part of the action, especially if it involved competition. He’d play any game that was going on with Nate and I and our older friends in the neighborhood, even if he got trampled a few times in the process. He’d dust himself off and get back in the game. I have many memories of playing Four-square, Kickball, Truth or Dare, and Ghost in the Graveyard with Brett.
Brett was the one who woke me up every hour on Christmas Eve to ask if it was morning yet, and then when morning came would help me organize all the presents into piles according to which person they belonged.
Brett was my affection-buddy, one of the few people who thrived on it as much as I did and actually liked my bear hugs. We also both possessed an unquenchable need to be with people. We loved when Crusade parties packed our house full of college students and we often attached ourselves to any student who would tolerate us hanging on them. And of course he shared my love for sweets, which meant countless trips to the nearby Colony Food Mart for candy, and begging Nate to share the treats in his Easter basket with us when Brett and I had quickly consumed ours!
He had a tender heart and would cry at the same things I did and shared my sensitivity to the feelings of people around us. The few times Brett fell and did not get back up because he actually did hurt himself, I cried along with him the protective tears of an older sister who couldn’t stand to see him injured.
More recently, I remember the boy-turned-man who sought my advice on his relationship with Liz, who shared my excitement about my future plans, and who would have made a fantastic uncle to my children. I will miss the many e-mails we exchanged and his gentle responses to the real pain of life.
The following poem is a product of me journaling to express my feelings about Brett’s tragic and untimely death. While the sentiments in it paint a picture of what’s going on in my heart, I share it with you in the hope that it will echo some of the groaning you’ve longed to put into words and help you to grieve this great loss.
“One Tragic Moment,” our song now reads.
Shining no longer, the light snuffed out.
Dreams shattered, joy tempered.
Missing what was.
Lost hope of what might have been.
Shock and disbelief numb us-- How can this be?
Yet the pain is more real than any feeling we’ve known.
Face it head-on and its tide overcomes you.
Suffocation--drowning--no energy to fight it.
Turn your back on the agony and run,
Refuse to spar with it,
Its bitter water finds a way into your bloodstream.
Slowly poisons from the inside.
One tragic moment, never forgotten.
Who knew that one moment, a small unit of time,
Would become the pivot upon which life turns?
That one moment of darkness
Could extinguish years of light?
A unique personality, a contagious laugh, a ready smile,
A tender heart, a lover of people, full of life,
A cherished son, brother, fiancé, and friend,
Visions of a future husband and father,
An entire history, a complete person…
Dreams never realized, hopes dashed.
A treasured past now relegated to memories.
A promising future a shadow of hopes unfulfilled.
Another of his likeness will never darken our doors.
We know the light is not out, it merely glows somewhere else.
Contained in shining moments
To which we are no longer privy.
The black hole it has left here will remain.
It will gape at us menacingly
When we have the courage to confront it.
Try as we may to escape it, to move on,
It follows and taunts us.
It is said, “Time heals all wounds.”
Earth does not possess enough time for such injuries.
Wounds that--like bruises on children--should never be.
Blows so deep leave disfiguring scars.
The damage will be visible until time is no more.
“Life must go on,” they tell us.
Have we no say in the matter?
And if we‘re not ready to trade the happy memories
For the incomplete life now available to us?
Clinging to the past, we have no use for it.
Life does go on around us, for everyone else.
Dazed, we wander about as if in a perpetual nightmare
Through which we cycle endlessly.
True, there are other sons, grandchildren to come, and husbands to be found.
But there is no substitute for the irreplaceable.
It is no consolation,
When the lack of his presence leaves an insatiable void.
“O death, where is thy sting?” we hear from heaven.
While glorious and real in eternity,
For those left behind, there is no salve for the burning.
No promise was given of understanding our Maker.
His ways are higher than ours.
Still the ‘whys’ plague us.
Why this…why him…why now?
While knowing no answer is forthcoming,
We long to hear something to assure us we’ll make it,
That we will survive.
Something is very wrong with the world.
We have known this through glimpses.
Now its truth has cruelly crashed in upon us
And indelibly left its mark.
Where is the logic in this one tragic moment?
A God-fearing family now crippled.
A gentle man come to a violent end.
An expectant bride abandoned at the alter.
“He is not here, He is risen,” it’s said of Christ.
Our loved one also lies not underground.
The body an empty shell of the person.
One day the dead will join Him at our reunion.
And the face we knew and loved
Will join the soul that resides in another realm.
Until then the ache of longing will cast shadows
…On one shining moment gone dark.