It’s not likely I’ll be asked to provide a eulogy, but if I were it may go something like this. In reality I wrote this yesterday to appear today, when the visitation for John “LJ” Swartz commences.
A difficult part of the decision I had to make when I moved down here was to move away from my family. It’s not entirely unprecedented in either my family tree – since I have relatives who live in Missouri, Florida, Arizona, and other places – or in my own personal life since I went to college 3 hours away from my home. So my time with them became somewhat limited by the nine to ten hour trip one way, and I saved it for holidays and my summer vacation.
Generally when I went up to Ohio to see my family I stayed at my brother’s house, which at one time was my parents’ home too. One thing about LJ was that he was constantly busy, having a neverending list of things to do both at home and at the dwellings of his friends and other people he knew. Not being handy with tools myself, there were a few times I was on that list and I appreciated the assistance!
While he wasn’t a large man by any means, he was a strong man and that served him well as he fought his cancer. We were shocked that a man who was only in his mid-forties could be so sick with a tumor on his liver and a cancerous colon yet be living such a busy life by helping pretty much anyone who asked.
In truth, much of the fun time my brother LJ had was spent at one of many local bowling centers. It’s where he spent several nights a week bowling and met the love of his life, his girlfriend Deb. If there’s one thing I’m thankful about in his life it’s that he got to meet her, with the biggest regret being that it turned out to be near the end. Even ravaged with cancer, he went out to Reno this spring and participated in the national USBC Tournament as he had for years – I’m sure he felt he couldn’t let his teammates down.
While he was loyal to his friends and family, you couldn’t deny LJ was a guy who did his own thing. Today I’m attending his services decked out in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts because my brother had no use for formal clothes, and Deb knew that being formal at his service would be no way to celebrate his life. If I could grow my hair another six inches for today I would since shoulder-length was considered short hair for him. And even with the chemo near the end, he still had his beard!
Sometimes I wonder if my parents thought maybe he wasn’t quite what they expected as their oldest child, and Lord knows I had disagreements with him as a brother who was only two years younger. But as we got older we got along well in those times we spent together, and in countless ways he influenced my life until we both became adults (at least in the physical sense, since there was always a little bit of kid in LJ.)
There’s no doubt in my mind that my brother’s funeral services will have a healthy mixture of laughter to go along with the tears we’ll all shed at his loss at such a young age. Parents should never have to bury their children, regardless of age, but my mom and dad will have to.
Many would look at the sum total of my brother’s life (he was a blue-collar laborer, never married, and had no kids) and consider him just another common man. But I know differently. And while I may not be able to renovate my own home in a professional manner, string together 12 strikes in a game of bowling, or be as giving of my time and labor as he was, I can use my God-given talents to write something worthy of his memory. Hopefully he’s looking down on me between games on the Friday afternoon league at Pearly Gate Lanes and nodding his approval.
Rest in the amount of peace you desire, my brother – I love you.