When Summarizing a Life is Difficult

Sometimes we are asked to write an obituary or give a eulogy of a deceased family member or a friend.  This obituary was written by a friend for his brother.  It recognizes the impact that his brother had on those around him and conveyed some of the boundaries of his brother’s life.  His brother’s life was a mixture of kindness and addiction that defined much of the impact felt by family and friends.  May Steve rest in peace.

 

Hoover Dam 2013 007

Steve

Nov. 6, 1956 ­— Nov. 5, 2018

My brother Steve died today, one day shy of his 62nd birthday. His passing is a relief and a blessing, a conclusion to a long journey of suffering, struggle and sorrow, of promise and potential unrealized due to the crippling disease of addiction.

Steve drank. It was his life. It drove us mad, and he paid dearly for it. But before the booze overtook him, and sometimes in between drinks, Steve was a deeply caring and compassionate soul who loved family and hated to see anyone suffer.  I’ll give you a couple examples.

When our Grandfather Gottschlich languished in a nursing home in the final years of his life, virtually no one, including our father, visited him. But Steve did, and he took me with him. He was just a teenager then, not yet old enough to drive, but he found a way to get us there.  (Thank you, Tom Wourms.)

When our great-uncle Augie, childless and disabled from strokes, needed help getting to medical appointments and haircuts, Steve, still a teenager, stepped in. He later became our uncle’s guardian at age 22.

I’m the youngest in my family, and when I was a little boy I thought Steve was just the coolest guy, a hero almost. He dressed sharp, drove cool cars (a ’66 GTO!) and had pretty girlfriends. He was an artist who taught me to draw before I could read and write. He took me to see a movie on the Holocaust because he thought I should know about that. I was 10. Simply stated, he was driven to help those who were hurting, to do what was right, and he seemed somehow damaged if he couldn’t.

Alcohol changed him, of course.

Steve worked in the restaurant industry for most of his working life, most notably as the manager of Xar’s Greek Deli in the Salem Mall, and later as a painter for Crown Lift Trucks in Vandalia. He never married and had no children, but he was a loving uncle who adored his nieces and nephews. He was a man of faith, a child of God with flaws like the rest of us who did the best he could.

He spent the last decade in poor health but sober in a nursing home, and my sisters Vicky and Peggy were with him in the end. (Kurt and I arrived later.) As Vicky finished telling Steve he was loved and a good brother, a tear rolled out of the corner of his eye and he died.

Steve was preceded in death by our parents, Jerry in 1980 and Dorothy in 1987; sister-in-law Teresa Gottschlich in 2010, and our brother Joe in 2012. He is survived by sisters Vicky Gottschlich and Peggy (Bill) Hoogsteden; brothers Kurt (Debbie), Chris, me, sister-in-law Ann Becker and multiple nieces and nephews.

Steve donated his body to the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. Services are pending. His cremains will be interred in Calvary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider one or all of the following: donate to a nonprofit focused on addiction prevention and treatment; visit the sick and lonely in a nursing home; live life joyfully in the present moment; be kind and loving toward others, perhaps most especially toward yourself.

Thank you, Steve. Thanks also to the staff at Grafton Oaks Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Dayton. They took good care of Steve and were most gracious these past few days, especially this afternoon. One by one the nurses, residents and others expressed their condolences through tears and told us how much they appreciated Steve and his sense of humor. “He would have us laughing and laughing…”

To my Facebook friends and family, please know my family and I deeply appreciate your kind words, support and prayers during this time. Blessings, love and light to all of you.

 

 

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