Taken By Surprise

I’m writing this the day after my brother died. I tell myself I’m doing it because I need to meet a deadline. I tell myself I need to do it because something positive surely will come of his passing. I’m compelled to make it so. I tell myself I’m fooling no one. I’m writing this for me in the hope someone will understand. I pray Lloyd will see it, and understand.

I’m a mess; no wonder this post isn’t clear.

I ask myself if I’ve ever managed to convey through any of my characters the conflicting emotions running through me right now. I don’t think so. I’m not very good at dealing with personal tragedy myself, much less forcing it on readers. But isn’t that what writers do? Aren’t we supposed to distill the emotions we feel into the characters we create?

My brother Lloyd, on a much better day.

I’m happy that my brother is no longer struggling for every breath. He’s no longer having to parse his words, two at a time, between ever thinner sniffs of air. Life no longer exhausts him, and I tell myself that’s a blessing. But I still grieve. He’s gone. I’ll never be able to tell him another off-color joke; I won’t have another chance to laugh at his. He’ll never read another word I write. I’ll never again hear his over the top praise. We’ll never share another beer or watch another ballgame together, never again join our voices in disgust at politics and politicians.

I tell myself I knew it was coming, we all did. He’d been sick for quite a while, and yet the end still held a surprise. Too soon, too damned soon. I wasn’t ready. I don’t know if we ever are.

And my question comes back to me: have I ever portrayed such thoughts in a character’s head? After all I put those players through, did I ever capture the disjointed and unbalanced set of emotions I’m experiencing now? Probably not.

Will I ever? I don’t know. I’d hate for anyone to feel what I’m feeling now, and yet I know we all will at one time or another. Can I put that in a book? Do I even want to?

I only know this: I miss my brother. I will for a long, long time.


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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23 Responses to Taken By Surprise

  1. dorisreidy says:

    That a person could be here one breath and gone in the next…who can be prepared for that? This is a lovely tribute to your brother and a timely reminder to savor every minute with the ones we love.

  2. Karen Boyce says:

    You’ve put words to every feeling I’ve had this week. Lloyd is our first sibling loss – it’s new and wrenching and scary.. But he would want us to go on, to love each other and to never forget him. That we can do for now. The healing will come later, I hope. Thanks Josh.

  3. Susanne says:

    A terribly sad day for you and your family. We are never prepared even when we think we are. The absence of a family member after death feels as vast as the universe and we feel so small in its face. Thinking of you and yours.

  4. Robert Mumford says:

    Josh I am so sorry to hear about your brother. Hang in there, Bud.

  5. I’m so sorry to learn of your loss. I know how hard it is to lose a sibling. I’ve experienced it twice. Just hang in there and know you’re not alone. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  6. Michael Hammel says:

    Carol and I wish to thank you, Karen, John, and spouses for introducing us to Lloyd. Although we may not have had the honor of meeting him personally, your family tales say otherwise. RIP Lloyd Langston.

  7. rickp1953 says:

    Josh, My thoughts and prayers are with you, your brother, and anyone of your family members. He may just inspire you more with his absence.

  8. I am so sorry, Josh. Even when we “know,” it is still shocking.

  9. Only a special person and greater writer could squirrel down to that painful place and share the intimate details of what you would probably rather not think about. Thank you for your eloquent words. They made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss.

  10. Wayne Elliott says:

    Remembering you in prayer for comfort and peace. So sorry! Wayne Elliott

  11. polinto says:

    Lloyd and you look a lot alike. I know he shared your thoughts about brothers.

    Sent from my iPhone


  12. A sad time indeed. Right now is time for grieving, honoring and remembering your beloved brother. when the time is right, you’ll know when and what to put into words. Sympathy from Gerry & Susan.

  13. Betty says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. Even though Lloyd is in a better place, it is a shock to lose a loved one too soon (in our eyes, at least). Never fear, he is still rooting for you, praising you for your writing, and thanking you for being his brother. Love never dies.

  14. James D Davis says:

    Grief is a weird, fucked-up process, Josh. Death, even when expected, is still a shock. Travel the road, my friend, but make sure you hold the hands of those who love you.

  15. An-l says:

    I had to put off reading your tribute to Lloyd. When I first opened it I became too emotional to reply. I understand what you are going through. I don’t think I will ever get over the loss of my two sister’s. It’s been four years since the last one past and I still catch myself going to the phone to call her.
    Your tribute to Lloyd is beautifully written. He’s smiling at you at this moment with that lovely smile of his, saying, “Thank you kindly Bro’ for your love and all the wonderful times we shared together.”
    As someone else wrote, “love never dies.” Hold tight to those great memories. If he’s anything like you, I’m sure he left you a lot of them to laugh about.
    Loving thoughts to you and your family, Annel

  16. Barry says:

    So sorry for your loss Josh. Nothing I can say will ease the pain – only time can do that. You and Annie are in our prayers. Barry

  17. Judy Holby says:

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss, Josh, and I know it doesn’t matter if a death is expected or not. It hurts just the same. You wondered if these emotions were ever used in your writing – I think Lloyd would be glad to know he left you with thoughts and emotions to be shared in your future writing. As such a fan, he’d certainly like to read more… Judy (former student)

  18. joshlangston says:

    To everyone who responded, both here and on Facebook, please accept my sincere thanks for your thoughts and good wishes. It is gratifying beyond words to know we have so many caring people in our lives. Be well.

    • Faye Martin says:

      Josh, may I add my thoughts to those of others who read and understood what you describe as “the disjointed and unbalanced set of emotions” that you are feeling the day after your beloved brother died. Please know that there are no “wrong” feelings at this time. I understand this all too well because of the death of my daughter in 1991 and my husband in 2010. I will never “get over” these two losses, and want to slap the imbeciles who say they are in “a better place” and that there is eventually “closure.” In my mind, there was no better place for them than to be here with me. And how can there be closure when that would mean “closing the door” on the lives of the ones we love most?! You don’t have to close that door, Josh. Keep it open as a brightly lit pathway to Lloyd and all the wonderful memories of him. If he was anything like you, he must have been quite a character! One more thing, though. Don’t feel that grieving is wrong or that it means you are weak because it does not! You grieve because you have lost someone you love dearly. It is a necessary step to working your way through the horrible nightmare of a dense, rain-filled jungle to the other side where you will once again be able to step out into the sunlight. (Do you remember my poem about that?) My own healing did not begin until I started writing about my losses. There is no timetable for grief. It ends when it ends. Until then, be gentle with yourself and let your lovely wife and family comfort you. And, yes, Josh, DO WRITE ABOUT IT! With your already incredible writing ability, it could add a deep and profound dimension to all your future writings. May God bless and keep you. I love you! Faye Martin

  19. Margot says:

    I’m sorry for your loss but your memories will always be with you.

  20. Amanda says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart; I cannot imagine how hard it must be to say goodbye to someone you have known your entire life. It is my hope that you will be able to write this into your characters one day, as that is truly your gift. Your characters are compelling, intriguing, and above all, real. Art holds the ability to translate life’s greatest challenges into something that matters and you are a true artist of the written word. Sending love and hugs…

  21. I remember when I lost my Daddy. I cried every day for two years. Nowadays I regret never having thanking him for all he did for me. I wish I was more like him but no, I am more like my mother. My younger brother and I often talk about our daddy and what a great person he was. It will help if you have someone to share the memories of the good times you had with your brother.

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