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Remembering Steven: A Sister’s Love

addiction grief grief support sibling loss Jan 26, 2022
Beautiful white rose in loving memory

By Kim English Hanlon

Ten years this year.

Ten years that my sweet big brother has been gone from my physical life. I have thought much of his legacy over the years, and how I can carry him with me in how I live my life.

As I approach this anniversary - which honestly feels pretty rude to flash in my face a whole decade without my amazing brother - I wanted to share his legacy with others. 

Steven John Hardt English was someone who was kind and generous with everyone, yet fiercely loved his close friends and family. Most of his social circle had been the same friends since middle school, if not kindergarten. 

I think of when I had a nasty sinus infection and Steven spent all evening checking in on me as I tried to sleep - bringing me fresh cool washcloths for my fever and kissing my forehead when he thought I was finally asleep.

Or, when I had the flu in college and he made the hour drive to deliver the most thoughtful care package to me before he had to turn right back around to get to work on time. The care package had soup, tea, DVDs, and medicine all wrapped up in a basket. 

Steven frequently would talk with me in his big brother way of how family was the most important thing in the world. He took looking out for me and our family very seriously. He even wanted us each to study professions that would ultimately allow us to care for family - he assigned me as the future family doctor.

May I carry on the dedication to my family and community.

He was also very caring for people who he did not know as well. When he died, we received an outpouring of stories from people sharing ways he made a difference in their lives:

  • The wife of a teammate who reflected on how each week Steven made sure she was taken care of at the ice rink restaurant at which he worked. 
  • The friend who shared that Steven had noticed them walking home from middle school alone behind Steven’s big group of friends, and Steven had fallen back to invite them into his group. 
  • And the many who had been at Betty Ford rehab clinic with him and wrote of how he encouraged them and helped them see hope in recovery. 

I just wish he had been able to accept that he also needed help. 

May I also hold kindness and seek ways to make a difference in others’ lives. And may I accept support for myself as well, knowing that it is not selfish to take time for myself nor is it a failing to need to ask for help. 

I was four years younger than Steven, and while he had a knack for tormenting me when we were young, I still looked up to him for how popular, smart, funny, and athletic he was. While I was the youngest in our neighborhood kid group, Steven was in the middle. He managed to keep up with the bigger kids when we would see who was the fastest or could kick the ball over the trees, or win our rigged games of Monopoly. 

I realized years later that I had unfairly put Steven on a pedestal as this incredible person - and while it was true that he was talented in many areas, I realize now he felt pressure to be liked, to be an athlete, and to do well in school. 

May I make the most of my talents while also practicing balance and humility

One way Steven “tormented” me even as I moved from teenager to young adult was to challenge my ideas. I was passionate about nutrition, the environment, and certain current events, and was also an easy target for teasing. While I resented having my ideals questioned, in retrospect, I appreciate that Steven encouraged my critical thinking skills and the importance of a flexible mind while defending my stance on a subject. 

May I forever be a student, ready to learn and ready to stand by my beliefs. 

One thing we would argue about was wellness. Steven held what I viewed as silly ideas around fitness and nutrition - sometimes eating just a head of lettuce with nothing else, or only meat for a meal. He also would tell us to walk around on all fours to get back to our “monkey roots”. I loved and judged his quirky theories. And then in graduate school, I learned that some of his “ridiculous” ideas were actually supported by science and I gained respect for his intuitive way of tuning into his body for its nutrition and movement needs. 

May I listen to my body and be open to new ideas.

In addition to being inspired by my brother, I am also motivated by my grief for him. I have known since I was a teenager that I wanted to help others find their own vision of wellness. I evaluated different paths from medical school to naturopathy to traditional Chinese medicine to dietetics, and finally landed in my Holistic Health Education masters program. It was during that program that I separately found and became certified in the Grief Recovery Method. I finally had found my combination for helping others with wellness.

When Steven died, my digestion, joints, back, sleep, and mental health all were impacted. As I healed my broken heart, I noticed my body healed as well. 

May I continue to heal my own grief and help others to do the same so we may all lead the healthy and impactful lives of our dreams. 

And may we all carry the legacy of Steven forward. 
Love others.
Keep an open mind and heart.
Trust yourself.
Accept support. 
Heal your heart.