My Brother’s Eulogy
When we were teenagers, after our parents had gone to sleep, Liam would sometimes text me from his bed. We’d both be awake but in bed, texting our friends or reading or whatever teenagers did at midnight in 2006. He’d be like, Katie…will you go make me a bagel? Will you go toast me a bagel with butter? Because it was late, and he was cozy, and he didn’t want to get out of bed. And I’d be like…No, go get it yourself. And he’d be like, Pleeeeeease, please please will you please go make me a bagel. And I’d be like OMG Liam. No. And he would beg, and beg, relentlessly, and I’d refuse, and eventually, he’d offer me $5 to go downstairs and toast him a bagel.
And then I’d do it. Because, I mean, what a stupid deal. What terrible business sense.
So, I know that’s a stupid story. Like, it’s not even a joke. There’s no punchline or moral.
But the other night I was looking through pictures of Liam that were on the computer and in shoeboxes and in the emails that many of you sent us. And there were so many pictures I’d never seen. Including this one of him in a penguin suit. And I was like…when was Liam in a penguin suit? Where did he get it? How have I’ve never seen this before?
The truth is, there are a lot of things I don’t know about Liam.
Like all of us, Liam was a slightly different version of himself with everyone. In a lot of ways, I don’t know my brother as well as many of you knew him. I certainly don’t know him in the same way. I don’t know what Liam was like as a friend. I don’t know what Liam was like as a son or a student or a boyfriend.
I only know what he was like as a brother, and I’m the only person who will ever know that version of him.
So that’s why I wanted to tell the bagel story. Because it’s a part of him that no one else knew. It’s a story that only I knew. That story is so stupid that I never bothered to tell anyone else. No one else in the world knew that, until just now. So now, when I tell it, it becomes a gift. It is the best thing I can give to any of you.
When horrible things happen, people want to help, but they don’t know how. And you don’t know how either. People bring quiche and scotch and tissues and apologize because they don’t know what else to do and nothing feels like enough.
One friend offered me tequila. Another friend gave me socks. One friend offered to call me on the phone and read to me until I fell asleep.
We all want so badly to do something for each other, and the best thing to do is to just share Liam. However we knew him.
Because when people die, we keep them alive in memories. And when people die too young, there just aren’t enough of them. We only have twenty-seven years of stories, and now they’re suddenly so precious. We’re hoarding them, we’re anxious of losing them, afraid that without enough of them, the few that we have will get turned over too many times and lose their edges.
I don’t get to remember Liam’s wedding day. Or what he was like as a Little League coach. We should have sixty more years of memories, but we don’t.
So now, everything that he did and everything that he was is all the more important. We have to give each other the gift of these tiny memories, even if they seem stupid, or even if they seem like nothing, because it’s all we have left of Liam, and we need every bit of it.
Yesterday, Mark told me a story about Liam that I’d never heard before. He sent me a picture of him behind the counter at a Chinese restaurant. Apparently, they’d been at a party nearby and afterwards, went to go get food, and ended up at a place called Yummy House. It didn’t seem like anyone was at the restaurant. The phone was ringing, and when no one came to answer it, Liam went behind the counter and started taking orders.
We need all these stories. We want to hear about every time Liam made you laugh, and every time you wanted to punch him, and every time you actually did punch him, and every time he did something weird, or something kind, or something dumb, or something that was just so Liam.
We all tried our best to help him. There isn’t anything that any one of us could’ve done better or done differently. And now, we just have to keep doing our best by Liam, keep doing whatever we can for him, and for each other. I promise to tell you what Liam was like as a brother, if all of you promise to keep telling me what Liam was like as a son, and a cousin, and a neighbor, and a friend, so we can all keep getting to know him.