My big brother, Scott A. Harbarger, passed away on Sunday, May 15th after fighting esophageal cancer at the young age of 44 years old. We buried him with full military honors at Indian Town Gap national cemetery near Harrisburg on Friday May 20th. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only “blood” relative at the service, which is probably just how he’d of wanted it.
This has all been a very jarring experience for me. It was just last November that we had planned to get together and meet my son’s so he could show off his airplane models and cool army stuff and tell them cool stories this summer. In January he found out he had esophageal cancer… in May, he’s gone. He once told me he had the Gulf War Syndrome and that many of those folks get cancer and die young, and I’m afraid he’s become a casualty of this as well. Tragic.
So yeah, we all know people who say their relatives were hot shot military people or “heroes” who did important things… but my brother actually DID those things. Top Secret GI JOE type stuff that he took to his grave. (which I wish I could have heard all about) You know that TV show “The Unit”??? Yeah, that kinda stuff. He was one of the good guys. Nuff said.
My biggest memories of my brother was that he was really the only member of that side of the family who gave a damn about me and would come to visit. He’d write me letters when he was stationed over in the first Gulf War, and we visited off and on through my teenage years. I can’t even begin to tell you just how honorable and GOOD of a dude he was…
My brother lived by the golden rule. Even people who had greatly wronged him, his own mother even… when she died he stepped up and paid for her funeral and took care of all the arrangements. She didn’t deserve the honor, but it was given to her. I was always inspired by that, and even more so now that I know the whole story.
His wife Judy had invited us all back to their house to give us some items. I didn’t want anything material. I was so very sad that my boys didn’t get to meet him. He would have loved them and had so much fun together. Dammit…
I’m glad my boys inherited some of his awesome airplane models and coats. I inherited a fine fedora hat which I think I will begin to wear proudly in his honor.
I want to thank all the good people who loved and respected my brother through the years. His wife Judy, and her kids, Terry and Janice. I’m so glad he was surrounded with love and laughter right to the end.
44 years old… dammit.
You can’t help but think of your own mortality when tragedy strikes like this. When it hits close to home, I just always hold it as a big reminder to have as much fun as possible and fill your life with as many awesome things as you can! I don’t want to die young. I want to live to a ripe old age, maybe even well into my 100’s. The lesson for me in these tragedies is to always remember that I’m still here and never take it for granted. Take those trips, make those decisions…. they can’t any longer. Have a drink and toast their good memory and keep them alive just a little longer.
Goodbye dear brother.