Lord, I want Tony back.
I wasn’t done loving him. I didn’t get to know enough about him as an individual, to feel that I gave him enough love. I wanted to give him room to express himself. I waited for him to volunteer who he was, and what he was about, even if it meant that I didn’t get to see him as much as I wished. I figured he would outlive me. I didn’t think I had to insist on knowing anything before he was ready to bring it to me. We all thought we had time enough to unfold the curious things about him. There was no reason to think we didn’t.
He was good about letting us know that he loved us, at least I am certain that he loved me as much as I hoped he would. He wanted me to know that, and so I did. I never felt criticized or seen as unimportant in his eyes. And his eyes – how dark, lustrous and lovely they were! He had those long thick lashes, too. His eyes usually had a calm twinkle when he was relaxed and a merry shine when he was laughing. When times were hard or we were hurt, his eyes were steady, encouraging, and courageous; telling us we could endure whatever was causing the pain. But this isn’t all about me. I wanted to know more about him.
He seemed satisfied with his life in more ways that I knew. It’s a question I now realize I wanted to ask: Tony, were you satisfied with life? Did you achieve all the goals that mattered most to you? When you were hurt, did you find comfort enough to heal well? Did you know how much you mattered? Did we tell you enough?
I got to be there when you were born! You were our family’s first baby, so you taught us that newborns needed structure with your fretful cries, and that babies could show us the world in a shockingly remarkable way. You were adorable and we called you Munchkin, because the Italian DNA fated you to be in a smaller “fun size” body rather than some football brute. Through you, we learned that we could be good parents, aunts and uncles – and you probably taught the grandparents as well. You brought us all of the benchmark firsts: the first award for creative writing in Kindergarten, the first t-ball games, the first haircut crisis (when you cut your sister’s hair for reasons we never could figure out – but they were good ones I am sure), and the list goes on. I choke with all the memories that crowd my mind, because everything you did led the way for those who came later to our family, and some things were just distinctive to who you were. Sometimes being the first caused wounds for you, because you needed the room to make mistakes and not have them be so significant. Did you feel celebrated enough? Were we giving you enough of the praise that you needed to hear?
As time went by, you wore the mantle of involuntary leadership with grace, civility, and kindness. Like most firstborns, you liked rules. But you wanted to create the rules, not just simply obey anyone else’s. You proved that boys can be cheerleaders and still be expressively masculine. And if straight girls could wear blue, why couldn’t straight boys wear pink and still be respected and enjoyed as a straight male with his full load of testosterone? After all, we say that when things are good, “they are in the pink.” Right?
Anger was rarely a part of your character, and that impressed me. You had some things happen in life that would have made a lot of the people angry and bitter, but you resisted that. You made more friends than enemies everywhere you quietly went. You were human, and had some irritating traits, too; but they weren’t enough to make me sigh or roll my eyes when I heard your voice. It was always joy that bounded in with you. I also noticed along the way, that you decided you didn’t need to control much, other than yourself – a priceless lesson in living. I remember telling you that, and how you were a bit tongue-tied in responding. I am so glad that I got to tell you that, and that you heard me.
I know that you were good about letting other people know that you valued them. You could tell them what it was that made them valuable when they needed to know it, too. You didn’t always have eloquent words, but you were rarely inarticulate if someone was honestly listening. You didn’t have to be the “star” of every occasion, but you knew how to fill the supporting role to all of your beloved’s lives.
I specifically remember a day in April of 2000 where you had to get leave from military duties in Kentucky so you could come back to Illinois and collect your mother, your sister and a brand new niece home from two different hospitals about 50 miles apart. You did it effectively, with all tender patients carefully and preciously transported to the place of healing – home.
As a man, you were intelligent, honest, hardworking, a little stubborn, but still respectful of others, as well as a happy spirit of gladness for life and living it well. You responded to requests for help with a happy good-natured attitude – a priceless trait in a time of struggle that generated the request. You liked being the dragon slayer, and it showed in your happy glow as you would leave: Challenge overcome! I know that I got to tell you that I enjoyed you as a problem solver in my life; but – did you believe I meant it, or did you just think I was “being a good aunt?”
Having grown up with mostly females in your life, you weren’t like most men. You didn’t always run from women in tears or any wounded child, man, or other hurting creature. You were a comforter in times of sorrow. That’s a big part of the loss I feel today. We’ve lost a comforter who filled that role as completely as any human could. You were a kind man in a world of Al Bundys, a respecter of persons in a time that seems to challenge us with biting sarcasm and jaded criticism. We’ve lost an endearing and enduring spirit that taught us how to keep going in the quieter ways.
You were so very remarkable, my beloved Godson. Did we tell you that enough? I want to think so, because as I think of you, I always remember seeing a spontaneous smile on your face and in your dark eyes when you’d greet me. Selfishly, I want to demand you back to our circle. However, it occurs to me that – God could have given you to any other family instead of ours. That it is entirely possible that I would never have met you, or been influenced by your life in mine. That’s a sobering thought, and I have to admit – I don’t like it one bit.
Lord, I want to thank You for giving us the gift of Anthony Samuel Bravi. I am so glad I never had to live it without him. Help me to manage this loss with the same measure of courage that he used in times like this. Help me to honor and celebrate his life, and care for his beloveds the way he’d want me to, though today I am shattered because he is no longer shared with me.
Please pray for Tony’s wife, Shannon. She’s been a precious woman of intelligence, wit, and wonder for our family to enfold. There was no warning, and this is a crushing heartbreak for her.
I would ask for more prayers for his mother (my sister) Diana, and his sister Jelina. Their close family circle has been broken. This hurts beyond the meaning of the word.