I’ll be honest. When I looked at the concert schedule at the beginning of the season I didn’t notice the proximity of the dates. When I read this story, though, in the Lexington Herald-Leader and learned how personal this “Requiem” is to composer Gregory Partain, it took me back to the very early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 18, 2000, when my brother Todd died.
I don’t say “passed away,” “passed on,” “went on to his reward,” or anything else like that because 1) I’m a journalist and we don’t use two words when one will do and 2) no parsing of language will bring him back. Almost six months after his 24th birthday, Todd died.
Writing about it has never been my strong suit, though. It could be because we often had a strained relationship, stemming from the fact that we were about 180 degrees apart in personality. Todd was never afraid to talk to girls, he had a casual attitude toward “the rules” as set forth by my parents, he excelled in sports. I reserved my first swear word in front of my mom and dad for after I turned 18 (on my birthday, in fact). Todd heard that, saw that I got away with it, and, at 15, decided to add “bad” words to the lexicon of what was acceptable to say in front of Zena and Tom Sr. I was very much the oldest child, and Todd was the quintessential middle child.
Still, he was my brother. I’m the only person in the world, aside from mom and dad, who knew him his whole life. We were getting along toward the end of his life. I had started working for a collegiate sports marketing company in Lexington, so I could actually manage a conversation about sports with him. Todd is the only person I know who ever used the phrase “die hard blueneck” to describe University of Kentucky athletics fans while on a radio call-in show, whose audience was made up primarily of University of Kentucky athletics fans. I sometimes display an irreverence toward societal norms, which, I suppose, I can attribute to me trying to memorialize him. That’s the sentimental answer. The real answer is that it took me longer to figure out a concept he mastered early on: it’s much more fun to be naughty. If he were alive today, I’d thank him for the lesson, but I’d add that it’s even more fun to be naughty when no one expects it from you. I’m still the big brother, after all.
This is the most I’ve ever written publicly about Todd since I wrote his obituary, and probably the most I’ll ever write in this space about how his death has affected me. Not everything in this life has to be shared with strangers. I will say that having to cope with losing a sibling made me tougher for the challenges I had yet to face. It taught me not to mourn solitude so much, even if that was a lesson I sometimes chose to ignore.
Following Dr. Partain’s example, I will be thinking of my brother, Todd Louis Musgrave, as we perform the “In Paradisum” movement of Dr. Partain’s “Requiem” on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, 15 years and two days after my brother’s death.