I LOST MY BROTHER A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO. Not my biological sibling who died in 1999. This is a different sort of kinship.
When I married Jim Gustafson, his brother John Alfred came with the deal. To his family he was Al or Alfred. The rest of the world called him John or Dr. John—a man of all seasons, all names. A Marine (Lt. Colonel), a PhD biology professor at Cortland College, local historian, and the metaphorical pillar of the church. Can’t begin to relate all he did there. One of his great passions came through the founding and development of Lime Hollow Nature Center in Cortland County. A building named for him brought great joy on his 90th birthday.
One of his favorite activities involved reciting poetry on Robert Frost walks. He’d stop at
- stone walls—Something there is that doesn’t like a wall…
- two diverging roads—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
- snowy woods—The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.
I always wished I could tuck Alfred in my back pocket while exploring woods and fields. What bird is that? I’d ask. Or this flower…or fern…or……..
He loved the Lord, and sibling-couple get-togethers were special times of laughter, shared stories, Bible reading and prayer.
The three sibs entertained assorted crowds with their childhood dishwashing routine, alternating lines from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”:
‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.’
We did talk of many things, with brother Alfred planted deep in my heart. My tears have watered this blog . . . . but I can’t quite forgive him for up and dying in a matter of hours, in full health at age 91. We fully expected he’d outlive us all!
One day…one day…he’ll give lectures on the fruit trees along the River of Life.
Did you know John Alfred Gustafson? Someday I’ll introduce you. firstname.lastname@example.org
So sorry to hear of Alfred’s passing. That is a beautiful memorial. Peace and condolences to you all.
I feel your grief, Ellie. I’ve been there. My 47-year-old sister, Suzanne, was killed by a drunk driver 20 years ago. So sudden. So unexpected. So sad. Just incomprehensible. No matter the age, we always hope to have time to say good-bye. Thankfully, we’ll be reunited one day.
My sympathies to both you and your husband, Jim.
I’ve been to the agony of greatest and incomprehensible loss. Losing my parents was difficult enough but to lose my precious wife in the prime of life was beyond previous imaginings. It took almost five years to find life worth living again. Many hours I cursed God if there was one that is. So sorry for your loss. He was obviously a fine man who will be greatly missed.
I am sorry to hear of Alfred’s death but it sounds like you are on the right path in celebrating his life. He obviously accomplished much in life and was greatly blessed by God. I am sure that you will miss him but as I am so often reminded as loved ones, who know the Lord, step from this world into the heavenly realm, the time apart will be short in the scheme of things. I will look forward to you introducing us one day. Though you will miss him, I am quite sure that he is having the time of his life! May God’s peace and love surround you and Jim as you remember the times of love and laughter that the three of you shared.
I love this post. It is a beautiful tribute to your brother-in-law. He sounds like someone who captivated folks with his quotes, sweetness and creativity. No wonder you all miss him.
Thank you, Ellie, for this beautiful memorial which conjures up a lot and stimulates appreciation for God’s unique gifts and blessings! Our sincere sympathy to Jim, you and all the family.
Love, Emily and Ken
I plan to hold you to that promise to introduce me to John Alfred, Ellie, and then go with you to hear his lectures on the fruit trees by the River of Life.
I so enjoyed getting to know him the summer he spent at Camp Fireside. I didn’t look at the computer yesterday so I was not aware of his death when i saw you this morning. I am so sorry for you and Jim’s lost but I rejoice that he is now with the LORD.