Living Without a Father and a Brother

When my dad died seven years ago, I was faced with a monster dilemma: how do I continue on with life?

I was never faced with this question before. Everything was predetermined. I would become an engineer, like my dad, and do all of the things I assumed from watching him would make me a successful man. Nobody was forcing me to do this. I held it upon myself to follow in his footsteps. Why? Because I was never faced with this simple yet profound question.

I was forced to find purpose and meaning in my life. When I didn’t, I went down a scary tunnel of darkness, helped along by a bottle of The Knot, sitting arm to arm with my brother, John. What intrigued us most about The Knot were the words printed on the back of the bottle:

“By cracking this seal of The Knot,… you vow that you will never drink to anything that you are not prepared to go through with.  If, in any way, you are not willing to abide by these conditions, by all means, please refrain from opening this bottle.” -The Knot Bottle

So what was it that I was so prepared to go through with, that I felt worthy of breaking the seal of this bottle? Well, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was saying goodbye to my old self, and I was drinking to the prospect of my own life; undecided, unknown, a new start. And all because, after many dark nights of booze and tears, I was left with one question. What happens next?

That was seven years ago. I went back to school in a new direction, finished my English degree, and promptly moved away from home. I was sad to leave my family and friends behind, but I knew if I was going to go through with this reconstruction entirely, everything had to be new.

I have never found a bigger motivation to live life to it’s fullest. That is, until my brother died.

How do I continue on with life?

His death so recent, the wound still so open and tender, I again face this question in the present, every single day. Again I am forced to look at my life and wonder if I am living to my fullest potential. I sit at my desk and look through the window – at the apple trees, the stacked firewood on the edge of the rows of garlic, the massive mountain behind it, looming over the scene in quiet beauty – and I am reminded of my promise seven years ago, my toast to a new life.


I look at all the memories that have brought me here to this window; the thousands of electrical connectors I put together by hand in Yellow Springs, the hours spent learning a new language and culture in Indonesia, the hundreds of pieces of furniture I helped move in Seattle, the thousands of footsteps I took on my journey along the Superior Hiking Trail, the friends I have made along the way to whom I have had to say goodbye, and the woman who has stood beside me during all of this. I look at all of these memories with gratitude. The loss of my dad has been the propelling force for me to take control of my life.

With death so prevalent in my life, I seek to reverse the effects, to live until my very last drop, to become a champion of life itself. I am forever changed.

I am flattened by my brother’s death. I miss him more than I can express. But I look forward to what this struggle will reveal about myself, and to what new adventures lie in store. For I am not satisfied. I cannot be, knowing that I am here and my dad and brother are not. It’s up to me now, to grab my life and live it to the best of my knowledge, and in doing so, to live for all of us.

If I could find a bottle of The Knot I would toast again, prepared for change, prepared for possibility, prepared for loss, love and life.

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