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Loss Loss

Brian Wilson

I miss my friend.

On average 8,610 die each day in the United States. This works out to be 359 people every hour or about 6 people every minute.

It is hard to pick any one particular death that is more tragic or heart-wrenching than any other. All deaths bring with them sorrow, regret and a sense of loss.

You would think it would get easier with time and age. In some ways it does. Death is inevitable. It lurks in the darkness waiting for us all, creeping in bit by bit until it wraps us in the dark cloak of its embrace and steals us from all those we love in this world.

I met Brian in September 1991. We were both starting as freshmen at Northwestern University. He was a gangly band geek who played the baritone in the marching band. I was looking to redefine myself in a new place hundreds of miles from my home sporting shoulder-length hair and a cockiness that life had yet to knock out of me.

The school had required us to fill out lengthy forms to pick our roommates. The bored interns who actually made the final assignments promptly ignored those forms and instead decided that it would be fun to pair up the Brians with several other Brians living in the rooms alongside ours.

I wish I could find who made that decision and go back and thank them.

In the foolishness of youth we raced into our journey together. Within hours of being on campus we met, Mara, the woman that Brian would eventually marry (after a romance worthy of a 90s movie plot). It is through Mara that I met my future bride.

Brian and I quickly bonded. He was a brother to me, as close as my flesh and blood kin. We were roommates freshman year and again senior year. In between he joined a music fraternity and I gravitated toward the campus radio station and getting into the random, deep discussions about politics and life that you have at 2 a.m.

We would gently tease each other about our differences. I would laugh about how as a nice Jewish boy his favorite sandwich was ham and cheese and how much he loved singing traditional Christian religious music in the chapel choir on campus. He would point out my own failings as a supposedly good Catholic boy sleeping off hangovers on Sunday mornings.

Brian was best man in my wedding. I was best man in his. My children called him Uncle Monkey. His children call me uncle Brian.

For the past dozen or so years we have been making it a point to come together for our annual “guy’s weekend” camping trip. In one legendary trip, no one remembered to bring anything to drink other than beer and bourbon.

As our hair has grayed and become thinner, the gatherings became more swapping stories and talking about our families and children and our hopes and dreams for their futures with the occasional heated political debates thrown in.

A few years ago, Brian was diagnosed with lung cancer after asking his doctor about having droopy eyelid — Brian never did anything normal. He battled the cancer into a sort of stalemate. Things seemed to get back to normal. He would work his long shifts as an overnight hospital pharmacist and I had my busy schedule running between meetings and events. We didn’t talk as much as we used to and COVID got in the way of our planned activities.

Earlier this year Brian began periodically coughing up blood. Doctors searched to find out why. A few weeks ago, he was on vacation with his family in Palm Springs and ended up being taken to the hospital. The doctors got him stabilized.

On the morning of August 30. Brian went in for a routine bronchoscopy as part of the workup to figure out why he has been coughing up blood periodically. During the bronchoscopy the bleeding started again and they were not able to stop it. He died leaving his wife and three children, ages 13, 11 and 9.

That afternoon I was at work when his wife called me to tell me the news.

In the quiet moments since then, I have been thinking back on my many memories of time spent with Brian. I have caught myself seeing something humorous and wanting to send it to him or ask him his opinion on some topic, only to be faced with the reality that he is gone.

On Sunday we laid Brian to rest. I was a pallbearer. In keeping with his faith’s traditions, I took my turn shoveling clods of earth and filling in his grave.

I miss my friend. I miss my brother.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.