To My Brother

On the launch of my first official newsletter, and my entrée to social networking, I find myself reflecting on the origins of some my own core beliefs and the challenge of articulating these to people I have not seen for many years (yes, on Facebook!) One of the more delicate challenges has been to talk about the death of my oldest brother who took his life twelve years ago. Suicide is still vastly misunderstood and somewhat taboo. What is more difficult to articulate is the incredible impact that one person has on the world, whether they realize it or not. Sometimes we have no idea what we are bringing to the table, who we have helped, or who we have led in a positive direction.

Rick Provenza

Rick Provenza

So as I tell old friends from high school about my brother, they are shocked. And I fear that I have not fully explained that as short as his life may have been, tragic as it was, my brother made his contribution by living and working for social justice his entire life. He influenced our entire family, his friends, and those he served. Just a few days after his death, a gathering of over two hundred people came to celebrate his life and mourn his death. I wonder why we wait to tell people how valuable they are in our lives; if we only could know what we already bring to the table, and how others depend upon who we are and what we do.

I got the news about my brother at 2AM in morning from my brother Jim; together we called my parents and brother Don, later I called my sister Carol and her family. Eight hours later, I was on a plane from New York to San Francisco. On that flight, I wrote a poem that captured what I was about to experience, in real time at his memorial the very next day. My brother Jim called up friends and family to speak about what Rick had offered, and what he meant to them. I read this poem.

To My Brother

Strong, Proud Spirit
I honor your struggle,
I celebrate your compassion
I am inspired by your ceaseless
Battle for truth and justice

A warrior in pain,
You bleed.
Passionately fighting and caring
For those about you
While guarding wounds that
Ache to be healed

I want to honor your pain
To hold it in my hands, to
Let it engulf and run through me
Until I felt every ounce of it
Learned all I could about it,
And could give you back the wisdom of its teaching

Where are you my brother?
Where did you go?
Can you feel the people who love and
Believe in the strength and beauty of
The soul you thought you lost?

Can you let this love heal
The place you could not go?
And let us celebrate the gifts
And lessons you brought

Strong, proud spirit
We honor your struggle
We celebrate your compassion
We are inspired by your ceaseless
Battle for truth and justice
We love and accept you as you are.

Three things I received from my brother growing up have remained themes for me through out my life. Rick gave me the album (yes, it was an album!) Imagine by John Lennon. It was instrumental in my imagining a world that could be different and fair and just. He also gave me a book “Why am I Afraid to Tell You Who I am,” at a time I struggled without the vocabulary to express myself. The book spoke about authenticity and goals; at 12 years of age, I had no idea where my goal came from, but I find myself here today. Lastly, on my 18th birthday, he gave me a quote I live by: “What paralyzes life is the failure to believe and the failure to dare.”

I have come to the conclusion that some of us come into life for shorter periods than others. Whatever our time is here, we have something unique and beautiful to offer. Individually, in our relationships, in the organizations we work for, in our communities and the world at large. I believe, as many have pointed out, that we are living at a crucial moment in time, and it may not be an accident that we are here at this point in history. We have the opportunity to affect our world in a positive way.

All of this to say, I dedicate my first newsletter to my brother Rick and remember the gifts that he brought to me, my family and all of the areas he touched with his work. I encourage you to look back at those who influenced your core beliefs, and what unique and beautiful qualities you bring to the table. If you have forgotten, please ask me (or one of your other friends or family) we will tell you exactly why we need every bit of you here on this Earth today!

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19 Responses to “To My Brother”

  1. Sarah Cheetham says:

    Hi Linda!

    I love your website and your writing! I am inspired! What a great reminder to “think differently”. You have honored your brother beautifully…

    Thank you! Keep up the good work.


  2. Deborah Rockwell Franco says:

    Dearest Linda,

    I am speechless. This sensitive but all too important subject of Suicide and the valuable message has been written with such deep feeling with understanding of the tremendous pain that is left behind. I am personally so touched by the many points you have made here, and plan to reference back at any future time that I might need to remember. I love the positive message of contributing to the world, each individual in their own unique way and just how valuable each person is! I thank-you so much for your thought felt contribution to all of us that recieve this important and heartfelt informative newsletter. You are truly appreciated on so many levels Linda. I am so lucky to know you, and still feel that sweet, sensitive young girl in my heart every time we write or talk. I thank-you for your friendship and sharing your important knowlege on this sensitive subject we all need to hear.
    Love ,

  3. Annette A Cerasuolo says:


    How remarkable you are, I am so inspired by you and your work. You have a wonderful gift and talent, your desire and drive to find and become such in inspirational person. I still struggle to find the words to express who I am and how I feel about things that happen in my life.

    I am so surprised to learn about Rick, what a wonderful giving, loving person he was. I feel such a great loss but an uplifting spirit that is so close to you has emerged to look out for you.

    I know that loosing someone you love so dearly is difficult, but keeping the memories alive makes it a little easier. I am looking forward to seeing you and hopefully learning more from you. You have so many wonderful gifts that I would like to learn about.


  4. lindsey says:

    That was a very moving entry you wrote about your brother and I loved what you said about remembering what beautiful and special qualities we are needed for here on earth. I agree that we are not all meant to be here for the same amount of time. It helps to remember that as I remember my cousin who died at this time of year. He was an amzing power of example for living life to the fullest with courage, curiuosity, and an incredible generosity of spirit.
    Thanks for your wise words and helping me to remember my gratitude for all he taught me.

  5. Gabriele Hiltl-Cohen says:

    Dear Linda,

    Thank you for this beautiful expression about your brother and about ourselves….you’ve moved me this morning with something very real… and believe..sometimes I forget…thank you

  6. ben tousley says:


    a beautiful tribute to Rick and his legacy in your life–the newsletter comes as a surprise–good to let others know about the nursing home transformation and the larger vision that shaped it. Great work!


  7. Arly says:

    Hi Linda,

    Well this is very touching and lovely. What a Christmas present to honor the life of your brother on this earth. I wish you much love and luck with anything you do in the new year. My heart goes to you.

    All my love,

  8. Linda,

    You are a special kind of woman. I love your poem and I’m honored to know you!


  9. Gracie Garcia says:

    Dear Linda, WOW! ….I’m lost for words……This is very inspirational, to honor your brother’ life and death and birth with the ultimate respect that one deserves. Thank you for sharing this with us… You know,.. both of your brothers,..Rick and Jim were very kind to me when I was a freshman, They always acknowledged me with a smile,no matter what fools I was with. I learned alot from them that year.Thank you. with all my love,Gracie

  10. Lovely site, Linda. Very moving post.

  11. Marlena Sonn says:

    Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Rick – it reminds me of how precious our friends and family are, and also my own role in making other people’s lives better. And Happy New Year! May your 2010 be blessed.

  12. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Thanks Marlena you are someone who makes a difference in people’s lives!

  13. Ann Anderson says:

    I am just now catching up with a backlog of emails that I missed due to the holidays (followed by Harper’s birth). This is such a lovely tribute to Rick. What a beautiful photo, too! I will pass it on and am sure others will benefit from your reflections. It IS so important to honor those who inspire us and let them know while they are still with us. Also love your thoughts RE assisted living.

  14. Jim Provenza says:

    Dear Linda,

    Thank you for writing such a moving tribute to Rick. I remember and have always treasured your poem. The narrative completes the picture and fills in the gaps. I could not have said it better myself.

    Also, the picture is one of the best I have seen of Rick—it truly captures his kind spirt.


  15. Sally Ray says:

    Thanks for the informative post. It helped me a lot. May the Force be with you.

  16. Jo Douglas says:

    Easily, the post is actually the best on this deserving topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your upcoming updates.

  17. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Thank you so much!

  18. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Thanks Sally!

  19. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Thanks Jo!

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