The Pros And Cons Of My Brother’s Death

Gustav Klimt, Death and Life

My oldest brother, Jeff, died on New Year’s Day 2007 from complications brought on by alcoholism and moronic acquaintances. It was the bottle that bore a hole through Jeff’s stomach lining, and it was the moronic acquaintances that granted Jeff’s request not to go to the hospital – even after he had vomited more blood than is typically seen at a Saturday night UFC fight or in George W’s nightly dreams.

“He didn’t want to go,” Jeff’s drinking cronies replied when I asked them at the wake why nobody thought to call an ambulance after Jeff had left a 5 ft. long, 1 ft. wide crimson stain on his living room carpet. “He got real angry when we said he had to see a doctor.”

I am glad Jeff’s friends cared enough about him to not want to make him angry. In fact, I found it endearing that they would empower Jeff to determine his own need for medical attention. This is the same man who earlier that day, while lying semi-conscious on his couch, reportedly uttered, “Damn this roof is hot” (Jeff had worked as a roofer two decades earlier) and later tried to start his Pathfinder with his index finger.

Turns out Jeff wasn’t so incoherent after all; he had the keen foresight to veto the arrival of any medical vehicle, and, in doing so, removed any risk of the authorities finding the giant bag of premium marijuana he had stashed in his upstairs closet. Instead, I discovered the bag two days later when removing all of Jeff’s dress shirts from the closet and tossing them into a box. Seeing as how he was my brother, I decided not to report him to the authorities. I’m cool like that. Thus Jeff, while unable to dodge death, was able to dodge a possession charge.

As you can tell, I’ve worked through my anger since Jeff’s death. I’m no longer angry with him for trying to emulate Nicolas Cage by starring in “Leaving South Central Pennsylvania.” And I’m no longer angry with his drinking buddies for their indiscretions, nor with his drinking buddies’ parents for not having been sterile back in the early 1960s.

Truth is, I’ve learned to look at the positive side of Jeff’s untimely demise. I’m not saying that his death was a favorable event, but when you carefully consider the pros along with the cons I’ve listed below, I think you’ll agree that my brother’s death can’t be viewed through the same tragic lens as, say, LeBron James’ inability to win a title.

Con: My brother will never again breathe.

Pro: Breathing isn’t all that. Repeatedly inhaling and exhaling throughout a lifetime is incredibly taxing on the heart and lungs, both of which will end up betraying you at some point anyway. This slow, gradual process of ceasing to breathe over the course of 80-90 years is emotional and psychological torture, thus it’s often better to get the whole respiration thing over with in a literal flash. Besides, after viewing An Inconvenient Truth, most people will agree that breathing on earth simply isn’t safe anymore.

Con: My brother will never again join us on our annual family ski vacation in New Mexico.

Pro: The ride from the airport in Albuquerque to my parent’s house in Taos is a bitch. Jeff used to have to endure a three-hour flight from Harrisburg International Airport to Albuquerque International Sunport, only to endure a trip of near equal length in a car with my father, who, while a wonderful man, has had a lifetime battle with falling asleep at the wheel. My father’s wearing of oversized old-man sunglasses masks his eyes and hides any clue that he might be nodding off while transporting his loved ones through a narrow mountain pass. I’ve actually considered taking my brother’s lead and fatally abusing alcohol myself in hopes of never again having to experience such a perilous journey.

Con: My brother will never again see another “kick-ass” laser show performed by his favorite Pink Floyd tribute band.

Pro: My brother will never again see another “kick-ass” laser show performed by his favorite Pink Floyd tribute band.

Con: My brother will never again enjoy a drink.

Pro: Enjoying drinks impairs one’s selection of friends. Numerous studies have shown that an adult who habitually imbibes ethanol is 78.3% more likely to befriend people who will think it a good idea not to get said adult to the hospital in the event that said adult is manifestly dying of septic shock.

Con: My brother will never again see his two kids.

Pro: My brother’s two kids live with my brother’s ex-wife. While it’s truly tragic that Jeff will have no more visits with his son and daughter, he no longer must endure the excruciating pain of having his stature shrunken from 6 ft. to 2 ft. within minutes of entering his ex’s vestibule. No more must he listen to any berating barbs nor suggestions to get a life; in fact, Jeff got the final say and artfully disrespected his bossy ex by getting a death instead.

Con: My brother will never again spend time with me.

Pro: I’m getting tougher and tougher to be around. As I slide into my early 40s, I have steadily become more critical and crotchety. By dying, Jeff immediately relieved himself of having to listen to any more of my complaints about airport delays, the Yankees, overcooked halibut, my hair, my finances, television, traffic, dry cleaning, stickers on nectarines, strip malls, SUVs, golfers, insomnia, literary agents, wet sponge smell, contact lenses, Starbucks, Harry Potter, Hollywood, healthcare, black licorice, iPhones, short pours, my cervical vertebrae, my thoracic vertebrae, my lumbar vertebrae, my sacrum, my coccyx, lift ticket prices, presidential candidates, athletes’ salaries, mosquitoes, work, religion, politics, war, the hard edges that invariably form on blocks of cheese, and sibling death. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • Tammy

    Wow…(good wow, but wow nonetheless)

    • Greg Levin

      You were the first person to comment on this, my first TC piece. Thanks for taking my TC virginity in such a gentle manner.

  • Brian McElmurry

    Damn! Nice piece

  • erin


  • reverser

    amAzing writer…let’s hear more

  • JEN

    Very good..WRITE SOME MORE, SIR!

  • Amiss

    This piece completely pulled me in. I was about to glaze over it after reading the first sentence, but was miraculously captured. Congrats. Beautiful.

    • Greg Levin

      I was actually glazed over when I WROTE the first sentence, so I understand. Thanks for reading.

  • RAH

    This is fucking awesome.  Hope to see and your pieces on the site more often.

  • douchegirl

    This was great. 

  • kaylee

    I liked it. It took me a while to get over the humorous approach to death, but I liked it.

  • Lauren Doster Magruder

    Please keep writing, this was wonderful.

  • Greg

    Yes, please keep writing.  It almost makes up for having to read such gems as “The Worst Guys I’ve Ever Hooked Up With.” 

  • Anonymous

  • paige

    i think i’ve always made people mildly uncomfortable with the light hearted tone i take when talking about my father’s death and this was really comforting/consoling to read.


    This was beautiful…. I think the humorous approach was a perfect way to write this, and I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Greg Levin

      I laugh until — and because — it hurts. Thanks for your very kind comment.


    This was beautiful…. I think the humorous approach was a perfect way to write this, and I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Shanan Kan

    I am sorry to hear about your loss, but this might just be the best article to have appeared on this site. It has been a very long time since written text and driven me to tears. I look forward to seeing more from you.

    • Greg Levin

      Much appreciated, SK.

  • your cousin

    This was great. I thought about my own brother, what if he died, oh my god what would i do? what would his children do? and now I feel supersad.

  • Coco Le

    i enjoyed this, thanks

  • Albee320

    Did your brother go to school in lewisburg?

    • Greg Levin

      No, high school at Cumberland Valley (in Mechanicsburg); college at U. of Colorado.

  • Rickir

    Having been through something similar, I completely understand.  I didn’t even notice the anger and grief building until I finished your article.  I felt like a thermometer about to pop, and it’s been 7 years since I lost my brother.  I still miss him.

    • Greg Levin

      I’m glad you “got” the article. Some people miss the point and view it as merely a humor piece. There is a fair amount of fury behind the “funny”. (And a lot of alliteration in that last sentence.) Perhaps it’s time for you to have a catharsis, yourself. Throwing plates at a brick wall while yelling helps, btw.

  • LDN

    I rarely go on TC anymore, this is the only article I’ve read for a long time and I’m so glad.

    Today marks 4 months since my brother died and what you write seems to be how I feel and I guess, because you’re 4 years ahead of me, how I’ll feel for a while. Urgh.

  • Sean Duffie

    This is an outstanding piece. Maybe its complexities might be lost on some readers who go for the fluff pieces on TC, but speaking for myself, this is an incredibly moving read.

  • Annie Wen

    This. Made me smile and chuckle while reading it but at the same time, after finishing it I feel as if someone dug slowly through my chest and squeezed my heart. Love the way you approached this, somehow while seemingly veiling the dark subject matter of death with humour, you’ve accentuated it as a thing of depressing, poignant beauty. I don’t know how to describe the way it moves me but thank you. This was a fine, fine read.

  • Teamrice

    Would love to read some more of your thoughts. This is touching, funny and painful and carries a great tone. Can’t wait to see more of your essays on this site as well as hopefully in print.

  • janice

    Man, this was so good.  Great build-up and momentum up to the conclusion…and I’m also very sorry for your loss. Also, the picture  above goes perfectly with the article. Looking forward to more from you!!

blog comments powered by Disqus