The Death of a Brother-in-Law

The Death of a Brother-in-Law


By Elton Camp


“A great man died this week,” asserted the minister at Vernon’s funeral.  His daughter nodded her head in agreement. 


Words can mean what one chooses them to mean.  To be sure, he wasn’t “great” in the sense of being powerful or wealthy or making some astounding contribution to human learning or culture.  Certainly, he wasn’t “perfect,” but then nobody made that claim. 


In southern funeral discourses, it’s expected that any deceased person be extolled as a paragon of virtue, loved by all, and certain of a heavenly reward.  Only rarely have I known of an exception.  Some years ago, a notorious man died in abject poverty and a certain “reverend” was called on to conduct his service.  To his chagrin, there was to be no pay for his services.  After announcing the name and survivors and throwing in a few references to God and Jesus, he read from Luke about a certain rich man without indicating the words to be a parable.  Then he selected verses from Revelation about a “lake of fire,” but didn’t explain the symbolism involved.  “Now, let this be a lesson to the rest of you,” he concluded and sat down.  The small group of mourners sat in stunned silence. 


But in Vernon’s case, the mourners all agreed that he had shown many commendable traits during his seventy-two years of life.  Abandoned by his father at an early age, he managed to overcome crippling arthritis to finish high school and enroll in college.  Throughout his life, he worked at more than one job to support his own family.  He came to be known as a man of his word.  When he made a promise a shook a hand, his word was his bond and he’d carry it out even if the deal proved to be a bad one for him.


As the years passed, he substituted as a family head for his large clan of thirteen siblings.  Vernon was the glue, able to hold the scattered family together through the years, as he kept up with the goings and comings of his brothers and sisters.  He knew when they were born, where they lived, whom they married, and the names of their children. 


That he was approaching death was unmistakable.  He became a mere shadow of his former self, but retained an optimistic outlook.  “How are you doing?” brought the response, “I’m just fine.”  The last few weeks, as dialysis sapped his remaining strength, he replied, “I’m just proud to still be here.”  Vernon passed away peacefully and quickly while taking one of the treatments.  His favorite doctor was standing at his side. 


Vernon loved his family and his friends.  He is sadly missed by all who knew him.  Perhaps that is the true measure of “greatness.” 


Elton4562   Elton4562 wrote
on 5/16/2010 10:37:45 PM
Hey Desiree, Thanks for your kind comment. Actually, I don't regard this as a poem at all, but as a prose article. I am rather poor at writing poems and have attempted a few, without much success I fear, because many who post on this site like poetry. I mainly write short stories, most of them true stories like the one posted here. Elton

Desiree   Desiree wrote
on 5/16/2010 4:21:04 PM
I love the way you have expressed your feelings in this poem and I would like to know how this kind of poem is categorised because I found out there are several types of poem. Thanks.

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writing Elton4562

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A great man died this week.