At 7:30 P.M. last night, Wednesday, June 25th, 2014, everything I’ve ever believed in, hoped for, or placed my faith into was shattered.
I received a phone call from Richard who had left for Florida at 3:00 A.M. with his brother, David, to help their parents move into a new condo.
When Richard called I had just returned home from the hardware store after having coffee with my friend, Alyson.
He told me to sit down, so I sat on the garage steps. He said that he had the most horrible news to tell me. I asked him if my mother was okay. Was it my sister?
“No, it’s Paul,” he said.
“My brother? He’ll be okay, right?”
“No, he was killed in a car accident.”
I yelled at him that he was making it up. I told him he was lying. I told him it wasn’t true and then I hung up. I ran into the house from the garage, up the stairs and back down again. I heard a sound that I had never heard before. It was coming from me.
My son Lucas and his friend, Robert, came running to find me to see what was wrong.
Without thinking, I repeated what Richard had just told me. I remember hearing Lucas smash something. I don’t know what it was, as if it even mattered. I didn’t care. He had every right to do whatever he needed to do at the moment.
Robert left just as Veronica walked in with her boyfriend, Aaron. Richard had called her, too, even though I didn’t want him to because she’d have to drive home after hearing about her Uncle Paul.
Feeling guilty for not being able to comfort my own children, I ran outside. I heard that sound again. It was otherworldly; a combination of a wail, a scream, a cry, and a moan. I fell to my knees and asked God how he could take away my father and now my brother in less than three weeks.
Not that it made it any easier for us, but my 82-year-old father had become handicapped over the years.The lung cancer he had only recently been diagnosed with was shrinking, and we went out to celebrate his clean CT scans. Then, on Friday, June 6th, 2014, his heart suddenly gave out as he walked into the house with my Mother, looking forward to eating the Burger King and Duncan Donuts they had just bought.
But my brother? He was 58. He had a great life. He was in love with Terry, his life-partner of 38 years. Paul was the favorite child. Terry is #2.
Paul deserved to be the favorite child. He was perfect. He was gorgeous. He could grow an afro that defied gravity, and a garden that came alive in perfect harmony. He was smart, helpful, humble, caring, generous, creative and talented in so many ways, and had a soothing voice that instantly made me feel safe from the moment I was born.
My mother referred to Paul as a “Professional Do-Gooder” because he gave up being a partner in my father’s law practice in Chicago to lobby on behalf of non-profit organizations, such as groups that supported people living with HIV/AIDS, AARP, and, most recently, Covering Kids & Families of Indiana, to improve healthcare access for everyone.
Just last Sunday (four days ago) he had driven here from Nashville, Indiana. We knew he could only stay one night because he had a conference in Indianapolis early Tuesday morning, but he came to go over a few legal matters with my mother.
When he arrived, he went with Beth, Sam, my Mother, and me to the cemetery to visit my father. I wasn’t sure I was ready to go to the cemetery so soon after burying my father, but knowing Paul would be there gave me the confidence to get through it. It wasn’t easy, but it ended up being comforting.
I don’t know why I didn’t get to say goodbye to Paul on Monday, like I usually do. He said he had sent me a text so I could come over to Mom’s to say good-bye, but I never received it. It was okay because we both knew we’d see each other again soon. He said he’d be coming into town more often now that Dad was gone, plus my mother and I were planning the first of many road-trips to visit Paul and Terry.
Two days later I was on my knees, that sound involuntarily bellowing out of me, as I screamed, “No! This can’t true.” I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder and turned to see my friend Rosa. Richard had asked her to come to the house to stay with me for a while.
When I saw her, no matter how many times I said it couldn’t be true, she told me it was. Her husband, Art, and their son, Noah came and embraced me, too.
Eventually, I knew it was true. I had just recently begun to get the images of my father’s body in the hospital and in his casket out of my brain when images of my brother started to flood my imagination. A car accident? The images were too horrific for me to let them take over. I didn’t even know what had actually happened.
We came back into the house from the yard. My sister and brother-in-law, Sam, arrived. Our friend Steve, who Richard had called, walked in, grabbed me and held me.
Terry had called Beth to tell her, and then Richard, poor Richard, to tell him. Everyone in our family knows that Richard is the best messenger.
But, Mom didn’t know, and Richard wasn’t here to tell her. After nearly three weeks of trying to get used to living alone, she had finally decided to go out to dinner with friends.
There’s a Jewish saying that bad things happen in threes. My sister and I were sure my mother would collapse and die the moment she found out about Paul, so Beth called Mom’s doctor to ask for advice. I suggested Mom be placed into a medically-induced coma; a good reason I should never become a doctor and stick to my day job as a writer.
Art, who is a doctor, and Sam, who is a gentle soul and whom my mother adores, were elected as the most competent to go to the house to tell my mother. The rest of us waited to see what Mom wanted us to do. I thought she might want to come to our house, to get away from her house for the night, but she asked that Beth and I go to her house. Lucas insisted on coming with us.
Between the three of us, the sound of the loss of my brother was perverse and scary. Lucas waited patiently for Beth and me to release our Mother, and then wrapped her safely in his arms.
The howls of grief escaping from my sister and mother began to make me shake. I felt dizzy. I needed to go home. Rosa, who had stayed with Veronica, Aaron and Noah came to my Mom’s house to pick up Art, Lucas and me.
Veronica went to sleep in her room. Lucas and I slept in the living room with the dogs. Richard flew in this morning. He had offered to fly to Indianapolis, and then drive to get Terry in Nashville and bring him here, but Terry didn’t want him to do that. He wanted to drive here. We thought Terry was going to drive alone, so we were relieved when he said his friend, Rhea, was coming with him. So here we are. At my mother’s house, waiting for them.
I’ve always believed in a being greater than me. I always thought things happened for a reason; that is until 7:30 last night.There cannot be a reason, or even an explanation, for my brother to have been killed.
My mother said last night that we’ll never recover from this. I think she’s right. It’s just us girls, now, and our wonderful husbands and kids, but our family of five has been ripped apart within the span of less than three weeks. There just can’t be a purpose for that.
Please understand if my writing is sporadic for a while.
Please read these beautifully written tributes about my brother, Paul:
“At a Loss for Words About a Loss”
http://sheilakennedy.net/2014/07/at-a-loss-for-words-about-a-loss/comment-page-1/#comment-149100 by Sheila Kennedy
http://indy.st/1lGc010 Opinion piece by Dr. Quigley, Clinical Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis
“Paul Chase Accomplished Much for Indiana”
38 Replies to “Cruel Summer”
i am so very sorry leslie. my thoughts are with you and all of your family at this time. beth
We’re in shock and just trying to get through each day. I had planned to reblog your blog when this happened. I will another time, though. Thanks
please don’t even think about that right now, just focus on taking care of yourself and doing what you need to do to get through this awful time. i lost my sister/best friend in an auto accident years ago and not a day goes by that i don’t think of her.
Terri and I were saddened to read about the tragic accident which took your brother’s life. We believe that your wonderful family will be a source of great comfort to you and each other and help all of you cope with the loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Fred & Terri
Thanks, Fred and Terri. I appreciate your comment very much. Love you.
Leslie, our hearts go out to you and your family for your terrible losses. Your words, although difficult for you to write were an eloquent tribute to your father and brother. We send our love.
Carol & Ralph
Thanks so much Carol and Ralph. We all just want to wake up from our nightmare.
Cruel cruel summer.
Cruel, cruel, very cruel summer. All I want to do is hide out in your treehouse.
Earlier today I received the Temple Bulletin. I looked at the In Memoriam column and thought they had made a horrible mistake. Barbara and I are devastated at this horrific news. Words are insufficient. We extend our heartfelt condolences to you, your sister and, above all, to Mom. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
All our love,
Barbara and Jerry Scherer
I can imagine that you would think it was a mistake. I’m sure it was a shock. Thanks for always being here for my family.
My heart is broken, there are no words – I’m so very sorry for your loss and please take care of your mom – my mom called me early this morning and was almost unable to talk – we are here for you – all of our love Beth
Thanks, Beth. None of it makes any sense, especially my brother. There are no words and no answers to our questions. Thanks for thinking of us.
I was sitting on your moms couch while you were composing the most difficult blog of your life and I believe that you said what everyone who knew Paul, your dad of course knows your mom, sister, and all of your family were feeling and wanted to say, but couldn’t . Thank you for sharing this most difficult time with all of us and even putting a little humor into it!!!
Your are a very special human being and somewhere out there the bluebird of happiness will find you and all of the family, Paul and Norman would have wanted it that way.
I know this is long and probably has a lot of run- on sentences so when you have time please correct my grammar. Love you
We’re so lucky to have such an amazing support system of friends and family. Without all of you I don’t know how we’d get through this. Love you! BTW, I’m sure my grammar could use a little work so I’m innocent position to edit yours!
I remember Paul as beautiful and afro’d and adored. Never teased us as we played with plastic wigs and foofy slips tucked up to our armpits. Never a harsh word My sincere condolences and heartfelt love for all of you as you struggle to endure the unendurable.
Unbelievable how you can write so beautifully as you process this unreal course of events. What is there but bring surrounded by those who want to be comforting. Somehow. Even as we fail to provide any answerswe are here for you. Xxoo
Thanks, Steph. In time we’ll have to learn to accept the unacceptable.
Thinking about you, Leslie. Your losses are beyond cruel.
You’ve pretty much summed it up. Thank you, Jan
leslie. what a painful and chillingly moving account of your brother’s death. we are holding you in our thoughts and heart.
Thanks, Jackie. We have an incredible support system comprised of so many wonderful friends and family, like you, who are stepping up and sustaining us.
This is so heartbreaking. I hope you can find comfort in the wonderful memories you have of Paul. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Thanks, Beth! There’s just nothing anyone can say that or do to make sense of all that’s happened. I truly appreciate your comments. Love you!
Oh, Leslie. How can it be? I can’t imagine. I want to run over and give you a hug. We’re in Baltimore this time or I would. I am so sorry for this huge loss. I love you!
You may never leave town again and neither can Richard!
Thanks, Sharon. I can’t wait to hear all about your presentation of your cartoon “Mom’s Flock” at the Graphic Medicine conference. I was so excited for you!
I dont even have words to express what i want to say and cant even imagine what all of you are going through, you are right, life is not fair , he was a great guy and we were most fond of him, you are all in my thoughts, I will see you soon.
please call on me if you need me, i do not want to intrude on your grief.
You are family and are welcome anytime!
i have no words except to offer energy from PA out to you and your family in hopes that it helps you get to tomorrow. I’m very sorry for the pain you all are feeling. Your description of your brother sent me in search of….something….please don’t be angry with me for posting this, but for some reason, it sounds like it fits:
When All That’s Left Is Love by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
When I die
If you need to weep
Cry for someone
Walking the street beside you.
You can love me most by letting
Hands touch hands, and Souls touch souls.
You can love me most by
Sharing your Simchas (goodness) and
Multiplying your Mitzvot (acts of kindness).
You can love me most by
Letting me live in your eyes
And not on your mind.
And when you say Kaddish for me
Remember what our
Love doesn’t die People do.
So when all that’s left of me is love
Give me away.
The poem is perfect.I will read it to my family. Thank you for taking the time to select a poem that says what we can’t. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your energy, love, and support from PA.
For those of you who don’t know, Rick and I have never met in person. We became blogging buddies. One of the many things I like about blogging is the other bloggers I “meet.” Rick is a PGA golfer who I began following because he’s a great writer, he gives great golf tips, he loves his family, and he posts beautiful photos of food that he cooks. I hope we’ll get to meet someday.
Thanks again, Rick!
Leslie, Richard and family,
We are deeply saddened to hear about Paul’s tragic accident. We are here for whatever you need. Our love, thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
We love you.
Bob and Mary Lou
Leslie, I was a classmate of Paul’s at HPHS. Thank you for writing this, and my heart goes out to you and your family.
Thanks, Nancy. It was so nice of you to write to let me know.
Oh Leslie I wish could take this incredible, terrible pain away……I have no words….. I do know I will not let your family fall, I will be there to pick up all the broken pieces of your heart and help put them back together again….. my love is everlasting
So sorry. This was so beautifully written; and so hard to read. Very powerful. I hope you are able to come to peace and find strength through the hardest of times.
In case you don’t recognize me by name I’m your most favorite personal dental assistant in the whole of creation. I just read your blog about your brother . All I can say is my heart hurts…..no aches for you, your Mother, sister, and all of your family.
I know first hand the noise that comes from deep within when on your knees with your insides spilling out in a flood of tears.
Know I will hold you all up in prayer during this time of grieving. That God in his infamous Spirit will comfort you, hold you, and keep you wrapped in His Love.
Peace be with you
I finally went on your website and read all the beautiful comments everybody wrote. I am the worst writer and all I can say is my heart is broken also and want you to know that I am here anytime of the day and night if any of you need me. I cannot stop crying every time I think of Paul and he will always be in my heart. Take good care of your Mother as she needs you now more than she has for the last 54 years.