The photo above shows a trip to the zoo, shared by my older brother, Terance & myself from 2010. Though most people know him as Terance, he’s always been Bear to me.
To be quite honest, I’m not even sure where the nickname Bear came from or why it was ever given to him, but I know it’s fitting of the person I’ve always called my big brother. Of course, like most big brothers, Bear is tough, a leader & very protective of us (his younger siblings), as well as our family as a whole…all shared characteristics with a literal bear. These are all very clear traits to anyone who knows him to any extent, but aside from the obvious, his name means so much more. His birth name, Terance means “gracious & full of heart”, while his nickname, Bear means “to carry the weight of, support & endure”. This makes absolute since, as it aligns with whom it is he’s always been to me.
Terance, as the world knows him, has always been kind-hearted & eager to connect to others from all paths of life. Growing up, I remember my brother having an eclectic group of friends from all over & it pretty much stayed the same, throughout adulthood. He naturally had a magnetic attraction to those who valued friendship & family as much as he did. The Bear I know has always a support system to anyone who’s truly ever needed it. Not only does he bear the weight of things happening in his own life, but he’s never too busy to assist others in whatever ways they may need.
Bear has always consistently & effortlessly embodied exactly what his name portrays him to be…brave, fearless & protective. Bear would be the first to tell almost anyone that life threw him more curve-balls than he could’ve ever predicted, yet he never winced or got shook, he adjusted his stance & swung with the intention of knocking the circumstance out of the park. I’ve always admired how valiant he was in situations that would’ve had me blubbering like the big baby I, still, oftentimes am. He was the first person to make me feel comfort in being myself & making mistakes as long as I learned from them. He somehow found a comfort within himself that allowed him the room to make mistakes without being too self-critical.
Sometime within the past five years, Bear was diagnosed with skin cancer & has had to endure the difficulties of numerous treatments & his body reacting & sometime rejecting them, which has unfortunately made things worse. I went to visit him today & my heart broke for him. This person that was always a larger-than-life figure to me, lie in bed, small, shriveled & clearly in lots of physical pain. I tried my best to talk to him & he tried his best to reply, but I could tell under these particular circumstances talking seemed to be both painful & probably a bit frustrating. I had no clue what to do or what to say, for the longest time I just sat with him in silence, only hearing the occasional wince of pain or labored breathing. Every nurse I came in contact with had a forced-smile as if they didn’t want to just say, what I assume to be our current reality…unless some sort of miracle happens soon, my brother is currently being kept comfortable on what is his deathbed. Eventually, I asked if he’d like to listen to music, to which I believe he replied “Yea”. I put on uplifting gospel & gospel-adjacent music & hoped he enjoyed it. The last song that played was Godspeed by Frank Ocean. That song has always touched me in a special way, long before it was commercialized to be a mushy optimistic Tik Tok song that would accompany child-birth videos or pets doing cutesy stuff. Google credits the meaning of the term ‘Godspeed’ as “an expression of good wishes to a person starting a journey”, deriving from Middle English, in which it means “may God help you prosper”. It’s quite odd how you can just be doing what feels natural or appropriate in the moment, only to later discover how freakishly “ordained” it may have been, be it by the cosmos or some entity we refer to as “God”.
I feel a lot of things in this very moment, some good, some bad. What I’m willing to divulge right now is that while I feel bad that I dropped the ball on keeping in contact & visiting with Bear as often as I wanted but always felt “too busy” or “too tired” for (he lives an hour away), I find comfort in the fact that when we did speak & when I did visit, there was never any ‘filler’ in our conversations. Each & every conversation was spent truly connecting & finding ways in which we related to each other, given our ten year age difference. He always has nothing but positivity & wisdom to pass along, which is always greatly appreciated with the consistent doom & gloom this world can have us inheriting, even if subconsciously.
With the condition Bear is currently in, everyday is like the cliff-hanger in a dramatic tale, one in which only God, his/herself, knows the resolution to one way or the other. Obviously, I want nothing more for my brother than for his health to resurge so that he can return to living life to its fullest, but more than anything I want his pain to subside, whatever that may look like for him. I think for the time being, I’ve cried every tear I have to cry & felt every ounce of sorrow one can feel in regards to this issue. I’m attempting to make the conscious decision to live in the unknown & accept whatever is to come, while praying for the best…all hard things for me to do, as I regularly describe myself as a ‘realist bordering on pessimism’.
In an attempt to lighten the mood of this piece, as well as my own spirit, I’m gonna recount a story about my big brother that I love to tell…
When I was somewhere around the age of 14–16, I went to Bear’s apartment to spend the night. I was so stoked, as I didn’t get to see him often. Anyone who knows me, will tell you how obnoxious I get about explaining how/why I don’t enjoy horror movies. At this time I was an ultra goody-two-shoes, as a result of being brought up in an overly-religious household & being in the care of my very militant father, so I’d never touched drugs or alcohol of any sort. Anyways, Terance had rented Paranormal Activity, ordered pizza & had a small assortment of drinks for us to enjoy. Amongst the drinks were the café flavored Patron, Shiner Bock & a couple of sodas. Bear made it very clear that whatever I wanted to drink was 100% my choice & that this was my one “free-pass” to experiment in the safety of a guardian, should I choose to do so. Of course I jumped at the chance to experiment with alcohol & try to hang with my big brother. We both took shots of Patron & followed them with Shiners, which I was far too embarrassed to admit weren’t my taste at the time. At some point during the film, Bear stepped out to smoke on the porch, at which point I ran, poured out 3/4 of the Shiner & replaced it with Mountain Dew, which resulted in an even more gross taste than the beer originally was. Bear returned from smoking, finished his beer & remarked “Damn lil bro, you’ve barely touched yours”! He, then, went to drink mine before I could intervene & did a dramatic spit-take of sorts, while exclaiming “WTF is that!? What’d you do to it? What’s in here?” I came clean about what I’d done & he laughed while shaking his head in disbelief at my childlike stupidity. He went to the kitchen, grabbed a fresh Shiner & told me I owed it to myself to drink one how it was meant to be drank & honor my initial choice to experiment. Looking back, it’s one of the funniest moments with my bother that I can remember. I was so desperate to be like him in that moment that I didn’t even fully realize that he’d given me the option to just be myself, which was totally a fine choice & he’d have accepted & honored my decision to remain so. Again, I also realize that in that moment he was granting me the freedom to make a “mistake” in a safe environment. He was giving me the safe space & freedom that he’d always provided for himself, in a world that’s always ready to ridicule you. No matter what happens, I’ll forever love & appreciate him for things like that & so much more. He’s the best big brother, friend, father, son, spouse & safe space anyone could ever hope for. He’s consistent, he’s dependable…he’s always there. He’s Bear. No matter which way things go, I won’t say ‘goodbye’, I’ll say Godspeed.
“I’m wishing you Godspeed, glory…There will be mountains you won’t move. Still, I’ll always be there for you.” –Godspeed by Frank Ocean