**The 168 Turnaround will return to its regular format next Saturday**
Life is hard. The older I become, the truer to me that sentiment seems. And yet during life’s hardest moments, such an expression seems grossly understated. Written so simply and with such ease, those three words do little more than grope for a rough impression of our moments of struggle and defeat. Words fail us, but it’s all we have.
Growing up, I usually struggled to express myself, and more often than not turned to the arts to fill the silence when my voice could not. Time and time again, I looked to others to help me explore different means of creative expression. I mostly write now, and it’s to writers like Stephen King and John Irving that I look to. In my teens I aspired toward (punk) rock stardom, and fashioned myself after Mike Herrera, the frontman of pop punk band MxPx. As a young boy, however, I sought only to draw; I was never happier than when I had a pencil in hand and a pad on which to sketch. And the person I hoped to emulate most was my older cousin, Brandon.
As a boy aspiring to be a cartoonist, my drawings were clunky and awkward, though no less passionately imagined. Brandon’s work, however, was something completely different, and on a level of excellence far greater than I could ever imagine for myself. I marvelled at the way my cousin was able to run his pencil across a piece of paper, and then line by line tease out an image of such clarity and focus. His drawings were the mark from which I measured my own.
Of course, as we both grew older, we saw less and less of each other. These things happen, I suppose, and almost never intentionally. Every now and then, I’d hear about what Brandon was up to; perhaps, from time to time, he’d hear the same of me. Sometime—sometime soon, the thinking always went—we’d see each other again, likely at one family function or another.
And so it was with great shock when this past Sunday I received a telephone call from my dad: he was calling to tell me that my cousin Brandon had died suddenly and unexpectedly, the result of a blood clot in his lung. He was only thirty-four.
Everyone reacts differently to the news of someone’s passing; for me, it is mostly a personal and private struggle, an ache that begins to settle within me, felt more and more as time passes. But eventually that ache will spread itself too wide, too thin. It will never go away, but perhaps it won’t always be felt as deeply. This, too, is the thinking.
I can’t know the hurt his brother, sister, and parents are feeling. Theirs is a suffering beyond my own. They grew up with him; I saw him only on occasion. And yet here I am, nonetheless, lost in losing him.
And, really, what else can I say, but that life is indeed hard.
That, and that I miss my cousin, a man whose creativity and vision helped guide my own.
The 168 Turnaround is a week-in-review column, a place for me to reflect on the week’s most interesting pop culture news items. If it mattered to me or I think it might matter to you, then it will be here. If I’ve overlooked an important news item, or if you have a comment or question, please leave a response below. Thank you for reading.
You’ve honoured him well, Zac! Well written…you write like Brandon sketched/drew. Your words to describe Brandon’s work could be used to describe yours. His family will be comforted by your beautiful words!
Sorry to hear of your loss – My cousin Simon died suddenly of a brain aneurysm at about the same age as your cousin Brandon – we were one month apart in age — it still effects me 25 years later – he left a wife and two young girls – it left a big hole — we were on the same soccer team a few times – My father had also previously died of an aneurysm when I was a teen — it is so sudden an unexpected — which means there is an initial shock, even disbelief, before any of the grieving can even start. However, it is a journey that always enriches your own life and hopefully makes you more compassionate. Helps you value every minute of your own existence.
This was incredibly written Zac. You opened your soul and shared your heart about Brandon like no one else could. Well done, Mom
Very well written Zac! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! So… I have finally made the time to just sit and be quiet …and to just read this and reflect on Brandon, not easy for me because it still aches. Even though life can be so incredibly hard at times, I believe that there is some kind of hope in all of this.
I love you,