The bagpipes played and the sun peaked over the dunes of the beach where we were sitting Easter Sunrise Service this past Sunday.
My wife looked at me as I let tears start to flow. The preacher said we were to remember those we had lost during this time while the bagpipes played Amazing Grace. I swear I saw a lone gull flap it’s wings in the brightening sky. My thoughts? It was my brother.
I breathed a deep sigh, wiped tears away and then remembered…
We grew up as four children in a family that was so young itself.
Our mother was young, father too. Out of that courtship which led to those two young people driving to Lucedale, Mississippi because they couldn’t get married in Alabama per state law, eventually led to four children.
Me, the oldest, Lynn next, Cynthia the only girl and then our baby brother, Lex.
Lex died, Wednesday, March 24 around 4:30 am. His wife Pam called to tell me.
Our mom and Wayne, our father, divorced when we were 14, 13, 12 and 11. We grew up facing a lot of obstacles and a lot of problems that weren’t resolved when the divorce was final. It seems the problems and some of the family characteristics followed us siblings as well.
Lex had stomach problems dating back to years ago when he was abusing prescription cough medicine. It had a terrible hold on him and one that would haunt him for years. His addiction caused legal problems as well and he spent a good amount of time in and out of jail. This caused friction between us as brothers and sister, but in a weird way, it also always kept us bonded together.
It always seemed that mother held Lex in a slightly different light than we other three. She doted on him and would always make sure to try and take care of him even when he was being “Lex.”
Lex had turned his life around several years ago. He worked hard, married Pam and was being, the person we always thought he could be. There were missteps along the way, but he had found his “path” it seemed. He was mending relationships with his children and was moving up. He took an active part if caring for Mom in her final years and days. I think he felt he owed it to her.
As children we played games as only kids who grew up with little can. Our imaginations were the foundation of many fun-filled days and nights. If you can say one thing about us McLelland kids, and there are a lot of things you could say, it would be we had imaginations that took us many places and took us away from some of the harsh things we faced in real life.
Later in life Lex lost that imagination and turned to things that I can’t help but led to him being ill. Doctors had warned him that doing the things he did would lead to serious consequences later in life.
Like it or not, I’m sure that was part of what he was going through.
It sounds like I’m being resentful about some things right now. Not really.
It was nice having my brother back over the last few years of his life, although we were a little distant at times, it was nice he was accomplishing and failing at his own doing, not at the whim or desire of a drug or addiction.
I believe everyone comes from circumstances that they may not be able to always control, but they can choose how to lead their life as they see fit. Lex made decisions that weren’t always in his best interest or even those that he was closest too. None of us have, I’m guessing.
He had pulled things together and I enjoyed laughing and being with him. As the oldest I think I had some sway, but he was closest to our sister Cynthia. This has hit her, myself and Lynn very hard.
This makes the, let me see, eighth time I’ve tried to write this column. I’ve tried to be respectful and also paint a picture of who Lex was.
No one will ever know except us, his children, Pam and the ones he was close too. He pushed many away during his time fighting his addiction, but he also pulled others close by his actions later in life.
In his mind I think he had an imagination of what life could be and should be for him. As kids we rocketed to planets, saved banks from being robbed and even planned massive kid revolts that would end in us being liberated from some of the things we faced as young children. Nothing violent, we just wanted to eat ice cream and have fried chicken at every meal.
Lex is liberated now.
He was my youngest brother. He was great at sports, as we all were, and he played golf and it was something Lex, Cynthia and I enjoyed together when we got a chance. We have all won tournaments in our adult life and have often wondered what would have happened had we had the chance to start playing when we were younger.
We didn’t, Lex didn’t, but through everything, he made his life what he could with the time that was allowed for him on this earth. Some wrong, some right. There are three of us now, and that’s going to be a whole different experience.
Lynn, Cynthia and I will move forward. We’re all that’s left. Let us hope we can make more right moves than wrong and capture the imagination that I have to believe Lex had until the very end.
Yep, you were the gull Sunday morning in the brightening sky.
I will always miss and love you “Little Brother.”
I’ll tell you “Hey!” when I see you again.
Dee McLelland is Publisher of the Coastal Courier and Bryan County News.