It's been six years since Peter died and this is the first time I've been able to write about him without tears. I still can't bring myself to watch the video from his funeral service. The sad fact is, I really didn't know my brother all that well.
Peter Paul was born when I was twelve, the fourth child in our Toledo, Ohio family (followed by David). Thrilled to have this pudgy blond baby to entertain. I would take him for walks in the stroller and play with him. When I went off to college, Pete was only six. Andy and I married, moved to Denver and had three babies of our own, so I saw him only once or twice a year.
Then Pete married Margaret Arnold, a Mississippi beauty from a big family. Soon red-haired Hunter and his sister Emma came along. By that time, we lived Pennsylvania and saw more of them, usually at the family cottage at Clear Lake, Indiana. Pete had grown up on the lake, becoming an expert water skier and sailor. He took over cottage upkeep as my parents aged, eventually buying it. He loved teaching his kids to swim, waterski and sail.
Pete was as straight an arrow as you could find. He didn't smoke, drink or have any bad habits. Playing basketball with friends kept him fit. Then one day, it all fell apart. Severe abdominal pain took him to the emergency room where doctors told him he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and would live for 3-5 months. Pete managed to survive for a year-and-a half, often in pain, so he could be there for his family. The end came when he was just 54 years old, leaving Margaret and his high school age children to mourn his loss. His ashes were scattered in the peaceful waters of Clear Lake, the place he loved best.
Hunter, the valedictorian of his high school class and a talented musician, became a Robertson Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will attend law school. Emma, also an academic star, will soon graduate from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in graphic arts. With Margaret's support, they have done remarkably well, although I know they feel their dad's absence each day.
Pete's death left a big hole in our family. It makes my heart hurt to know he will never see what exceptional young adults Hunter and Emma have become, and that Margaret is on her own. Although our age difference and distance made it difficult to maintain a close relationship, I will always miss him and grieve his loss.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.