When I first began this blog, I wrote a lot about my brother Howard, who died a few weeks shy of 20, in a 2004 fraternity house fire.  Upon learning that he was missing, I began the four hour drive from my law school to my childhood home, and there are moments of that tortured, bargaining-with-God journey that I expect I will be able to recall with crystal clarity on my deathbed.

For whatever reason, I began to fixate on images of Howard as I drove down I-77.  Screenshots of our yearly Christmas cards flashed through my mind like a slide show, and seemingly every picture I’d ever seen of Howard, too.  This was in the days just before “everyone” had a digital camera, and I realized there were not thousands upon thousands of pictures of Howard on Facebook, because he wasn’t a member.  I knew that our collection was complete, and woefully so.

I saw Howard captured tightly in Pa Pa’s bear hug on Christmas morning, Howard clinging to my mom’s leg at the beach, Howard and I jumping in the freshly raked leaves of fall, tuxedo-ed Howard en route to prom, Glacier National Park devotee Howard with his arms thrust outwards after ascending to Napi Point.

In recent years, I will flip through my mental album of Howard shots while I am hiking, or maybe driving that lonely stretch of interstate between Wells, Nevada and Susanville, California.

And I am always sad that the album is complete.

But every now and again, a friend will uncover a picture of Howard, and take the time to scan it into their computer and e-mail it to me.  And no matter how mundane the photograph seemingly is, it is also, as my dad recently said, like finding gold.

Here’s a shot of Howard, far right, that our dear friend Maie recently uncovered and sent to me.  That’s me in my full on ’80’s regalia, center.

Better than gold, and without adequate words of appreciation, except, of course, for thank you.

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