On Losing a Brother

from Tyler Martin

Feb. 3, 2014, 7:55 a.m.

Losing someone is never easy. I'm no stranger to losing people, but it never gets easier. Then again, it never should. This was different, though. This was different because it was so completely unexpected. I couldn't have seen it coming - no one could have - and, because of that, it cuts a little deeper. I've lost family and I've lost friends, and with most of them I've had time before their passing to prepare myself (as much as anyone can prepare themselves to lose a loved one). This was different, though.

About a week ago, I was admitted to the hospital from the emergency room after struggling with being extremely sick since Thanksgiving. I had just arrived at the room I would be staying in and the nurses were checking my vital signs and getting some general information from me. During the middle of this, I decided to check my phone. My nurses continued talking with each other. I imagine they were taken aback by what happened next. My mom tried to get my attention a few times, but I kept shrugging her off. What I had just read hit me like a semi speeding down the highway. My parents in unison asked me what was wrong, but I was speechless; I couldn't find any words, and I just grabbed my face in utter shock. Finally, I mumbled, "Oh my god." My parents came a little closer as I mustered up everything I had to utter the next sentence. "One of my fraternity brothers died," I yelled in a quiet, wavering voice. I recoiled from the crass way I had just said that. I couldn't believe those words had left my mouth. "What?" my parents, again in unison, very loudly exclaimed not a second later. They rushed over to my side. I can't remember our conversation after that, I wasn't focused on it at all. All I was focused on were those words that revealed the news. My entire body was shaking as I felt the tears rolling down my cheeks. I simply could not believe what I was reading. I read the message over and over again as if it was in a foreign language and I was trying to decipher its meaning. My hand placed itself in front of my mouth, my fingers on my cheek, almost like it was silencing anything my mouth would emit. There was no need though, there were no words inside of me. I kept trying to grasp what I was reading, over and over, every time more futile than the previous. The same sentence rendered more and more unbelievable with each passing second. My body hurt - Tyson landed a huge uppercut to my gut. My mom called one of my roommates while the nurses finished up and was told that nothing was confirmed but there would be an emergency meeting for my fraternity's executive board. As soon as the nurses finished up, my other roommate called. I don't remember what was said, I only remember his voice, wavering like mine, both of us trying our hardest not to break down completely, trying to be strong for one another. We hung up and I lost it. I bawled. The rest of the night is a complete blur, I remember my physical pain from my sickness worsening with my internal pain. I remember the pain medicine numbing my body, but not the rest of my pain. My brother was gone.

Bear was a happy person. Wherever Bear was automatically became the liveliest place in the area. He was able to brighten a room just by walking into it. When anyone saw Bear, they couldn't help but to smile. If you were to look up the definition of unique in the dictionary, you would read the name "Bear Townsend" and come across a picture of a goofy guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt with crazy hair capped with a top hat. Bear taught yoga at the Auburn Student Activities Center and could be seen practicing it on the front lawn of the fraternity house on any given day. The list of Bear's quirkiness goes on and on. Forget marching to his own drummer, Bear was the drummer and he marched to himself. Bear was truly one of a kind. So much so, in fact, that I would venture to say that since the dawn of time, there never has been anyone quite like him, and even until the universe's inevitable heat-death, there will never be anyone anywhere close to being the same person as Bear. Bear was also unique because he took life and got every last bit out of it. This is amazing on its own, but to do so in a day and age where the majority of people let life pass them by in order to pull ahead in the rat race, it truly distinguished him in a way nothing else cloud. Bear truly lived. He was one of a kind. Bear was naturally a happy person, but that wasn't enough for him. Instead of just being content, Bear actively sought out ways to make himself and everyone else happier.

Intelligent is yet another quality that defined Bear Townsend. For starters, he was a senior at Auburn (a school with some of the toughest grades) and was majoring in Software Engineering. I personally saw him solve some extremely difficult Engineering Physics II problems without breaking a sweat while he was tutoring my roommate. Bear wasn't only smart in the conventional terms of the word, and one look in any of his many notebooks would tell you so. He wrote some truly amazing things in his notebooks, turning to any single page could provide you with plans for business start-ups, invention ideas, or even philosophical concepts and quotes penned by none other than Bear. In retrospect, Bear was something of a real eccentric (or eclectic, for that matter) genius.

Bear never met a stranger. To those lucky enough to call him a friend, he was unrelentingly loyal. If there was ever a person who truly possessed a heart of gold, it was Bear. He was the perfect mix of youth and wisdom; he was a young soul with the intellect and wisdom of someone who had been around much longer than he had. Bear was friends with an incredibly large amount of people, and, as I mentioned, they were absolutely lucky. However, Bear also had quite a few brothers, and we were more than lucky, we were truly blessed. Bear loved each and every one of us like we were born and raised under the same roof, and to describe Bear as a good brother is an almost-comical understatement. Bear played around with us, rambunctious and always caused a ruckus in the best of ways, like a younger brother, but, at the same time, he was the older brother who always had our backs and guided us in any way he could. You could ask any single person in my fraternity to give you a story about Bear and you would get flooded with tales about his endless antics and hijinks. For that matter, you could ask anyone who ever met Bear for a story about him and you would never fail to find a single one that didn't leave the person recalling it clutching their gut (at the very least) from the laughter that Bear inspired. Simply thinking about him is a surefire way to put a smile on your face. Bear did more than that though. He was also someone who deeply cared about everyone in his life. His true wisdom showed through the advice and reassurance he gave to any he knew that needed it. I will never forget the time that I Bear sent me a message with some of the best advice and warmest reassurance I have ever received.

I had medically withdrawn for a second time a few months prior and I had not been back to Auburn in too long. Bear noticed this, and what he told me truly resonated inside of me, and I hold it near my heart and keep it in my thoughts every single day now. I will carry what he said with me for the rest of my life, and I will never look at things quite the same. He not only changed my perspective on being sick and far away from my life, but he changed my perspective on life in general. Bear sent me this message out of the blue, and however bad my day had been, however bad the week or month had been, just knowing he cared was enough to turn it around. He could have said anything and he would have brightened things for me. What he said, however, changed things for me in a very positive way. I am going to go ahead and apologize to my readers, because even though I am spilling my guts and wearing my heart on my sleeve, (hasn't anyone ever noticed the amount of dismemberment in these expressions? Wouldn't you think that these phrases would be more eloquent and less gory given what they mean? Sorry, back to what I was saying. Oh, you forgot? Me too. I'll give you a second to find out what I was saying before I got distracted. Good? Good.) I cannot bring myself to share with you exactly what Bear said to me. I am being selfish, but what he told me is for me, and I am keeping it to myself.

This whole post has been more of a way to express my grief. The wound is still very fresh and will never fully heal. It's been a little over a week and I am still in as much, if not more disbelief. I don't want to accept that Bear is gone. Due to my hospitalization, I was unable to make Bear's candlelight vigil in Auburn and his celebration of life in Tampa, and, even though I couldn't help it, I will always regret that. Losing someone is never easy, but I take solace in the bittersweet fact that I am lucky to have had something that was so great that it makes it so hard to say goodbye to.

I loved Bear, and I still love him. I will absolutely cherish every single minute that we had together.

If you are so inclined, you can check out Bear's obituary here and a wonderful article written about him by one of my fraternity brothers here.


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