Steve Boy ScoutI’ve been thinking a lot of my brother, Steve, lately. This month, my book club took on “No Immediate Threat: The story of an American Veteran,” the book I wrote about his struggles after the Vietnam War.

It was a pleasant surprise when they suggested they read and discuss the book close to Veteran’s Day.

It was especially poignant, as today is the 10th anniversary of his death.

I couldn’t be farther from where I was that cold night back in 1999 when my brother went to sleep for the last time.

I was a new reporter on the school beat for a local daily. My day timer shows that although it was a Saturday, I was busy working, covering a Boy Scouts event. When we learned of Steve’s death 14 months later, I looked at my calendar and actually remembered thinking of my brother while I was at that event the day he died, as he had also been a Boy Scout.

Vietnam changed the Boy Scout and athlete we knew. My brother returned a tormented soul.

In the years that have followed the aftermath of his death, The Little House has played an important part in helping me shed some of the emotional clutter, to find my own sense of peace.

We built The Little House first to escape the madness of our everyday lives, to enjoy the quiet of the woods and stillness of mist covered mornings on the lake.

I think having a place for respite helps calm even the most chaotic of times, and the years following my brother’s death brought many of those. Not only did the gaping hole of his loss need the salve of such a place, but my mother’s health also began to rapidly decline during that time.

As our roles reversed and the inevitable grew closer, The Little House was my hideaway.

One  morning not too long after we finished The Little House, we were headed to the lake and “Oh Very Young,” by Cat Stevens came on the radio. My brother loved Cat Stevens and this particular song about leaving this life too soon hit way too close to home. I fell apart at hearing the song, but once I was floating on the calm waters, hearing nothing but the occasional calls of the birds and the fish splashing in the water, my mind found peace once again.

The final chapters of the book about his life were even written on the covered front porch during an unseasonably cool long weekend over July 4 in 2005. The book wasn’t easy to write or finish, but I did it in the most tranquil of settings. I don’t know if I could have done it in any other place.

Of course, this anniversary was on my mind last night. As I sat down on the sofa, another song my brother loved, “The Sultans of Swing,” by Dire Straights, came on the Sirius satellite radio. Although most of the good times we shared are decades in the past, songs especially, will jar my mind and I can still see him singing along, feel his energy, picture his smile. That will either bring a smile to mine, or tears.

I escaped to the deck and sat gazing at the multitude of stars we can still see in the country, and I finally realized the peace I feel when I allow myself to take in the wonders surrounding The Little House is my brother. He is always with me and so is also now part of nature, the lake, and the stars.

Together, we’ve both found our peace here.

Please hop over to My Faith Project, where I write more on Steve.

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20 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I, too, am married to a Vietnam Vet and have learned that life is not what you plan, it’s what you grab out of it. We have been married for over 33 years and he suffered a nervous breakdown over twenty years ago. It’s been a long emotional road to travel since then, but I would rather have travelled that road with him, than without. My heart does a ‘catch’ when I realize what would have happened to him without my support and love and without the love of our children. He now says that the struggle of living was worth it to be around for his grandchildren. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you for sharing, Caroline. I’m so glad your husband was one of the fortunate. The road hasn’t been easy for either of you I’m sure, but today is a day to be thankful he made it this far.

  2. Thank you Kerri. Peace is where the heart is.

  3. This helps me remember that the little graces are always there even when we think we can’t see them or forget. Thinking of you. Thank you for sharing such tenderness.

  4. Ken says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. Even after all these years, I’m sure it’s still hard. Next time I step outside and it’s that super-duper quiet in or valley … that perfect quiet that you only get in a rural setting. I’ll think of Steve and of you.

  6. Sandy says:

    First I want to say I love your blog. (directed here by Correna) I’ve reads for awhile, but haven’t commented.
    As the wife of a Vietnam Vet, your brother’s story and this post rally touches my heart.
    I am so glad that you have found some peace and comfort in your Little House, and the beautiful setting in which we live. Your brother will always live on in your heart, and where your heart is, he is.

    • Kerri says:

      I’m so glad Correna directed you here, Sandy. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. May peace always be with your husband, too. Both of you have my appreciation for his service.

  7. RowdyKittens says:

    WOW Kerri – that post made me tear up. It’s such a beautiful tribute to your brother. I’m glad you’ve found peace in your little house.

    I still have a lot to learn and am far from perfect. But my simple living journey has changed me for the better. I’ve finally realized that family and friends are more important than work. Work is always there, but family and friends might not be. Taking time out to spend with loved ones is so important.

    I’ve been thinking about my Grandparents and Great Aunt a lot lately. I wish they were still here. I miss them so much.

    Hugs to you…

  8. MarthaandMe says:

    I think it is interesting how you’ve used a place, a home to create emotional comfort for yourself. Your little house sounds like a very special place.

  9. Barb Vatza says:

    That’s a very sweet tribute to your brother.I am sure he is smiling down upon you.Nature has a way of making us closer to our lost loved ones and God.It gives us peace,a peace that some are searching for and never find but you found your peace.Hang onto it.No matter what you do or where you go your brother Steve is with you.

  10. Kathleen Winn says:

    What a poignant tribute to your brother. I believe as you, that love never dies, that relationships don’t end when life does and that we are forever a part of this universe, once we’ve walked the earth. I am so glad that you’ve found peace and comfort in the solitude of nature Kerri, and that you are able to share it so eloquently with others. I feel the same kind of connection with my dad, when I look up at a star filled sky. May the memory of your dear brother live on in your heart forever.

    • kerri says:

      How can one not look up at those twinkling diamonds and not feel the infinity of the universe? I’m glad you find the same peace in those stars, Kathy.