My dearest Jacob,
There isn’t a word in our language that expresses my pain with any accuracy. Your mom, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and peers feel the pain of this world without your breath. You embodied all that is beautiful in the world. You and Ana made me forget life before 2000. I remember, with vivid clarity, the day we found out you were a boy. While mom was concerned about your health, I jumped for joy. I was going to raise a boy. I was going to raise a young man, in my own likeness. Oh, the false bravado and naivety, Brandt. When you were four, I got sober. I took that needed deep breath and exhaled all my fears and started to live in a love breath. I made many mistakes but let you be you. This was my greatest accomplishment. I resisted the urge to control you.
Jacob, you built a life’s resume that would make anyone envious of a life well lived. I was proud every time you added a line onto your life resume. It’s not about that. I was happy to see you living your best life. You lived the same way before cancer that you did after diagnosis. Do you know how remarkable you were? Some people get dealt that hand and fall apart, while others need the news to see the wonders of the world. You knew it from day one.
From the minute you were born you had a quiet confidence. Mom and I were scared shitless. We had little money and a ton of stress. I was an immature 25-year-old. Mom took great care to make sure you were coming into a world safely. When you emerged into our world, you didn’t cry. The hospital staff had to take you immediately to clean you up. Then, you were handed to me. I looked at you and you returned a perfect smile. “I got you, dad” your eyes told me. Immediately, I knew you were different.
In 20003 Ana was born. You immediately transformed from son to big brother. Until the day you died, you treated that job as your career. You always made sure she was safe. I feel your greatest job is now. You are doing wonderfully protecting her in Chicago. She feels your presence. You are there for her every minute, never leaving her side. I remember hearing the story of Ana needing to see you at Camp. She left her cabin group and sneaked over to you. You cared for her like many wouldn’t. You are the best brother.
You entered high school in 2014. While some of your friends left Shaker and headed to US, you took another path. St. Ed’s was your home. You gave them four of the best years ever. You knew no one. You took trains, found rides, took more trains, hopped on a bus or two, and smiled the entire time. I know it wore you down sometimes, but you never let the commute beat you. Every. Single. Day. You showed up and showed out.
Some people attend school without leaving a mark. You thrived in every situation. Miami and St. Ed’s will never be the same. To many of your high school friends, you’re the first Jew they met. You took that responsibility seriously. It was paramount to you to share your love for Judaism without undermining their religion. You had friend groups but never left anyone out.
You’ve left a gaggle of people who are forever in your debt. You’ve connected friends with girlfriends. You taught others how to live with righteousness. You’ve inspired other cancer patients. Our sweet Maxine loved you. Two weeks before she died, her and I sat crying in her living room. She wept about your strength in awe. She knew her days had a quickly expiring expiration date. She promised to find you in heaven. I must believe you two are laughing together and listening to music. Maureen is getting the kitchen sink tossed in her direction. She feeds off your strength. “I keep thinking of Jake Butze, and I know I can get through anything,” she said to me last week. “He’s caring for me.”
One day, Jacob, while in the battle of your life and in a long-haul stay, I left to grab you a snack. When I returned, you were standing in your neighbor’s threshold. “Dad, I want you to meet these people. He’s an Edman!” Jacob, you looked a man in his 50’s in the eye and reassured him. They were comforted with your assurances. I stood in that hallway as your biggest fan, sitting front row, while you let this man know he’s not alone.
I was with you the day before we found out you weren’t going to make it. Although you had an infection, we had a good week. Your numbers vastly improved. We lived on those counts. We had so much fun that day. I remember watching a couple of South Park episodes and you even played the ukulele a bit. While the topic of conversation escapes me, our love for that day doesn’t. We were positive. The next day was mom’s day. She called me to let me know you weren’t going to make it. I immediately jumped in the car to see you. I questioned the doctor as she, with tears in her eyes, told me again. Rabbi Rob quickly came to greet the chaplain, who was already in your room. You arrived and we had to break the news no one, especially not a fucking 20-year-old, should have to hear. You absorbed the news. Your immediate concern was mom and Ana. Especially Ana. That night, as the room was darkened and we were left alone, you stood and walked over to the sink counter. You grabbed the counter and started to do leg raises. I didn’t need to ask your intentions. I knew. You just needed to stay in shape.
The past 14 months are somewhat a blur. Ana is thriving with you on her shoulder. Mom and I miss you every minute of every day. It’s not easy living without you. It’s brutal. We are doing it. Most people don’t know how we do it. Fuck, I have no idea either. We’ve met so many people who cry the way we cry. We all just keep moving forward because doing anything else is an insult to our kids. Two days before you died, you wrote us all letters. We already knew the level of your love. You left us with a guide for life. How to carry without you in the physical. I read it once. How you had the strength to complete this task, I will never know. You are a true force in this world.
My health was a source of major concern to you. Well, I am logging my meals. I hope to soon be on an environmentally CLEAN diet. I am exercising every day. Uncle Ben is sufficiently kicking my butt. By the way, he’s selling us out and moving back to Cali. Punk. I don’t need to ask you to keep watching over us. You’ve never let us down before and won’t start now. I hope to be skinny soon! It’s with your inspiration to be better for mom and Ana.
Tonight we will honor you with a wonderful dinner at Aunt Hallie’s. Ana is going to see Alex and Tess. Your friends, I’m sure, will celebrate your life around the world. Your cousins and family all love you so much and will all take some private time. You make me better. Every. Single. Day
Here’s a quick update on your cousins:
• Kyle-He’s in district 2 and working nights now. He’s now the 2nd tallest male cousin
• Erin- She’s back in CLE and teaching Aunt Kelly about the real issues in the world
• Tay Tay is working at the White House. Rumor has it, she’s really the president. She’d be a Vast improvement from 45 and 46.
• Schuyler is at THE Ohio State University. The environment is in her hands.
• Kendal is on her way to nationals. Please get her that win over Mission!
• Abby is applying to PA schools and killing it in Boston. We could use your help here too Jacob
• Ellie is applying for jobs. She’s going to be saving lives with Abby. They already are!
• Rachel is living her best life in Wisconsin. She is killing it
• Allison is graduating soon and heading to CHI. Please watch over her as she moves…. And tell her to visit Ana occasionally
• Molly is in Copenhagen. She said you visited her with the prettiest sky. She is confident but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need you.
• Mac needs you more than you know. He’s going to college and lost that male role model. Please teach him your humility without humiliation. He’s kind of screwed with me as his only other male role model behind Jamie.
• Sweet Ana is never away from your heart. Please continue to comfort her when she’s sad. Oh, and feel free to let any boys that come around what you can do still!
• Phoebe, Charlie, and Coco Chanel – They see you. Hug them.
• Maddie and Laine- They miss you so much. It’s been rough on them. Comfort them please
Happy Birthday Sweet Prince. I love you!