…….On August 30, 1997, my father’s half-brother, Brian, died of heart failure after a surgical procedure that involved the right ventricle. It was a medical curse upon his birth, finally inflicted at the age of 16. His parents–my grandfather and his second wife–were more than devastated.
…….About four months later, I was born and given Brian’s name with the addition of a feminine ‘a’ at the end. My father meant to memorialize his brother, gaining a daughter amidst the loss. Passed on to me, the name became a totem for the person he was and the person that I would be.
…….On car rides, in my teens, I would dramatically stare out of the window and contemplate my existence as I watched passing objects leave streaked motion trails. One day my mind turned to Brian. Who was he, this half-uncle who originally owned my name? What was he like? What if he was absolutely detestable? With no one mentioning Brian, I didn’t feel comfortable asking. But even if he was unpleasant, he was still a person, and he still had my name.
…….In the summer of 2007–when I was nearing ten years old–I had met my grandfather for the first time.
…….“Where are we going?” my sister and I asked.
…….“It’s a surprise,” said my father.
…….This “surprise” filled my imagination with all kinds of wonders. I was sure that we were going to Disney World or something of the sort. Instead, we arrived at a tall townhouse where two old people–a man and woman–waved to us. This is your grandfather, Dad told us.
…….My new grandfather told silly jokes and hugged far too tight. You’re going to break my back, I’d say, and he’d only hug tighter. Was he making up for time lost? On his arm was a faded, black glob of a young man’s face, the same face that rested in a worn-out print on his wife’s sweater and on many engraved tchotchkes and portraits around their house. In those blurred images of their obsessive grief–ten years after his death–I met Brian for the first time too.
…….It wasn’t until I was 21 that I’d seen a clear picture of him. Mom and I sat on the couch with a box of her wedding photos.
…….“There’s Brian,” she said, pointing to the light-haired boy with plump, rosed cheeks.
…….I asked her to tell me the little she knew about him. He was a sweet kid, she said, he was shy, quiet. I said that I was relieved to hear that he didn’t suck, and I liked the fact that he was shy like me. He was sweet, she repeated and told me a story that took place in his mourning.
…….At my grandfather’s house–after Brian’s funeral–the family circled and wept while remembering his life. I laid in my mother’s womb as she sat around their broken hearts, kicking to remind her of budding life. My kicking tickled her, she said, and in this room of sorrow, she couldn’t help but smile. I wonder if my fetal existence somehow knew we’d be connected.
…….In 2014, when I was 16, I reveled in angst and 90’s grunge and had a bad case of teenage depression. I wore flannel, band tees, Doc Martens, and I oddly adopted the modern makeup trends–Kylie Jenner’s overpainted lips. In my head, I was a punk-rock badass who hated the world. But I knew that everyone saw me as quiet and sweet because of my social anxiety and adorable
…….That same year, after reading Kurt Cobain’s published journals, I rifled through our office supplies and found a notebook to pour my tortured soul into. On the dotted line, I wrote my name, and on the flipped side I penned “Rage Without a Reason.” My healthy and privileged life had no excuse for such anger.
…….Outside of this artificial need for rock-star profundity, I felt daily pains of self-loathing and loneliness in my depression and anxiety. After the terror of school–where I had no friends–I would run to my room and cry myself into a nap that lasted the day’s entirety.
…….In my journal I would write about wanting to die:
…….I honestly find no joy in living. I am a waste of matter. Why do I exist? I don’t deserve life. I’m not
appreciative of it.
…….On August 9, 1981, Brian was born. Doctors said that he wouldn’t live past a year, but they’d switched the ventricles of his heart and he lived longer. He grew up coddled with delicacy, softened and spoiled by his parents constant fear of losing him. Was he scared?
…….Writing this, I finally asked my father to tell me everything he remembered about Brian. He started with his condition and his death. Brian couldn’t play sports or do certain things, said Dad, but he still could have fun. I prompted him to tell me about Brian’s interests and found that he liked basketball, cars, rap music, and watching movies. He was the 90’s teen I wanted to be with his boots, long shirts, and baggy jeans. He was a sweet kid, my dad said. He was sweet, Dad repeated, and he was about to get his driver’s license.
…….As a child, I would give myself new names in order to become the people that I would have rather been. It was more fun to be Scarlet or Miranda as opposed to Briana. I had known of my name’s origin, but I didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t put in the effort until writing this. Brian wasn’t a person to me then. He had no meaning and was only a ghost of someone else’s memory–a
…….Now, when I’m anxious, I try to reaffirm my existence by telling myself my name and age. I am Briana Richert. I am 22 years old. I’ve never believed in affirmations, but saying my name aloud does something. Somehow in those letters, in the numbers of my age, my life is defined. Did Brian find solace in his name? Our name? He was Brian Richert. He was 16 years old.
Brian Richert’s Obituary
RICHERT, Brian P.
August 30, 1997, BRIAN P. RICHERT, loving son of Dennis and Vickey Richert, dear brother of
William, Dennis Richert III, Eric Smith, Tina, Kim, and Dennis Richard [sic] Jr. Also survived by many aunts,
uncles, cousins, nephews, and nieces.