Sunday, January 3, 2016

Strange Events of My Brother's Death, 1962

This is an entry for our little girl, Anna, and our soon-born son, due January 22, 2016.

In this picture is my only brother, Gene Sanders, all handsome and dressed up, ready to attend his Durango High School graduation, 1962, with (left to right) my sister Paula Sanders Nabors, Patricia Sanders McCarty, and me (Dale Sanders). A few months later, Gene would lose his life, serving in the US Air Force, the second accidental death of a child for our Mom and Dad. How they got over those losses to still be great parents, I'll never know. This photo was taken in front of our house, 2119 Eastlawn Ave, Durango, Colorado, now the home of Ronda Edwards. Ronda and I have been friends since the 7th grade. Notice all the snow still on the La Plata Mountains in the background, in late May or early June, which was the norm. You don't see that in today's weather patterns.

There's more to this story than Gene's death and the loss of our brother... there's a story about living with unfounded guilt... and the will to live... the will to die... and finally dying of a broken heart.

The day before Gene was killed, he was supposed to be aboard an Air Force cargo flight leaving from Juneau, Alaska. But he missed that flight... and that flight went into the Pacific Ocean, killing everyone on-board. My parents were certain that he was among the passengers. They were devastated. But Gene called to tell them that he got bumped from the flight and all was ok.

The next day, my parents got a call that Gene had been killed... in a different accident.

Our Dad was in the Air Force during this period and was sent to Japan, prior to us moving there, so he missed Gene's high school graduation and, of course, when Gene was killed, Dad couldn't forgive himself for missing Gene's graduation.

Jump forward 15 years: Dad suffered a very bad stroke when I was a junior in high school; he shouldn't have lived much more than a few days. But, he said he wanted to live long enough to see me graduate from high school. Four days after I graduated, he died. I truly believe that Dad died from a broken heart... the loss of two children... the loss of his eldest son... and from the guilt he could never overcome from missing Gene's graduation.

Such are the strange events of human lives, all of us.

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