You made me laugh. You made me cry. Mostly you made me laugh. You were stubborn and passionate and opinionated. You were tenderhearted, forgiving, and sweet. You made me so angry sometimes, and other times so proud.
You didn't say a single thing when I smashed into your car at 16, completely ruining months and months worth of work. You brought me chocolates with a bite out of each one when I was sick. You played tennis with me on a broken leg. You flickered your bedroom light every morning when I drove past on my way to seminary. You walked me halfway home after I walked you halfway home, never really ready to say goodnight. You made me try squirrel. Your laugh was contagious. You once hid a bag of cheeseburgers from a passing police car, like it was a bag of crack. You tried to protect me when I played tackle football with the guys. You drew pictures of half a dozen Disney characters and made me hang them on my wall because you thought all girls liked Disney characters. You wrote me letters using obscure or ridiculously big words to say completely juvenile things. You really tried hard to do things right, so many times.
You were stupid and impulsive and shortsighted. You were innovative and talented and hardworking.
You made me laugh until my stomach and face were sore; a hundred times or more.
You broke my heart once or twice.
You guarded your pain like a mother bear with her cub. Fierce, mean, threatening, if anyone got near it. I don't know that anyone ever knew the full extent of it.
You dealt with your problems idiotically so many times. But you faced your consequences like a man, and somehow managed to handle life skillfully, despite it all.
You acted so tough, like you didn't want anyone to know how gentle and kind you were.
You made it a point to make people get past the rough-gruff-hardened exterior to see what you were really about. I think you, more than anyone, taught me to look past the exterior for something worthwhile.
We were the odd couple. Goody-Two-Shoes, best friends with Trouble. But really, you had a better idea of right and wrong and what really mattered, long before me. I just played by the rules better.
I'm muddling through strange emotions, brought about by your death. We had next to nothing in common in our adult lives, but something about sharing those tumultuous teen years kept us connected all these years. It feels strange now to mourn your death---I don't know how to do it properly.
Last time we talked I asked you how a big goofy-looking jerk like you got such a beautiful wife. You told me that was no way to talk to a cancer patient.
I always fell for your inappropriate and ridiculous jokes and you laughed when I apologized for my insensitivity.
You despised hypocrisy.
I think your inability to overlook it or get past it made you do some pretty dumb stuff.
But maybe, if anyone could have known your hurt, or carried some of it for you, you would have found peace in this life.
I know you are at peace now. I'm certain you aren't resting though. This time when I say "be good" I think you might actually do it!
I'll see you where the sidewalk ends and the road begins.
June 14, 1975-March 4, 2011
P.S. I'll make sure they keep putting flags out for your birthday every year.