On Sunday while I was in virtual church (who knew that would ever be a thing?), I was listening as our priest read the names that are written in our parish’s chantry book, where people are prayed for on the anniversary of their deaths. While sitting there, I heard my brother’s name read – George Biggers Leatherwood – and realized that it was indeed very near the day George died back in 2004. In fact, if memory serves, I now realize that today is actually the day George died – May 3rd.
I have written a lot about my brother George over the years. I loved him dearly and still hold him very close to my heart. He was my closest big brother, 3 years my senior, as compared to my other older brothers who were 6 and 8 years older. He was also the very first person I remember adoring with all of my heart and absolutely the first person who broke my heart – when at age 10 he sat down and told me (at age 7) that I needed to stop hanging around so much with him and his friends. He was bigger now and it wouldn’t do to be seen with his little sister all the time. Crushed is not a big enough word for my feelings after hearing those sentiments. After all, George and I, up until that point, rode our bikes together down to Fort Inglish and played or went over to a field near Big Smith and explored in the woods or rode to the Little League field on a regular basis when George went to practice or played in games. He was my buddy, my companion, the most adored person in my little realm of family and friends. I understood on one level that he didn’t want his little sister hanging around all the time with him and his friends, but emotionally, well, no. I just couldn’t imagine how he could feel that way.
Over the years, we figured out how to be close again and we had been bosom buddies for a long time when he was diagnosed with cancer and given only 17 months to live at age 54. I was crushed again this time, but in a more visceral, down-to-the-bone kind of way. I curled up in the fetal position after the phone call when he told me his prognosis and I really wondered if it was going to be possible for me to make it through this life without my beloved brother George. He was one of the few people in my life who knew exactly what I meant often before I even voiced my thoughts, who “got” me completely and loved me no matter what. He had gone through more than a few years of alcoholism early in his adult life and that had been really tough on him and on me as well. But once he got clean, he stayed clean for many years and evolved into one of the best people I’ve ever known.
I was listening to Outlaw Country on the radio on Sunday and heard a song by William Prince called, “Always Have What We Had.” William Prince is a Canadian singer-songwriter, who is a member of the Peguis First Nation, part of the Ojibway and Cree descent. Though the song is clearly about a lost romantic relationship, the chorus is more universal and speaks very much to how I feel about brother George. Plus, I think he would love this fellow’s voice and his songwriting talent. So, I think I’ll include William Prince’s song as a tribute to my brother today. I can’t think of better way to make him smile up there in heaven. “At least we’ll always have what we had.”