Today we gather to celebrate the life of Brian. Scream to the heavens in praise, for surely Valhalla has gained a mighty warrior. Unless Freya wanted him in her hall, which is entirely possible.

Dad and I had conversations of what to do after he passed away. He wanted us all to gather outside by a lake, some unspecified lake. He wanted us to go fishing, swimming, and party. He wanted us to have a beer, wine, or drink of choice to toast his memory.

One day we’ll do just that, but in the meantime, my health and the health of others need to be considered. Our family is small and losing even one of us leaves a gaping hole. For now, drink your favorite drink and toast to the memory of Brian.

The morning after my father died, I woke up feeling as if a storm had passed. I was standing on the beach, watching the clouds recede into the distance and wondering why they had to leave. A few days later, I asked my friend Mckinsey, “How do you describe the storm?” and she replied, “All you can really do is write from the heart. You have a relationship with him the rest of us only observed. But you lived the storm, both calm and roaring.”

So… here it goes.

Brian was a force of nature. Wickedly smart, flawed in all the ways that didn’t matter, filled with infinite love, and the truest friend anyone could ever ask for, even when he forgot to call. He was the laughter at the party, the guy who made fun in the most boring situations. My friends in school would ask my brother and me if my Dad was coming on the field trip because Dad made everything better.

He loved Lego and learning, books and rocks, science and creativity. His favorite colors were blue, orange, and black. He was a humanist through and through, and a staunch atheist his entire life. Dad longed for a healthier, happier, more inclusive world for every sentient being. He wished people would be more humane and solution-oriented about the suffering of others. He had a deep sense of morality, and never hesitated to speak up when there was a wrong that needed to be put right.

Dad grew from an angry, disconnected high-school dropout with few prospects to a very successful corporate “drone” (his word, not mine), all to support my brother and me. He hated working in an office, but loved his coworkers. Regardless of what he was doing, he was always dreaming of being in the outdoors. He loved being in nature, endlessly fascinated by all the wonders of reality. Still, credit where credit’s due, you would not have found someone who knew COBOL better.

My Dad was an amazing father. He was superb with children because he inherently understood their need for agency and mutual respect. While he made mistakes like any parent, he was quick with a heartfelt apology, and they were all easily forgiven. He had enough Dad energy for all our friends who needed it or simply wanted it. There are many who could call Brian “Dad” and it would not be out of place. The inclusion of others was never something we resented. Dad’s love was like sunlight and sharing it only made the experience better.

There are so many of us with fond childhood memories of him. He was funny in very clever ways, allowed us to be ourselves with no judgment, and you always felt a little bit wicked hanging out with him. He taught us to question authority without losing our trust in it. He enjoyed playing tricks on us or challenging us to do things that we really should not do.

Dad gave everyone the gift of equity. He met people on their level without judgment. A very revealing part of his personality is that he would often misgender things, and upon being corrected, would get annoyed because ultimately he didn’t care about pronouns.

Dad didn’t care much for his body, he was a brain controlling a body of flesh. He met people, brain to brain. What you wore, who you slept with, what your ethnicity is; none of that mattered to Dad unless he could make a joke out of it. This extended to animals as well, as he often misgendered them. “All dogs are boys, all cats are girls!” he would insist gruffly.

I’ve struggled a great deal on what memories to share. Being with Dad was always memorable and I’ve been with him my entire life. What do I share? How much I loved his hands, his wild crazy hair, or his deep belly laugh that could be heard over anything. His beautiful, color shifting, ocean eyes. That eyebrow with the abnormally long hairs that made him look like a wizard. His lovely, kind smile that he created only when he looked at people he loved.

When we were children, Dad loved the sharp cheddar cheese balls sold in the fancy cheese section. One day we got him one, and set it on the counter surrounded by fancy crackers. Afterwards we left to do some errand, leaving the plate on the counter for him to find when he got home. When we did get home, Dad was furious we had eaten an entire cheese ball without him. We had no idea what he was talking about. With almost comical timing, Beowulf, our dog, began to smack his lips and burped. The burp smelled just like cheese ball. Dad could not stop laughing about that story. Despite the cheese ball and the numerous other food he stole, Beowulf was a much loved member of our family and Dad’s favorite dog he ever had.

When I was a child, Dad stuck my hands in ketchup when I refused to wash my hands after dinner. One time, my brother and I cleaned our room by stacking the mess on our table and he took his arm and swept it onto the floor again. We would pretend our car was a spaceship on long drives. Lost in the wilds of Tukwilla, he began screaming in a German accent how much he wanted a Panzer tank. It became a family joke that exists to this day.

Conrad was paid five bucks to eat a giant cup of Cold Stone Ice Cream and spent the rest of the day with a stomachache.

I was paid a dollar, along with my brother Barrett and friend Anthony, to jump into a glacial runoff lake. Aaron got five dollars because he bravely dunked his head into that cold teal blue water. I will forever remember Aaron’s shivering lips as they curled into a smile when Dad handed him five bucks.

Dad had convinced Bear and me that Dove ice cream bars were poisonous to children. He never actually said they were poisonous. He just said that they were for adults, like coffee and beer. He let us infer the rest. When he and Mom would get Dove bars, they would always get cheaper ice cream bars for us. This continued in our house until I told my best friend at the time, India, that Dove Bars were poisonous to kids. She rolled her eyes and scoffed “Did BRIAN tell you that!?” she asked. I remember coming home furious, upon realizing that Dad had told us that so he didn’t have to share the good stuff.

Poor Bonnie, the first time she came over Dad frightened her by yelling “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” when she was getting a soda from out of our storage shed on the back porch, then he laughed and said “Oh, nevermind.” Bonnie looked like her soul had left her body. I’m not sure she ever forgave him, but he would laugh about it every time he told that story, then he would turn around and brag about her farm as if he were her own father. He always bragged about everyone like that.

He paid us for our labor. One summer, he paid Conrad and Barrett to trim our giant hedge in the backyard. It was awful work and all they had to trim it with was hand tools. Dad and I watched while sipping cool lemonade. After the job was done, they were feeling triumphant and bragging about doing a good job. It looked great. A week later, Google Earth took a picture of our house from space and it was painfully clear they had trimmed the hedge at an angle. Dad started teasing them, “You did such a bad job, you can see it from space!” When it came time for a hedge trim again, Barrett and Conrad refused. So, Dad bought a chainsaw on a stick and did it in an afternoon. My brothers are still a bit salty about that.

And I have a vague memory of my Dad’s laughter ringing across a lake, with my friends Jordan and Kit screaming. He was teaching them to fish and it didn’t go so well at first. I recall it was a source of laughter for both him and Kari for a long time.

I know some of you wanted him to be a part of your children’s lives and are mourning that loss. He would have loved to be Uncle Brian for another generation. While I can never be as awesome, I promise I will always try my best. Aunt Thyrza will always be there.

I can’t speak to the lessons he taught my brother and the numerous boys that called our house a home. I can only speak as his daughter. He taught me that men could be good friends and men could be safe. He did this by being friends with every woman I respect in my life. I never once felt anything but safety when I was with my Dad, even when he was raging mad.

Never once did he say or behave as if, because I was a girl, I could not do something. He simply taught me exactly as he taught my brother—how to fish, how to game, how to go camping and rock-hounding. When I began to encounter misogyny in the hobbies he taught me to love, he helped me to deal with that, too. He was a true example of a man who identified with mostly masculine things being an absolute ally in every sense of the word.

I won’t say my relationship with him was perfect, but what I can say is that my relationship with Dad was a constant learning process. We were too much alike and not alike at all. This friction meant we had to learn from one other, and it made us better people. We fought, we yelled, we both said things we didn’t want to, but at the end of the day, Dad just looked at me with his impish smile and his sparkling blue eyes and I would forgive him. He was too obnoxiously cute not to forgive.

His relationship with my mother was a gift to us all. The way he treated her is exactly the way I wanted to be treated when I grew up. He rarely gave gifts on Valentine’s Day, but randomly sprinkled throughout the year when she least expected it. They were best friends, companions, lovers, and life partners. I would be sitting in the house and listening to them play video games together. Their banter was not always polite, but it was endlessly entertaining.

He looked at my mother with wonder, love, and joy. Dad respected her mind, body, and soul. He loved and protected her without confining her. They grew together, solved problems together, and when they fought they always did so respectfully.

Dad’s favorite picture of my mother is her looking at him annoyed because he had interrupted her to take the picture. Being the man he was, it’s no wonder that it was his favorite picture. He loved annoying people, my mother most of all. But he was Brian, so it was OK.

I would not be properly representing my Dad, if I didn’t talk about his love of playing games. He wasn’t much of a console player, but he loved PC gaming and tabletop games. My earliest memory of my Dad is sitting on his lap while he was DMing a Dungeons & Dragons game. I wanted to play so badly, but he made a rule. I had to be able to read the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook and understand the information before I could play. I do not recommend trying to learn how to read by reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but it did get the job done.

For those of you who don’t know, “DM” is an abbreviation of Dungeon Master—the one who controls and tells the story of the game. Dad was the best storyteller, and therefore one of the best DMs. I have so many memories of sitting around a table, rolling dice, and listening to my father as he created a world for us to explore. Even more memories of him telling me stories of his family or reading me books while doing all the voices. Late night car rides with only the light of the other cars and the sound of my father reading Terry Pratchett as we drove home from Portland.

I was so spoiled, and I never realized it until he was gone. He bent over backwards to make sure my brother and I had not only what we needed, but what would improve the quality of our lives. I have had my own personal gaming computer since I was in middle school. Dad would come home with Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon card packs to open. He would surprise us with a new game we wanted and other gifts randomly, it didn’t have to be Christmas or a Birthday. When I began to become more bed-bound in high school, he relented and allowed a console into our house. His screams of frustration when we raced Rainbow Road for the first time will forever ring in my memory.

He encouraged my inner voice and creativity by constantly asking me questions. His way of teaching was to challenge and confuse. Dad encouraged quick witty conversation and banter. I have beautiful memories of my friends bantering with him. Not just as adults, but as children. I have a distinct memory of Mckinsey leaning on Dad’s shoulder while he’s sitting down. It’s during an outdoor event, and they are bantering back and forth with big smiles on their faces. India would just shut him down after a while. “Oh, BRIAN!” she would say, and he would laugh every time.

His favorite line to me growing up was “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter.” There was nothing I did that was worse than what he’d done in his youth. When I began skipping class and he found out about it. I didn’t get in trouble. He assumed something was wrong and I was skipping for a reason, which was true. It felt validating to be believed. “We’ll figure it out together,” he promised. Dad always kept the important promises.

The greatest gift he ever gave my brother and me is the gift of continued learning. Our health issues have been challenging and ever-unfolding. It was my Dad who first brought up the idea of fibromyalgia when my pain became so unbearable I could no longer keep up the facade of functionality. Dad kept on trying to communicate with me in healthy ways, despite the fact that we were struggling. We managed to figure it out without any professional guidance. He credited me and the struggles we went through with improving his communication skills, which he used at work.

When I was thirty years old, I had an assessment done after my stroke that revealed I’m on the spectrum. I have autism, as well as synesthesia. We had only known about my ADHD up until this point. I’m sharing this because I want everyone to know that without knowing any of this, Dad and I had already had a pretty healthy relationship at that point. We had figured things out together, both of us blind to the challenges we were facing. He believed in me when very few people did, and without my Dad I don’t know if I would be here.

Dad was so proud of my brother and me. He once said he didn’t know of anyone as hard working as his children. Every success, no matter how minor, was met with love and pride. Every failure was met with a hug and ice cream. Despite the fact he really would rather I attended Oregon State, he was ecstatic the day I was accepted into the University of Washington. That pride was only ever outmatched by the pride he felt when I graduated.

He was my Antiques Roadshow buddy. Dad was constantly asking me questions and proud of the knowledge in my noggin. He had a beautiful artistic eye himself and we were just starting to explore it together. He even commissioned the Gustav Klimpt foundation to create a master copy of The Kiss for me for my birthday because I’m too ill to travel.

The last time I saw him was when I was being discharged. For weeks, Dad and I were in hospital together, a few doors down from each other. The hospital kindly placed us near each other so my mother could go between my father and me. I was not allowed to touch him, because I’m sensitive to chemicals and he was filled with chemo. When I was wheeled into his room, his eyes lit up and he began to talk to me about all the things we would do when he got better. We were going to paint, go fishing, rock-hounding, and make game nights with friends a priority. We were going to go to museums and talk about art together.

We began to speak about the children, already born and expected, that he wanted to live to meet. He was going to take them fishing, and rockhounding. It was something he wanted to do with them. He said “We have to do all the things… and bring Roswell and Keegan along!” He spoke as if they were children, not the grown teenager and adult they are. I wondered if he was slipping back in time, or if he thought of us all as children still.

I had ten minutes with him, and went home assuming he would be coming home at some point, too. A week later he was gone.

Everyone has been asking me what they can do for me. All I can think of is helping me do the things that I was going to do with Dad. He loved experiences and sharing those experiences with those he loved. Everyone he loved was on his mind, even when he was so sick he wasn’t Brian anymore.

I want to give other people a chance to share. If you don’t feel up to sharing right this moment, there is a guestbook on the website where you can:

Please Consider Adding to the Guestbook, here.

The last thing I want to say to all of you is do not feel bad that he didn’t reach out when he was ill. He was not himself, not the man you knew. Dad didn’t want to be remembered that way. Keep the memories of him when he was healthy close to your heart, and know that he loved you, all of you, more than he was able to articulate. Dad’s love was endless.

—6’]3[lk <— Magrat’s contribution