Years ago, when my son was very young, he came to me and told me that he'd made a very important decision: that he had decided he wanted a brother. An older brother.
I had a good chuckle, and figured he'd eventually figure out that space-time continuum stuff, and why he couldn't have an older brother.
I eventually realized that he actually kind of had a big brother. His cousin Jason, who was 12 years older than he, filled that role admirably. I didn't have much contact with Adam's mother's family after I split with her, but I knew that Jason spent a lot of time with Adam, taking him fishing, playing football with him, all kinds of things.
Yesterday, right after I got to work, I got a call from Adam's mother. She was hysterical. Jason, she told me, was dead. All she knew was that he had been taken to an Emergency Room and was not alive. She asked if I could go back to my house and be with her when she told our son what had happened. I told her I would meet her. Fortunately, my boss was good with it-- he's always been great in letting his employees deal with family issues-- and a co-worker agreed to skip a break in between double shifts and take the handful of tables I had.
I got home and waited for my ex. Adam was curious as to why I was home and his mother had called earlier. She arrived, we all sat down at the dining room table, and she told him, in between sobs, what she knew.
Adam was, of course, stunned. He had thought she was going to tell him news about her mother, who just had cancer surgery. She and I had decided to let him go with her so that he could see Jason and have some closure.
I went back to work, and later Adam called and told me what he knew. Jason and an old friend of his had been having an enjoyable Saturday at a local race track, and that Jason had suddenly felt very hot. He drank water, but collapsed suddenly. Paramedics arrived almost immediately, but were not able to revive him.
There are a lot of possible causes-- an aneurysm, potassium depletion, many things. They will hopefully find out in the autopsy.
I feel a sense of loss-- Jason was a great, great person. But the big loss if for my son. I can tell him a little about what to expect, having lost a close friend a few years ago suddenly, what to expect-- that you lose the person without realizing that the last conversation you had with them was going to be the last conversation you'd ever have with them. That you'll wake up some mornings thinking that you dreamt that they had died, and that everything was going to be okay. Anger, sadness-- a whole bunch of things. It'll be a long road for him.
For my part, I have one regret: that I never got a chance to thank Jason for being so good to my son, for being what amounted to being his big brother. I wish I could have let him know that.