Monday, November 24, 2014

A Tribute to My Brother, Larry Marvin Irvin

Left to right Joseph Albert Irvin, Cecil Irvin,
infant Larry Irvin, his father Grayson Irvin
(seated) Willis Irvin ... Five Generations

 My Brother, Larry Marvin Irvin
 February 21, 1941–November 24, 2014
(a tribute by the spoiled brat little sister, 
born when he was ten years old)

My earliest memory of my brother, Larry, involves two incidents at 1426 Lake Avenue in E. St. Louis, Illinois, the house we lived in when I (the “caboose”) arrived. First, the aftermath of falling off the crossbar when he was giving me a ride on his bike and my throwing up something red (concussion?) and everyone freaking out until they realized I’d had red soda (we called it “soda”) to drink ; the other, his bringing home a banana spider from the grocery store where he worked and releasing it in our back yard. The critter was little more than a curiosity to a teenage boy. To this little sister who had a fear of spiders broaching on arachnophobia, it meant being very careful whenever I went out to play on the swing set near the propane tank in the back yard.
Big brothers Larry & David
 Mother looking on
Stephanie trying to escape
            I remember visiting him when he was working for a funeral home in the Chicago area. They had aquariums built in the wall of the visitation room and two identical doors … one leading to Larry’s apartment and the other into the “business part” of the funeral home. I couldn’t remember which was which.
            I remember his kindness when I got sick right before his 1963 wedding. I thought I was better, but I couldn’t even make it through the service and felt so humiliated when I had to be helped off the altar. Both he and his bride were more worried about me than about a “ruined” wedding. Such unselfish love. Which pretty much characterizes my memories of my brother.
            In all the adventures and misadventures of my life, I always knew that if I ever needed him, Larry would come running, no matter what it took. In 2001, when my first husband was dying, Larry drove ten hours to my home town, first to spend time with the brother-in-law he loved, and second to accompany me to interview several funeral homes about the impending services. He was a silent encourager and a knowledgeable presence, giving of his life’s work in a time when I needed guidance. When my husband died, Larry came at a moment’s notice, quietly and confidently assisting the local funeral director as both a consummate professional and a beloved brother and brother-in-law. Again, he modeled unselfish love.
            When I re-married, Larry took the time to drive to Kansas City, pick up our brother, David, and come to the wedding. They both gave a big chunk of their lives to that special day for me. Again, putting me first.
            When I wrote a book about “how to help a grieving friend,” Larry endorsed it. He never failed to be a cheerleader for my writing life.
            He never once forgot a birthday. He wrote personal message in the cards that he sent, and I cherish them to this day. He wrote a tender letter to my children and me on the first anniversary of my husband and their father’s death. Another cherished testimony to his loving concern.
            Just today, I pulled out and re-read some of those sweet wishes. One ends with a rhyme I will co-opt for this day, as Larry has entered eternity and I remain on earth:

… and even though we have to be apart,
please understand that you mean more than ever,
And I’ll be right beside you in my heart.