|The Death of a Brother
by Rick ShrackA brother is a kindred spirit. I have many brothers. Besides my
physical brothers, my spiritual brothers, and my Tracker brethren, all the plants and
animals are my brothers.
I have a friend who is so close to me that he "sticketh closer than a
brother. " (Proverbs 18:24) But I have a brother that has been there at the
special spiritual times of my life. He has emphasized my heart's soaring many times and
drawn me closer to my surroundings. He has rewarded me and strengthened me when nothing
else could. My brother's death was a great loss, but those that remain continue to carry
on his legacy. This story is for him because of his sacrifice for me.
Since living in Alaska, I have drawn closer to the earth and to my God. My physical
strength has increased by repetition of canoeing and sawing, both necessities for me here.
But before I could canoe, I had to walk in order to post the mail and obtain supplies. The
walk was relatively new because I did not know the territory, and each time I ventured out
I would try to find the best route home. Up till now the trip was almost always a
three-hour hike one way. No matter how I go I must cross three creeks. Not bad, but they
are always bone-chilling.
On this particular day I had an unusually full pack, and had decided to return via game
trails near the river. Theoretically, it would be an easy trip . . . theoretically. It
took approximately an hour to cross the first creek, a quarter mile from the road. I'd
never seen such thick alders and willows! However, I did stick within sight of the river,
as the trails were quite good beyond the first creek.
Topping a bluff along the river, I saw the body. Predators and carrion-eaters had made
him almost unrecognizable, but I knew my brother and his dress, for it was nearly always
the same. He had been decapitated and his torso had been throughly eater, leaving only his
legs and remnants of his raiment.
What had happened? How long had he been there? My mind searched for answers as my eyes
searched for clues. Tracks were nonexistent on the thick, mossy carpet, but the age of his
meat and the general disturbance of the surroundings led me to believe that my brother had
fought savagely for his life although he may have made a grave error in choice of prey.
Apparently my brother, the bald eagle, had picked a far superior foe and had lost his
life after a valiant but useless battle. Despair and hurt flooded me over this bad
medicine. I thought of Tom and his deer in the chapter titled "Guardian" in The
Tracker. Was I a guardian? No, at least, not yet. Did I have the right to mourn? Yes,
because he was my brother, and he had rewarded me before by his extremely good and
I searched diligently for my brother's skull, but in vain. Apparently, his conqueror
had retained it for his own grisly prize. This was one time the skull had not been the
final track, unless it lay at the end of the victor's trail.
I collected what I could of his body for I knew that, despite legalities, he was good
medicine for me and an unrelinquishing power. This is why I feel he died for me just as
Christ did for the sins of the world.
My trip took five hours. Whether it was from sadness, preoccupation, or merely a
mistaken course, it will forever be a part of my memory: the day I found my brother's
body. How I hope I will never have to find any brother's body again!