Updated: Apr 24
Decades and decades ago, my four brothers were at home waiting for our mother to give birth. The eldest brother was everything an eldest brother should be: responsible, smart, in charge, and a leader. He was always handsome and very successful.
When our dad came home from the hospital with a picture of me, this archetypal eldest brother took that picture and went door to door in our north Dallas neighborhood — he would turn out to be the consummate sales and public relations guy — and said, "Look what I got for my birthday!"
Born on his birthday, my mother started and finished childbearing on the same day. She'd joke that he was the alpha, and I was the omega. Indeed, we had more in common than even I had with Kerry, and he adored me and flashed my pictures around for decades thereafter. Kerry was characteristically tight-lipped and held his cards under his particular hair shirt.
The day the eldest brother died held great meaning as well. I mean the specific date: April 23rd. My brother was named for two very powerful saints, and one was St. George; I don't think my Protestant parents thought they were giving him saints names though.
I had a paper icon of St. George that I placed in his hospital room a year ago when he was dying of lung cancer; I also started reading the Psalms to him. After he was moved home, I placed that same paper icon in his bedroom as he received hourly morphine. I kept reading the Psalms.
When we were all gathered around his bed after he had passed away, his son let out with a loud "What is today? Is it St. George's Day?" He was referencing how Brits refer to April 23rd, a day that once held great religious significance just like St. David's day, but is now mostly a secular national holiday.
I said yes, walked around my brother's body, and got the paper icon and gave it him, my brother's unbelieving only child and son. I prayed the Psalms until they removed his body, going down the stairs and into the funeral home vehicle. I'll never forget the long, slow and highly meaningful look the youngest worker gave me.
If it needs spelling out, it was a blessing that my brother died on St. George's feastday.
Saint George, pray for us!