Brian poses on the edge of a wildflower filled meadow in Yosemite National Park. More often than now, he always posed like this for his picture. Summer 2016.

On Friday December 30th, in the early morning, I lost my brother. It was sudden and heartbreaking. I had seen Brian that Monday for one last breakfast before I came back up to Portland. Everything was as normal as could be. There was no way to know that this would be the last time I would see my brother alive. This Christmas had been a great family time too, I had finally found my brother a top hat. He had wanted one for a very long time and I was able to make it happen.

Brian and his top hat. He was so very pleased to finally have one.

I came back to Portland and my job. My parents went on a mini vacation to Nevada to visit family and check out some hunting spots. Tuesday, Brian had a sore throat. Wednesday, he felt sick enough to stay home from work. It was described as a cold, he had a bit of a cough, felt congested and rather crappy. Thursday was much of the same. Around 3 am on Friday, everything changed when he started vomiting blood. Ambulances were called, as were my parents and I. Not that we could do anything as we were hours away. He didn’t make it to the hospital. The doctors are calling it an aggressive strain of viral pneumonia, but we have to wait for the toxicology report to come back for the official diagnosis. That might take several months.

The wedding of our brother Ron and Rebecca. Brian really let his hair down.

I think the worst thing about it all, other than losing my brother, is that we didn’t even know he was sick. He had told his girlfriend, Brytnee, that if he didn’t feel better Friday morning he would go to the doctor. He was sick two days and until early Friday morning, it hadn’t seemed bad enough to warrant going to the doctor yet.

I received the news as I sat at my desk in Portland, and I lost it. Disbelief and horror clouded my mind and I cried. It didn’t seem real, my brother couldn’t be gone. He was a healthy young man, it wasn’t possible. It had to be some kind of sick, cruel joke. As my work called me a cab and sent me home, I wanted it to be a joke, because that would mean Brian was still alive. I warred between joke and reality for days afterwards, it never felt quite real. Like I was walking in a fog. My friend and co-worker took the rest of her day off and drove me down to my parents house, as I was in no condition to drive myself.

I was the first family member (other than my grandfather, who lived across the street, and Brian’s girlfriend Brytnee) to arrive home. My friend stayed with me until my parents got there. Papa Abe and Brytnee arrived shortly after I arrived. My parents were 7 hours away when we had received the news. They managed to get to Reno, where my cousin and his wife live, and they drove my parents the rest of the way, one with my Dad and one with my Mom. When they arrived home, I saw my father cry. We were a crying, hugging circle for a long time that night.

The next several days were spent in a fog of denial and disbelief. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. It was the weekend and nothing could be done. My father asked me to write the obituary for the paper. I think that that was the single hardest thing I have ever done. Every time I tried to start, I broke down crying. I cannot tell you how many tears hit that page by the time I finished. I got it done though, and this is what I said (with some personal details withheld):

Brian passed away on the morning of Friday, December 30th. Brian was born September xxth, 199x in Roseburg and lived his whole life here in Myrtle Creek. Brian’s life was cut far too short at age 24. He was a dear son, brother, boyfriend, friend, and family member.

Brian loved tinkering with tractors with his father. One of their projects included building a large model train set, with mountains and towns. He loved the vacations and hunting trips he took with is family where he explored wild places on 4-wheelers. He loved riling his mother up on these trips, to her dismay. He drove his sister batty with his love for the Titanic (she still can’t watch that movie). Good company always found him on the coast in the form of his beloved and her family. He was well liked by everyone who knew him.

We miss you so much, so very much. You will always be in our hearts and thoughts.

Brian is survived by his parents, Gary and Johna Farley; his sister Karla Farley; his half-brother Ron Farley and wife Rebecca and his niece and nephew Reagan and Ranger; his half-sister Michelle Farley; grandparents Alfred and Lila Farley; step-grandfather Abe; numerous uncles, aunts, and cousins; and the love of his life and soulmate Brytnee Kennedy and her family.

Brian really loved tractors. He and Dad would go tractor hunting, always on the lookout for a new addition to their collection. I think the count is at 9 right now.

After the obituary came the viewing. It was the hardest day of the life and it felt like there was a lance through my heart. For me, there was no question that I would walk in that room and see my brother. I knew that if I didn’t, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I had to say goodbye. And seeing my brother there made it real, I couldn’t hide behind the thought that it was still some horrible prank. It was real, he laid before me. The words I wanted to say stuck in my throat and tears blinded me. It was real, my brother was gone. I don’t know how long I cried, I tried saying something, anything to him but the words kept sticking. I know I was finally able to whisper goodbye and I couldn’t stay in that room anymore. Even now, almost two and a half months later, the very thought of that room makes me cry. And I know the tears will come quickly for a long while. But we learn to live with pain. It will never be easy, but we learn how to cope.

Two days later we had the celebration of life. I wrote half of the eulogy with my half-brother Ron writing the other half. That was a hard day too, but I think sharing our grief with those who knew Brian helped in some small way.

It’s taken me about a month or so to write this post, every few sentences bringing these memories to the front of my mind. Every day I miss my brother, and every day I’m reminded of something he would have loved to do or see. I miss his terrible jokes and how quickly we would end up arguing with each other. Although as we got older, we argued less and less and we finally were maturing to the point of being close friends as well as brother and sister.

Everything has changed now, the course we had plotted for life irrevocable altered. Nothing will be the same as there now exists a giant hole in our lives that is ragged and bleeding. I know that the pain and anguish will fade with time, as all things do. But for now, the wound is raw and aches. I know we will always love and miss Brian and he will live on in our hearts and minds. And I also know we will survive this hard time. We will learn to deal with our grief and we will grow together, as a family.

We stand near Glacier Overlook, above Yosemite Valley. This is the last vacation we had with Brian. Summer 2016.

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