About my brother, Kenny

I always called my older brother the guy I grew up with. We were two years and nine months apart and as a little girl I worshipped him. When we were young the feeling wasn’t mutual. He hated having to drag me along with his friends to the Saturday afternoon movies or to walk me to school. He made me walk on the other side of the street. But later on we became real buddies. He took me to the Cubs games during the afternoons he ditched Hebrew School. He brought me books from the library when I was sick in bed. And when we both didn’t like the same foods, we’d sit at the table together, however long our mother made us sit trying to make us eat.  We went to the same high school but only had one year together – he a senior and I a freshman. Since he was a checker in the cafeteria, he always let me take a cut while checking out. I loved the way he looked – white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, holding his pack of cigarettes, Levies, and his white buck shoes.

The cigarettes are the key here. He started smoking early – and so did I. We’d both hide in the bathroom puffing away. But I quit after nine years when I was twenty-four. He didn’t quit until he was fifty, the night before he went in to have a part of his cancerous lung removed. He was treated at that time by a pulmonary doctor who called the surgery a complete success and sent him on his way. He went back to work six weeks later like nothing had happened – except he became very much against smoking. None of his four kids smoke, but it took a while longer for his wife to quit.

A year and a half later his cancer returned – wrapped around his vena cava – the largest vein in the body that carries blood from other parts of the body to the heart. This time, thank goodness, he was treated by a lung oncologist over at Georgetown Hospital. But the treatment was harsh – huge amounts of radiation and a chemotherapy protocol that made him feel like he had the flu for a year. But my brother was a strong guy. Since his wife worked, I came to their house for a week or so to care for him after his radiation treatments were over. And then like before, as bad as he felt, he went back to work. Did I mention he was a spy for the CIA, and he loved his job.

Both the radiation and the chemo worked to keep him cancer free for the next twenty years. He was able to get to know four wonderful grandchildren and finally retire from his day job and move to Denver from Chantilly Virginia. It was where his wife grew up and she always wanted to return there. He still worked for the CIA as a consultant even from there. He travelled all over the world training people in other countries how to be spies. Unfortunately the altitude wasn’t his best friend. Nor were the long-time effects of all that radiation he had had twenty years before. In the last two years of his life, radiation damage took over. He died just before his seventy-first birthday.

During those two years Bob and I travelled to Denver to see him every other month. I had to be with him as much as possible. I also went to Denver the last weekend of his life with our younger sister. His family wanted us to have a say about leaving him on life support or not. We all said not, and that was it.

I’ve never gotten over his loss. He was a soft-spoken brilliant guy with a wry sense of humor. And he and my husband were the best of friends. I have a photo of Bob and my brother (on the left) on my computer desktop. They are laughing hysterically and standing close with Bob’s arm around my brother’s shoulder. It makes me happy to see it there every day.


I’m looking at a photo
Of Bob and my brother
That I’ve put on
My computer desktop.
They have huge smiles
On their faces
As if they’ve been laughing
And are holding
Each other tight around.
I wish I could
Hold them tightly now
And revel in
Their beautiful happiness
And friendship.
Instead I mourn them
And miss them
And will never ever
Stop loving them.


  1. It’s so hard to lose a person we love; part of our history dies with them. And yet, I think the love that was shared, remains in our hearts, easing the grief that comes in waves. The photo is wonderful and radiates love.

  2. Wanda Maureen Miller says

    You do such a terrific job of showing how much you cared for him that you made me care for him. I remembered my love for my brother.

    • Madeline Sharples says

      Your words mean so much to me. I know you just lost your brother so you totally understand where I’m coming from. Take good care, my friend.

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