History Gained Through Tragic Loss

Lese Bros Cropped

I am in front of my brothers, Scott (left) and Shawn (posing in his maroon sweatshirt) in 1979.

I have taken a much longer break from writing than I had anticipated but this summer was packed full of amazing teaching experiences alongside some tragic personal events. My oldest brother, Scott Lese, passed away June 19th; just a few weeks short of his 46th birthday. His death was a complete surprise and shock to my family and is the closest person to me that has died and left the biggest void. I have been waiting somewhat for an Eureka! moment to get me back writing but none has come. But I have missed writing and feel the best thing to do is just get back at it, no matter how fragmented it may be. Scott always promoted my blog on Facebook and would forward it on to his friends saying, “Read my little Bro’s blog, ya just might learn something!” 

 At his funeral a previously unknown relative approached me and gently told me that she was my Great Aunt on the Lese side. I know very little about that side of my family and frankly, was ok with that fact. After a warm hug and condolences she gave me her contact information. We met a week later where she explained in detail a treasure trove of family history and showed photographs. It was amazing. The fact such family history and awareness came out of my brother’s death was bittersweet but in some way helped give some consolation. Scott would have loved to meet her.

 One moment I will not forget was when my Great Aunt showed me a photograph of my Grandpa and Grandma Lese which is the first time I can remember ever seeing an image of them. To see my grandfather and what a close resemblance we share was awesome. It fills in a lot of gaps in my personal family history but also raises a lot of questions. 

Granpa Lese

 My Grandpa is holding my father, Dennis. Dennis and I did not have the greatest relationship after he and my Mom divorced shortly after I was born. But this post-war photograph represents to me a happier time in their lives; a new home in a new Milwaukee suburb, a pretty cool bicycle and even a white picket fence. I find comfort in this image. It is a positive counter-balance to other memories and it already helps me to explain family history to my own children.

One more thing. Later this summer I very randomly spoke to a person who told me he was childhood friends with my Dad. After he described the house in this picture and recalled playtimes in that backyard, he said, “Your old man was a great neighborhood friend.” I told him that I had just received a photograph of the house he described and thanked him for his stories. Just another incredible experience that helped make sense of this summer.

So, you see there has been a lot of wonderful history learned and a whole lot more to think about from this summer. It just was gained at a terrible cost. But it gives some comfort to know that Scott would be happy to have provided, no matter how tragic, the impetus for this new understanding and memory of our family.

It is good to be back writing.


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