Honoring the Memory of My Brother- Part Three
My brother, Gene Michaels Free, who passed away last week was the oldest of my siblings. He was a very strong man and the rock of our family. He helped the other six of us get through the loss of our parents.
It was 29 years ago today (May 19th) that my father was killed in a car accident. That was hard to deal with. I was 19 at the time and I never thought I would lose my father that young. He was only 55. This might sound morbid, but I think my brother and sisters all expected to lose our mother first. She had high blood pressure and diabetes and she lost both of her parents to strokes when they were in their early 60’s.
I remember my brother driving from Long Island to our family’s home in Carbondale Pa. He arrived the day after the accident and he helped us all get through that tragedy. I remember seeing him sitting on the couch holding my mother in his arms while she cried over the loss of my father. I remember Gene reassuring my mother that everything was going to be ok. That this was all part of God’s plan and it was ok to cry, but that we would see my father again someday.
In 2004, my mother died of a massive stroke. Again my brother made the trip back to town and provided strength and faith to help us deal with our loss. I know his time in the seminary helped him to deal with such heartache, and he was there to help us with ours as well.
Gene battled cancer once before in his life. He won that battle and was healthy for years. He helped me to be strong when my wife, girlfriend at the time, battled her cancer. And he was there to advise me and give me support when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. These are just some of the reasons I asked Gene to be my best man at my wedding.
In 2015, he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He fought it for over three and a half years. There were times where it looked like Gene would win the fight. But each time the cancer would eventually come back stronger. My brother didn’t tell many people about his battle. In fact, it was just family and close friends that knew what he was dealing with. He did this because he didn’t want to burden people with his problems. He never complained about the pain or the treatments that became part of everyday life for him. He never wanted anybody to feel sorry for him, he was a very proud and strong man.