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My brother Sam was three years younger than me and died from AIDS while still young and handsome at the age of thirty-nine in 1989. On November 21st, 2014, he would be 65, eligible for Medicare. I’m not sure how he would have handled getting older. We were very close, in spite of a scrimmage now and then. When we were growing up, I seemed to be the person he preferred to fight with, but also the person he ran to whenever he got into difficulty. He was fiercely competitive with me, even though I didn’t want to compete. My first memories as a child were about Sam, and my memory of his dying words stuck with me. ¬†Eventually, I had to write about it in order to try to understand what he was trying to say.

I was honored to have my essay about our life as brother and sister, Sam’s Way, ¬†published in The Gettysburg Review (Spring, 2012), and doubly honored when it was listed as a notable essay in Best American Essays 2013. Writing our story was a way to bring him back into the world – and it worked. Many people who had known him contacted me and I had lots of great conversations about what a funny, courageous, difficult and generous person he was. In honor of Sam, I’ll be baking his favorite yellow cake with chocolate icing on Friday and thinking about all the beautiful and talented people who were lost to a horrendous disease. Happy birthday, Sammy. Wish you were here.

 

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