Monday, March 9, 2009


i don't remember the day my brother jonathan was born. 
i was only two years and two months old. 
i do remember that i loved him when he came home.
it was march 9th. in maine. he made me a big sister. i remember that from the day he was born,
 he brought adventures into our little family. 
i remember how my mom would sing to him, 
especially a song she made up just for him, 
especially on days when he had gotten into trouble or was feeling sad:
jonathan, jonathan eric ruff,
you are my great big boy,
you to laugh and play and sing,
and have a lot of joy.
jonathan, jonathan eric ruff,
you are my first born son,
and i would not replace you
with any other one.
i remember that he was my first best friend.

i remember when i almost lost my brother.
it was august, in the summer in between my junior and senior year of high school; 
a few days before, jonathan had been down the street, stopping off at a neighborhood kid's house before he came home. i was sitting on the kitchen counter, swinging my legs, kicking the cabinets and talking to my mom when the phone rang and changed our family history forever, so that time has been delineated as "before the accident" or "after the accident" ever since.

it is a long story if i tell it because that moment has shaped so much. 
but it would be a short story if you told it because it can be abbreviated easily:
my brother was accidentally shot at close range by a pellet gun behind his ear, the pellet shattering his skull, going all the way through his brain, and lodging in the other side of his head. 
he was in a coma. he was partially paralyzed at first. 
he came so close to dying that the doctors said it was a miracle he survived.

i remember walking next to his gurney as far as possible before he was wheeled into brain surgery. it was my mom, dad, and i surrounding him and he was in a coma, but when my dad asked him if he was scared and if we could pray for him a tear rolled down his cheek.

i remember after the surgery, when the surgeons brought my mom and dad into a little room adjacent to the waiting area and they closed the door. when they returned and i saw my parents' faces i was so scared. they looked so sad, so pale, so small standing in front of me. 

i remember saying, "did jonathan die?"
my mom put her hand over her mouth and started crying.
in that moment i thought i had lost my brother.
it felt like a very long pause until my dad said, 
"no. but the surgeons don't know what he will be like when he recovers. he might never talk again. he might be like a vegetable. he might be paralyzed. or he might be just fine. 
they just don't know."
i will never forget the sadness and scariness of that season.

it might seem weird that i'm writing about jonathan's accident on his birthday. but every time we celebrate another year of my brother's life, i can't help but thinking that we almost lost him. it makes the joy of his birthday that much greater.
 his accident doesn't define him, but it is a part of his story, and mine.

my brother is very brave, strong, and determined;
so much more than people realize, and so much more than i think he gives himself credit for.
he worked so hard to walk, talk, write again...
to finish high school, 
and college and graduate school.
to become a teacher.

i am incredibly proud of him: not just all that he has struggled to accomplish, 
but of who he is as a person.
it has been a long road, and he has walked it with courage and without complaint.
the name jonathan means "gift of god."
a gift of god - that is what my brother is -
and i would not replace you
with any other one.


  1. How could one put into words the adventures Jonathan has taken us on: surely well named, you are a gift from God, son. Thanks! Sooz.

  2. wonderfully written post. i so enjoy your prose.

  3. You always spoke so well of Jonathan from those early college days. He got a great older sister and you got a great first brother.

  4. tears. love. you. and your family.

  5. Thanks for sharing your heart Sooz. Every word of it is true. Jonnie is an exceptional person. Who is that woman with him??? It looks like it could be me! Is it your Mom?

  6. shelly, it's my mom. so cute, right?

  7. I just clicked to this post from today's post. Guess what my brother's name is???? Jonathan Alan!
    I had a great "date" with you today and hope we can hang out again!


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