Jesse’s Musings
Reflections of a consious mind

Steve: the brother I barely knew – A Tribute


Stephen was quiet, unassuming. Funny and gregarious in the right circumstances, he was also easily overshadowed and marginalized by larger personalities. I was one of those personalities!

always a good sport

always a good sport

Not graceful nor silver tongued, a cursory assessment might pass him over as bumbling and lacking some essential qualities necessary for greatness.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

He was misunderstood by many, including members of his own family.

His Mom wasn’t fooled though! She saw Steve’s heart and felt his compassionate love.

If he were a dog, I imagine a Saint Bernard. Big and burly, not the winner of any shows, never first in the pack for skill, mental acumen or cunning wit. But if you were hurting, lost or in need, Steve was your guy.

His ability to connect with others on a deep level was an attribute often unrecognized.

I never understood my brother, although the exact reasons elude me.

Was it his weight or the fact he didn’t seem to “catch on” quickly enough? Perhaps a combination of things. I was a high flyer, motivated, inquisitive and energetic. He was a plodder, specific in action, prone to detail and sometimes painfully ponderous. When he took action however, he was deliberate, determined, unwavering and reliable.

I often disregarded his opinions, either because he couldn’t articulate them clearly enough or simply because I felt like they were  irrelevant. Unfortunately, my impetuousness prevented me from seeing the incredible person that he was. To see the heart full of love and unconditional acceptance for people, in spite of their shortcomings. Particularly his ability to connect with children was uncanny. Kids adored him for his impartial appreciation of their existence.

butcheringAll Steve humbly asked for in return was equal acceptance. Just to be loved for who he was. Why was this so difficult, I have many times asked myself since his passing? Was it my own inadequacies that prevented closeness? To love and not judge, is this possible? It seems that he knew the secrets to this kind of love while I did not.

I remember the summer when I worked closely with Stephen. He wanted to be on the farming crew, meaning I would be his boss. This seemed like an exceptional idea as I would finally be able to teach him some practical life skills, I thought.

But he really didn’t want to be taught “life skills”. Rather, he hoped that his older brother might finally recognize him as a young man with potential and destiny. Maybe he could finally crack the code, offer enough, be enough! Sadly, this was not the outcome. For whatever reasons, we seemed to be sabotaged from the beginning. Machinery was broken, frustrations mounted and ultimately I had to send him to work in another area.


Steve's passion

Steve’s passion

There were good times too – Steve and I chuckled over hunting stories and did some fun things together. We both shared a mutual appreciation for hockey and machinery.  I suppose you could say ours was a paradoxical relationship, most often characterized by our differences.

Eventually Steve moved away from the area to find his niche in California working with troubled youth. This was what he was born for. Caring, kindness and long suffering – the cornerstones of his character – were a perfect fit for this career choice.

In spite of the acceptance he found in this family, he was still deeply troubled that his own family, particularly his Dad and brother couldn’t see the real value in him. We stayed in contact, every couple months chatting on the phone and catching up. He regaled me with antics from the center where he worked and we talked of trucks and tractors, a mutual passion.

Still, under the surface was something amiss. Thankfully Steve wasn’t too far away from extended family who loved him and took him in. Specifically his cousin Jason (who is himself an exceptional person) treated him like royalty.

One fateful decision altered the course of Steve’s short life. While attempting to help one of the young girls who had been through the group home in the past, things became distorted. Although his intentions were altruistic, he ended up being arrested and charged with a felony relating to her children. After only a short time in jail, physical complications set in and he passed away couple months later, mainly from kidney failure.

Our family was in shock, relieved that his suffering had ended, but indignant at his treatment and struggling to comprehend this senseless tragedy. But in this midst of the tumult and ensuing memorials came the moments of greatest clarity for me. Only then did the truth begin to seep out.  People all around the area began to speak out, confirming stories of Stephens selflessness. His ability to love when others turned their back or resorted to judgement. The long drives he would make at his own expense to bring food to a friend, or comfort to the hurting.

SteveThis man, overweight, slow to act and somewhat indecisive. Could he be the one whose remembrance service had to be held in two countries because he had touched so many lives?

Was it really him?

Yes, it was him!

The magnitude of this began to sink  in when I returned to Canada for his hometown memorial. Humbled and ashamed for my “holier than thou” attitude, I witnessed the tears from grateful attendees whose memories of this gracious young man differed greatly from mine.

How did I miss it, I reflected, sitting there in awe and disbelief?

I was his brother, his kin, his blood. I guess it’s true: the ones closest to us often suffer the most. A man who lived a truly altruistic life, asking for no more than he gave. He loved uncompromisingly, gave cheerfully, offered willingly and trusted fully.

What more can be asked of a human being, what more is there to give? A life of love given without regard for creed, status, body style or religious background.

steve head shotA gentle giant, mellow and genuine to his core. A tortured soul which begged for his family’s understanding and acceptance. A mentor to countless children, a beacon of guidance for troubled youth, a genuine friend to all  whom he encountered.

Is there a greater legacy? A more noble existence?

This was Stephen, the brother I barely knew but now greatly respect and admire!

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