Ross, Jason, Dad and I at the Death to youth party watching the band.
Three years ago today I was with my sister-in-law running around like crazy. We were picking up a smoked pig, telling people where to park, getting a band set up, and preparing for an epic 40th birthday party for my brother Jason. He pulled up in the driveway and saw dozens of friends and family come out of the woodwork to greet him, and the look of joy and surprise on his face is something I will never forget. He got out of the car and we put him in a makeshift coffin, as the theme was “Death of Youth” and carried him to the back yard. When we opened the coffin he sat up to see dozens more people, and the band and that look of joy was refreshed.
That party was one of the best I have ever attended. We all had plenty to drink, the band was awesome, and there were so many of our loved ones present. We just had a great time. Part way through that party Jason started to notice that his vision in one eye was a little blurry and at the time we all just brushed it off as too much beer. Later we discovered that it was cancer. A cancer that he overcame, even with losing the eye, with strength and even humour.
We did not know that this would be Jason’s last big bash. He had another birthday, but 41 is just not the same magnitude that 40. We didn’t know that some at the party would never see Jason again, and that the “eulogies” we gave would be our only chance to do one at all, since his body was never recovered from the sea. Today would be Jason’s 43rd birthday, so I am going to give him a bit of a eulogy today, right here.
THE BEST BIG BROTHER EVER
Jason was my big brother. He was not a typical big brother to me, as he actually seemed to enjoy including me in his life most times. He was honest and loving, but also not afraid to give me shit when I needed it. Sometimes even when I didn’t, but mostly he was supportive of everything I did. The best book review I ever received was from him. He said “I have now read two authors. Orwell, and Eric Rappe. Both books were great.” He loved my book and supported my writing 100%.
Jason was not afraid to share his knowledge. He was always teaching people what he knew. I learned a great deal from him over the years. He was also not afraid to learn. If I knew something he didn’t, no matter what it was, he was interested in learning about it. Not only is it rare to find someone who is willing to both teach and learn, he did it with a strange and almost super human skill. He could take something that took me years to figure out, see it done once, and recreate it like he had done it for years. Everything he did, he did 100%.
When we found out that Jay had cancer, I cried. I cried because my world was proven wrong. Jason was a super hero. He was immune to the problems of mortal man. How was it possible for him to have such an affliction. Then he showed me how it was possible. It was all part of his plan to teach. Throughout his treatments, and in his decision to have the eye removed, he showed me that even something as horrible as cancer can be destroyed as long as you have strength and a positive attitude. Once his eye was gone he chose not to wear a fake one that looked the same as a regular eye, but one with the Pittsburgh Steelers symbol on it instead. That way people would know he had won his battle, and he could further support his team at the same time. That was Jason. He might have cried or been upset about it when he was alone, but to others he was a hero all the way through it. The only time I saw him with any tears was a response to mine. He saw that I was hurting and worried, and it hurt him as well.
Jason was great at pretty much everything he ever did. He was one of the best carpenters I ever worked with, could work on his own cars, remodel his own house, fix broken electronics, and drive a tank. None of these compare to how great he was at being a big brother. Even after losing him, he continues to teach me things. I have learned that I can do the impossible. I can meet with politicians, and fight for a cause bigger than me. Growing up people thought I would one day be a comedian, or some sort of radio personality, because I made a joke of everything. Nobody would have ever guessed that I would walk the halls of Washington D.C. and try to change the world.
Losing Jason has been one of the biggest life changes I have ever dealt with. We watched football on Sundays, we worked together monday through friday (and sometimes saturday and sunday) and we hung out in between all of the above. I have learned so much from him, and I am proud of the man he was. I only hope that I am 1/5th the brother to my younger bro Ross, as Jason was to me.
I reaffirm my promise to you big bro. I will not stop fighting the cruise industry until they admit they have been unsafe, and make the needed changes to protect people in the future. Your super hero status is still intact, as in your death, I will make sure you save lives!
Happy birthday Jason. You are gone from my sight but will live in my heart and the hearts of those who knew you forever. You simply were the best big brother ever!
Me and the best big brother ever 1976ish