My Brother – Tribute and Poem

My brother Craig

My brother Craig passed away on August 7th, 2017

It is difficult to write about my brother Craig – because even though he was simple in his values and what and who he loved, but, he also was a very complex personality. He had numerous ups and downs, peaks and valleys in his life. He fought his own personal demons down through the years.

My first thought since Craig has passed on – is how the makers of Budweiser and Jack Daniels must be in panic mode with so much less revenue. I smile to think that my brother in a roundabout way paid for more than a couple of those Budweiser Clydesdale horse commercials we all love. Craig would have laughed at this.

Those that know my family, know that my siblings and my childhood was not easy. Growing up being Craig’s little brother had its perks and advantages for sure. He, along with my other brother Dane would become my protectors and my heroes. In our hometown of Sheridan, Craig had earned a reputation as being tough and someone that you didn’t mess with – a well-earned status I might add.

After high school Craig joined the army and up until they day he passed – he always believed in America, he believed in our flag, he was a Patriot – bar none.

Craig later became a Union Pipefitter – and worked in that trade until he retired. Those that work that trade – know to last that long you need to have a strong back, an impeccable work ethic and high intelligence. Craig had all of that and then some.

Because of Craig’s character everyone wanted to be his friend. He was charming and had humor and wit – he had personality. I think it is safe to say that the friends that mattered most to Craig were those that he grew up with on the streets of Sheridan. The three that come to mind are James Laing and Tommy and Rocky Espinosa. Tommy, Rocky, and my brother Craig were legends in Sheridan. Hell, I can only imagine the stories that are told by those that are in the know about these three over a campfire while roasting hot dogs and drinking a beer or two.

One thing about Craig is that he loved women. Craig had a charismatic personality and I am sure charmed the pants off of more girls than I care to count. He was married three times to Diane, Teri, and Karin.

Of course Craig’s love that mattered most to him were those of his grandkids and daughter’s. Craig’s daughter Tonya preceded him in death and I am sure their reunion was the talk of the heavens. Natasha Colella is – well Natasha is a Reifschneider through and through. She is tough, she is brass, she has a tender heart – she is her father’s daughter. I learned this weekend that I need to send a huge hug out to another special young lady in Craig’s life Elena Basques – Espinoza.

As I sit here writing about Craig I realize I am not really doing his life justice in just a few sentences, but it is my hope that those that were touched in their lives by him, if what I have written here make’s you think of him, make you smile, make you cry – It has me.

Those that know me well – know I write poetry and those that know my brother along with him would find it funny that I wrote a poem about him. This poem is my therapy, my remembrance of my big brother.

Brother
When I was little you were my protector in the neighborhood,
I was safe from those that meant me harm and were up to no good.

In our troubled and uneasy childhood – you were my exceptional light,
Kept me safe from my childhood fears, you were my Big Brother Knight.

As I grew older I became confident because I walked behind in your shoes,
Many times I saw you stumble which helped me avoid some of life painful dues.

When we became adults – most times we did not see eye to eye,
No matter how much we argued – we always knew we were each other’s ally.

Painful to admit and I wish it were not true – how hurtful words sometimes flew,
But with others, we as brothers had the others back and always came through.

I have sat here these past few weeks and watched as your life faded away,
Thinking of all the years and the all the right things I didn’t know how to say.

Never told you “I love you” enough in your life – always thought I had more time,

This troubles me most as you walk from darkness to light in your heavenly climb.

Well, big brother, the Lord called you home, for he has a job for you to do,
In my heart, though sadly, I still can smile, because I know this to be true.

End of the darkness, there will be a light as your steps are one after another,
Sometimes you were my hero, sometimes my foe – but always my Brother.

Your life, our lives as brothers: what a twisting whirlwind as time flew,
Good bye Big Brother, just know that I always honored and loved you.
Kurt James

Kurt James © 2017

 

Kurt James
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Kurt James

Kurt James was born and raised in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. With family roots in western Kansas and having lived in South Dakota for 20 years Kurt naturally had become an old western and nature enthusiast. Over the years Kurt has become one of Colorado’s prominent nature photographer’s through his brand name of Midnight Wind Photography. His poetry has been featured in the Denver Post, PM Magazine and on 9NEWS in Denver, Colorado. Kurt is also a feature writer for HubPages and Creative Exiles with the article’s focused on Colorado history, ghost towns, outlaws, and poetry. Inspired at a young age by writers such as Jack London, Louis L’Amour and Max Brand have formed Kurt’s natural ability as a storyteller. Kurt has published 5 novels all based in and around the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Using the Midnight Wind Publishing brand Kurt has also released a poetry collection - Poetry and Thoughts of a Wandering Man - (Uniquely Colorado edition) and now this collection - Poetry and Reflections of a Wandering Man (Random Thoughts edition) all are available in print or download on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads and other fine bookstores. And a few shady bookstores as well. Kurt is working on his 7th Colorado adventure tale novel “When the Song Vanishes”.

14 thoughts on “My Brother – Tribute and Poem

  • August 8, 2017 at 7:21 PM
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    Oh, Kurt. My thoughts for healing are with you. I am deeply sorry to know your brother has “walked on” to yet another journey. I can tell you had much love for each other. It is so sorrowful to lose a loved one. When my big brother walked on I was devastated. So I can empathize with your loss. We always feel we did not say “I love you” often enough, yet it is a given that remains in the heart forever, even beyond death. When my brother was dying I said to him, “I love you, you know.” His response was, “Well, of course I know that.” So, there you go – Craig knew you loved him. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute to your brother. We are all friends here and you have much support. Take care. Hugs and more hugs.

    Reply
    • August 8, 2017 at 8:15 PM
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      Thank you Phyllis, for your kind words and thoughts. I do think that all the writers here on TCE are friends and I cherish that.

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  • August 8, 2017 at 8:25 PM
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    This was a touching tribute to your brother, Kurt. I am sure Craig would be very proud looking down. I read this on Facebook and again here. The last few weeks must have been extremely hard for you and the rest of the family. My thoughts are with you.

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    • August 8, 2017 at 8:29 PM
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      Thank you John for your kind thoughts and words. It always feels nice to have a warm gesture from my friend from Australia. Thank you for giving us this forum to express ourselves as we see fit…

      Reply
  • August 8, 2017 at 10:15 PM
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    Like John Hansen, I too read it and left my condolences there, however seeing it here as well, moved me to read it once again. Much of what you penned, brings back memories of my one and only 7 year older brother Jim, who passed over last November. We too grew up in a rough and ready type of upbringing. We fought in the streets and in the bars, he always had my back and I his. Although I was an athlete most of my life and took care of myself in much moderation. Jim was a hell raiser, living life to the fullest, heavy drinker, big eater and consequently it all caught up to him in his late 50’s and he went downhill from there, became a diabetic, gout, obese and a triple bypass. When he had his fatal heart attack in his apartment, his son was there at the time, his last words to his son was “I love you” but please don’t let the medics try to revive, his son obeyed his request and he pass over peacefully. I got the call from my nephew, we exchanged a few choked words, I said goodbye, wept for a bit, opened a beer, lifted it to my brother and said, Jim I loved you and I pray your in a better place and tipped my bottle to him. Your words were touching my friend and I know you both had a closeness that only brothers could have, even though they may be unspoken many times. My condolences again to you sir, you brother will always be watching over you through the thin veil. Peace and blessings I send to you this eve.

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    • August 9, 2017 at 6:38 AM
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      Thanks Vincent first for your thoughts and word on FB and now here on TCE. It sounds like our lives have ran the same obstacle course growing up. Then again I probably should not be surprised since the older I get I am starting to believe that our upbringing that you and I seem to share is more of the norm than I ever thought before. I am sorry for the loss of your brother as well. Brotherly love as you know comes at a huge price, but also pays huge dividends. I know my brother loved me as well – just wish I had mentioned it to him more often. Take care my Canadian friend.

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  • August 9, 2017 at 2:37 AM
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    A wonderful tribute Kurt and deeply felt for the loss of your brother. Take care my friend and may healing be with your family over the coming days. Cheers!

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    • August 9, 2017 at 6:40 AM
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      Always nice to hear from my TCE friends from Australia and your thoughts are a welcomed addition to my very emotional day. Thank you for taking the time to share them with my family and myself.

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  • August 9, 2017 at 3:20 PM
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    Kurt,

    Though I wasn’t sure at first glance on TCE Front Page as to who wrote this memoir, the front featured photo kept bringing me back to the same thought of familiarity. After I noticed that it was you who wrote this post, and that this featured photo was that of your dear brother, I realized that you two look so much alike.

    This is a very painful read, and I suppose this to be the reason as to why I am the latecomer with my comment. I am deeply sorry for your loss, Kurt- much more so than I can divulge with these key strokes.

    I understand loss very well as I have lost many family members to death, but never a sibling, though they are estranged due to my mother’s alcoholism. I cannot know your personal pain, but I do know my own pain from loss of family through death, so I can conclude that …it really, really, really hurts, and it is so brutal of a pain to the heart, and gut. And, I am so sorry for your heartache.

    I know of someone very close to me who drinks too much, at times, and everyday I wonder if it will be their last day. Writing poetry is my escape from deep pain inside my heart. I want to rescue this person, and make it better for them, but they will not allow me. I am helpless save prayer. And pray, I do. I do.

    Hugs and Blessing to you, my dear friend.

    Reply
    • August 9, 2017 at 4:49 PM
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      Tamara thank you for your thoughts and kind words. I use to tell my brother that he looked like me, but he always countered with he was born first so I looked like him. My tribute and poem – for me is a very painful read, but that is my therapy on how I deal with things. It would not matter if no one read it, it was helpful to me just write it. I posted it on FB first and had close to 200 comments on it from friends and family of our small town of Sheridan, Colorado and 900 plus views here on TCE. Our small community that my siblings and myself grew up in was/is lower middle class, but, a close knit bunch and I am proud to say I am from there. As far as alcoholism; Sheridan is just like any other community and it runs amok among those that I love and care about. I have touched on that in some of my poetry here on TCE, mostly with my father. One thing I have learned and I am sure with your familiar experience you have also – is that nothing, zero, nada, and zippo good ever comes out of abusing the bottle. Kiss and hugs my friend and once again thanks for your heartfelt words and commentary. Believe me when I say it means a lot.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2017 at 4:54 PM
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    My sympathy and condolences for your loss, Kurt. Craig was a good brother and friend. I’m sorry he’s been ill for some time. What you wrote is absolutely beautiful, a loving memory of Craig. Hugs

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    • August 9, 2017 at 4:57 PM
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      Thank you Kevin for your kind thoughts on my tribute and poem. I hope all is well in your family…

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  • April 8, 2019 at 2:20 PM
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    I didn’t know your brother Craig had passed until recently, and I’m so sorry for your loss.
    There’s a lot of history with your brother, myself and my sister Jo. And I don’t think either of us saw him after he joined the military. You’re right, he was completely mesmerizing to the ladies. He was charming, strong, athletic, funny, smart and very handsome. I’m not sure I ever met you or Dane.
    I’m glad you had your brothers growing up, it’s clear there was a lot of history, having each other’s backs and rivalry at times too.
    Your thoughts, poem, and tribute to your brother are very moving, telling, and loving.
    I’m sure he is smiling every time someone reads what you’ve written about him. This is forever etched upon his remembrance. What a wonderful and charming thought.
    I’m certain I understand your childhood as we – my sisters, brothers and I had a rough and bad one ourselves. I understand the comments on the drink, because my father was a hopeless alcoholic himself and unspeakably abusive. Alcoholism runs deep in both of my parent’s families. Alcohol is still destroying many people I know and love. It’s heart wrenching. It’s great that you’re aware of its tentacles, though sad you watched its destruction in a life or lives.
    In reflection, so many people that went to Sheridan drank heavily among other things. Maybe it’s that prevalent in all high schools, this I do not know.
    A few years after high school, I moved to Alaska and lived there 22 years so I lost track of everyone.
    It is evident your life after school and now is filled with happiness and laughter.
    And I hope you smile wide every time you’re reminded of the wonderful big brother you had in Craig.

    Reply
    • April 8, 2019 at 2:54 PM
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      Terri, it moved me to no end that wrote and commented on this. In truth I teared up some, but don’t say anything – for it is not the Reifschneider way. Even though you and I have never meet I do know some of your history with Craig, and if you have just heard of his death then I know you will grieve even though numerous years have passed. Not a day goes by without me thinking of him. We fought tooth and nail, but we were brothers to the end. Alcohol has been the downfall of so many in my life and it saddens me to hear that you, Jo, and the rest of your family have had the same experience as my family. I am glad we have found friendship on Facebook and I look forward to your posts and beautiful smile.

      Reply

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