Goodbye, My Brother


Last Friday, my brother David went deep sea diving in Turks and Caicos with a guide and a small group. He never came back to the boat. They found his body on Saturday. We don’t know what happened—we’ll have more answers once we get the autopsy report back.

I’m not even sure how to begin processing this loss. With my mom, we knew for months that she wasn’t going to make it. Not that the knowing made her death any easier to bear—it didn’t—but there is something to be said for being prepared.

But this? This was fast and furious and shocking on every level. As of Friday morning, I had two brothers on this earth. Now I only have one. Just like that.

David only lived in the same house as me until I was three years old, and after that he moved to California, where he would reside for the rest of his life. One of my earliest memories is of me begging him not to go. “I’ll stay if you lick my feet,” he said. Then he shoved his foot in my face. Ah, big brothers.

Although we were on opposite ends of a very large sibling age spread—he the eldest, me the youngest—people always told us that we had the most similar personalities out of any of the siblings. As children we were both energetic, fiercely independent, spirited and not afraid to speak our minds. In this way, I’ve always felt a special connection with him. He got me and I got him.

One thing I most definitely did not share with my brother was his sense of adventure. The man was fearless. He tried every extreme sport known to man, and he excelled at them all. I am a total wuss, you guys. One Thanksgiving I went quad riding with David in the California desert. After riding around on some baby dunes for a few minutes, I stopped the quad and started crying. I was terrified of tipping over and dying. My brother turned around, comforted me and then escorted me back to the campsite. He and everyone else in the group spent the rest of the trip riding on serious dunes, and I drove around on the flats near our campsite. This was A-OK with me—my brother could be adventurous for both of us.

In addition to being a badass thrill seeker, David was many things—tough on the outside and a sap on the inside, determined, kind, always up for a good fart joke, outrageously charming, mischievous and the most generous person I’ve ever met.

One day he was all of that, filling the world with his larger-than-life personality, and now he is just gone. I still can’t believe it.

The last time I talked to David was a few weeks ago. He called and said, “Did you notice I haven’t called in a while? I didn’t want you to think I forgot about you.” I’m pretty sure I said something jokingly and unintentionally salty, like, “Well it’s not like you usually call a lot.” He was on his car phone. The connection kept cutting out. I felt like I had to yell so he could hear me. It was, quite honestly, an overall awkward conversation. But damn, am I glad he called. He seemed happy, content and at peace. We talked about how much he loved being a stay-at-home dad. We lamented over our kids growing up too fast. Best of all, I got to say I love you to him, one last time. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

So here’s my one request to you. It’s nothing new. People always say this when someone dies, but I don’t think it can be said too much: call your parents or your sister or that friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Hug your babies. Give your dog a nice, big squeeze. Leave a sweet note for your spouse or partner to find. If you love someone, let them know—as often and in as many ways as you can.

Because life is too precious. And far, far too short.

My two brothers at my wedding.
David and his son.
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Hanging with my mom at a Padres game.
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A back-in-the day shot with my sister.
Family shot at the beach. This was taken the summer Tim and I got engaged.
David and Lettie.
David having a moment with his son. This was taken at my mom’s grave site. We all hung around for a while after the service and shared stories about her.
Last summer: the last time the whole fam was together.
This is one of my favorites. My siblings, minus one sister.

93 thoughts on “Goodbye, My Brother

  1. Oh, what a touching tribute. I am so, so sorry to read of this tragedy. I can’t imagine what this was like for you to write – I hope it eases your load a bit to share your story. I’m sending you so much love and care.

  2. So very sorry for this loss. I have been thinking about you constantly. Life is so damn messy and painful but it is because the beautiful and magical parts and people make us care and love so deeply. Hugs to you and your family and that beautiful baby girl getting ready to join this world.

  3. Oh honey. God. I’m so so sorry. You have a beautiful family and I’m sorry you lost a soul way too early.

  4. Oh man. He looks like such a wonderful guy. A terrific smile, seriously. I’m so sorry he’s gone from the world, it really does sound like he was having a blast. Older siblings are easy to model yourself on, when you’re trying to figure out who to be like. Sounds like you had a wonderful teacher. Bigs hugs.

    And p.s. I love you xx muah xxx

  5. I am so very sorry. The way you have spoken about him here is beautiful and the pictures are wonderful and really show the type of person he was.
    Much love to you and your family.

  6. I am so so sorry 😢. What a terrible, shocking tragedy. I can’t even imagine how you will deal with this and the grief you will feel over the coming months. A beautiful post and beautiful photos. He looks like a very happy, adventurous man – an honour to have had someone so special for a big brother xxxxx

  7. Tanya, I’m so so sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you and your family. 😔 he looks like such a wonderful man. May his beautiful spirit live on always. Xxx

    1. Thank you, Arwen. I just realized as I’m typing this that wordpress must have accidentally have unfollowed me from your blog–I haven’t seen a post in ages and then just clicked back to your blog to see that you have been posting!

  8. So so sorry for your loss, my heart breaks for you and your family. He sounds like a great man who lived life to the full. Such a beautiful family. Glad you were able to tell him you loved him and yes this is a sad reminder as to why we should always tell people, I always part with ‘love you lots’. He knew you loved him. This post is a beautiful tribute to him. Sending you heaps of love and hugs. You know how to find me if you need to talk. xoxo

  9. I am terribly sorry for your loss. This must have been very hard to write. Beautifully done. He looks like a man who lived a very fulfilled life, taking advantage of all of the wonderful things this world has to offer. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  10. This is so sudden and sad. I’m sorry for your loss. Even though saying that doesn’t convey how I’m feeling for you. ❤

  11. I AM SCREAMING A LITTLE BIT BECAUSE I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. Jeez. I am so, so, so sorry, sweetiepie. What do say …? Nothing. Just XOXOXOXO.

  12. Oh my, he sounds like such a wonderful person. My heart is heavy for your loss. There a no words to comfort when something like this happens. I do promise to hug my family a little tighter tonight for you!
    Take care xx

  13. I am so very sorry for your loss. What a horrible situation for your whole family. I hope you find some peace in days to come. What a lovely tribute to your brother.

  14. He’s beautiful. In body, but also I feel like his spirit radiated off the page with your words. I am so very sorry you’ve lost him. He seems wonderful. I am happy you shared his spirit with all of us through this piece of writing. We’ve also lost a family member this week, so it seems we both will be celebrating life – gone too quickly – this weekend. Much love and blessings to you and your family. I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet pictures and thoughts.

  15. I don’t know what I would do if I lost one of my brothers so suddenly. The suddenness is the worst. My heart is absolutely broken for you and your family. Keeping you all in my thoughts. What a tragic loss :(.

  16. Tanya so beautiful my son Michael Hendrickson and his wife lisa with the grandkids were so saddened by this spend the last 15 years with this great man just heartbroken posting many pictures on facebook GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

  17. To the Underwood Family,
    I am so incredibly sorry to hear about the loss of your brother David. Thirty eight years ago David was my first
    boyfriend in junior high school. I think you always remember your first boyfriend with very fond memories as the ones I have for David.
    David was kind, funny, charismatic and handsome with a bit of wild side. Everyone loved David Underwood in our middle and high school years. Although I had not seen or spoken to David since graduation in 1982 he always have and will hold a special place in my heart.

    Shelly DeSimone Rooney

  18. Oh hon, I am SO, so sorry to read about this. When my SIL died suddenly 2 years ago it was absolutely gut wrenching, especially those first days and weeks and months when everyone else’s lives go on but yours is forever changed. You and your family are in my prayers. xoxo

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