Following are some of the memories of my brother, John David Harrison, that I shared at his memorial service in December:
My brother, John David Harrison, was many things to many people. To me, he was simply my big brother, “Dave”. You see, for the first half of his life, he went by his middle name. I grew up knowing him as Dave, and he will always be Dave to me. But whether you knew him as Dave, Uncle Dave, John, Dad, Brother, Grandpa, or simply as friend…..he meant something special to all of us here today.
My brother was a unique individual. He was a mere human, full of human faults and frailties. He was a true Harrison……fiesty, opinionated, sometimes stubborn, often quick-tempered, fierce in his political beliefs; but equally as fierce in his support of family and friends when the chips were down. He was a generous soul who would give you the shirt off his back if he felt you really needed it. He was a steadfast friend in times of need, when you felt like you had no other friend to turn to. To some of his friends and family, he was their rock to lean on. To me, he was there for me during some of the darkest hours of my life when there was truly no on else there for me. I will always be grateful for what he contributed to my life, and to the lives of my daughters, his nieces.
My brother and I often faught like cats and dogs growing up. We were a about 4 years apart in age….just enough for him to resent the pesty little sister hanging around and nosing into his business. Then, by the time we were in high school, the age difference mattered less, and he was dating some of my friends. He graduated and went off to be a soldier in Viet Nam. He sent letters and photos home documenting his adventures, not realizing at first the true magnitude of the danger he was in. Then, he saw some of his friends perish in the war. He came home a changed person, as all the Viet Nam veterans did…a little more somber, a little more serious, and with a broken heart because his girlfriend had deserted him. Eventually, he fell in love again and married one of my former school friends, and had two beautiful daughters with her. Though they eventually parted ways, they remained friends to the very end. My brother and I weren’t as close as we could have been over the past few years, especially since I had moved to Arizona. Time and distance had seen our lives take separate courses, and is often the case with siblings. But, I always knew he would have my back if I ever really needed him to. Now, he is gone, and I miss him already.
My brother loved to sing karaoke. Many of his best friends in his last years were friends he met while enjoying karaoke. Those friends got him through some of the darkest hours of his life. I shared a few karaoke moments with my brother myself. I will always have a fond vision of my brother, Dave/John, costumed as “The King”, Elvis Presley, in full regalia; singing Elvis songs as one of the featured guest performers on a cruise ship. It was a real hoot, and he did a pretty good job. I missed the time he performed as Garth Brooks on a cruise and brought the house down. I would have loved to have been there for that one.
Hydia Hollins summed it up well when she wrote:
What is a Brother?
Someone who is there when you are hurting
He picks you up and dusts you off again
What is a brother?
Someone who sees you are without a smile
And he gives you one of his
And gives you a hug too,
Just especially for you
What is a brother?
Someone who stands by your side
And holds your hand
When things don’t go well
He helps you to understand
What is a brother?
A cherished friend for life
A brother by blood
A cousin, or a friend
But always by Love
In closing, I will share these few lines written by Helen Steiner Rice:
After the clouds, the sunshine
After the winter, the spring
After the shower, the rainbow
For life is a changeable thing.
After the night, the morning
Bidding all darkness cease
After life’s cares and sorrows,
The comfort and sweetness of peace.
Sleep well, my dear brother. I will always miss you.