Norman Wayne Brumbley
23 October 1943 ~ 20 October 2014
My brother summed up my feelings with this facebook post from 21 October 2014:::
As universal and inevitable as death is, there are as many different perspectives on its reality as there are men and women on the earth who will eventually pass through it. I know that some of you reading this status see this life, and the death that ends it, very differently than I do, but there are some aspects of the experience which are common to everyone, no matter your views on the afterlife, or the lack thereof. One moment, one day, one year, someone is a part of your life; a piece of the identity you’ve built for yourself, however large or small, is there within your reach, a phone call, a plane ride, a Skype call away. Then the next moment, the next day, maybe twenty years after you last thought of them, they’re somewhere else, somewhere you can’t reach them, hear them, touch them.
Nothing I say can simplify the complexity of emotion that accompanies the death of someone close to you. It goes beyond sadness, beyond any definition you can form of the word ‘grief’ before experiencing it for yourself. Their absence changes the world in which you live, and consequently changes who you are as a resident of that world.
My father died this morning a little after midnight, after a long struggle against cancer and all the thousand natural shocks that come as a byproduct of such a condition. It’s taken me a long time to collect my thoughts, not because I don’t know how I feel or what I believe about what’s happened, but because it’s difficult to feel anything through the haze created by the demands of this kind of pain. No amount of knowledge or understanding I possess is capable of mitigating the ache of his absence. Testimony and faith are capable only of providing hope and encouraging patience in us as we work through the pain in the moment of its demand. I miss him, and will continue to miss him until the day I meet him again.
My father is one of the most admirable men I have ever known, not because he lived a perfect or extraordinary life, but because he held himself to such a standard as to close his mortal existence without regrets. I had the privilege of living through the latter half of his life as his son, and I count it as one of the greatest honors I will ever possess, to call myself his. I have done the best I know how in every phase of my life to honor him, and I will continue to do so for as long as I live. My son will never know him, as I had hoped he would, but he will learn as much about him as I’m able to relate, even if our account of others, especially of the dead, will always fail to capture the entirety of the person themselves.
There is a long and honored tradition of tropes and trite catch-phrases surrounding the reality of death. Someone being in a better place, or happier now, or resting peacefully. Gone into the next room, blinking for an exceptionally long time, the list goes on. All of these phrases seem as petty and hollow as they sound, even if they all come from the genuine hearts of those striving to mourn with those who mourn, as we are commanded to do. I will not subscribe to any of them, but my own thoughts on the subject may sound just as Hallmark-worthy as the others. This is what I know, beyond the doubts this world presses us to feel about our course through this existence.
What I know is that my father is alive, in the only way that matters. We are not bodies who have spirits. We are spirits who have bodies for a time, and then move on with our existence when they can no longer sustain us. My father, like all the rest of us, is a creature of eternity. The bonds of our family and our love for each other extend beyond this life, and nothing so temporary and terrestrial as death has the power to change the truths of our divine relationships one to another. I will strive to live the length of my own mortality in such a way that he will be proud of who I am as his son, and when I leave this world behind, I will see him again. My father is with his father now, and that is enough.
- David Brumbley