This picture of my brother, Neal, was taken at the U.S. Open Golf Tournament in Pinehurst, North Carolina, in June of 1999, one month before he died of an accidental drug overdose. He was only 37 at the time.
My brother touched the lives of many with his wonderful sense of humor, his infectious laugh, and his huge-hearted kindness. But those of us who knew him well understood his dark side, his tortured soul. Fortunately, death has a way of helping us forget the bad and celebrate the good.
Born two years and one day apart—June 14 and 15 of 1962 and 1964—Neal and I were Geminis. We were twins. Kindred spirits. We understood one another. When we were young, he was my hero. After his death, he became my inspiration. From the moment I learned of Neal’s death, I knew I would spend my life making sure that his memory lived on. He would want me to reach out to others, to help them avoid the demons that cost him his life.
For many years, I chaired education committees at my son’s school to promote alcohol and drug awareness to parents. I also chaired a series of leadership symposia that brought in world-renowned speakers to empower students to become better leaders through honor and integrity and character. But it wasn’t enough. I envisioned myself counseling groups of students about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. I wanted to tell anyone willing to listen how substance abuse and mental illness destroys families. But even years after his death, when I tried to talk to others about Neal, my voice would shake and my eyes would fill with tears.
So I turned to writing.
Saving Ben is the story about the strong bond between a college-aged brother and his younger sister. When I started working on my plot lines, I gave little thought to who my target audience might be. I only knew it made sense for me to tell my story from the perspective of this age group, as college was the part of our lives when Neal and I were the closest. It was also during this time when his substance abuse started to become a real issue.
Cherish your time on earth! That’s the greatest lesson I learn from Neal’s death. Live every day to the fullest because you never know what waits around the next corner. Set your goals and make them happen. Today!!
With the most words to date, the winner of this week’s Weigh-In,
a copy of Anne Lamott’s bird by bird is
Sue is only slightly ahead of everyone else.
This competition could get interesting. 🙂
If you haven’t already, check out Rochelle Melander’s guest post, Rock the Write-A-Thon, and enter for a chance to win Write-A-Thon!
According to my desktop dictionary: Inspiration is a person or thing that stimulates in his way. The definition doesn’t specify a good way or a bad way, but a person’s own way. In my brother’s case, I’m inspired by all the good deeds he did as much as the hurt he caused others. What about you? What inspires you to write?