THE HOLE IN OUR LIVES
While I was overcome, at first, by the circumstances of my son-in-law’s death (so recent and so raw), the important message was left unsaid: What about his life?
His dying may be over, but in strange ways, maybe not so strange, Brad Hagen’s life soldiers on. As Tracy says, “He was a powerful presence.”
Brad was the ultimate foodie. “You’ll be in Minneapolis?” he’d say, (or Detroit, or Boston, or Dallas or even Nowheresville), “I know this little restaurant, off the main drag, hard to find, only the locals know about it, but the food is extraordinary.” And you’d go there and the sausages, or pancakes, or soups or whatever would be delicious . . .
The best thing Brad’s mother did for him was to cook good meals. She turned her cooking into love, and love in turn became food. In the best sense, Brad became a gourmet. But he was always an appreciator. “Hey, Tracy, you’ve done a great job with this squash, it’s good!” While he never ate too much, Brad tasted everything, and you had to get used to seeing his fork in your plate. With him, you never went to chain restaurants; he found all the odd little Mom and Pops hiding next to hardware stores—and if he didn’t exactly dictate what you ordered, he tried to, and if you defied him, he’d turn resigned, even crestfallen—but then you’d see his fork creeping your way.
In his work as a videographer, Brad was world class. To see him behind a camera was to appreciate what it means to take the ultimate photos, to capture the best images that perfect lighting, exact camera angles, and well-considered background can produce. His clients, among them CEOs of major companies, understood how good he was. And the topper was always the restaurant that came later.
It was extraordinary the way Brad always welcomed Bob and me to come over for meals, graciously and without question; in my heart I never stopped thanking him--or Tracy, either. After dinner we played games, and never mind that we two wordsmiths taught him our best word game, Boggle, fully expecting to win. Within a month he was beating us, figuring out ways to extend simple words into long, point-winning words, and I was sputtering, “Can you believe this, Bob? He’s won again!” Brad didn’t gloat. He just smiled.
Nothing reveals character and skills more than a family trip. Alone among us, Brad was a miracle packer, able to fit too much luggage into too little taxi space . . . like Houdini. The rest of us didn’t help, we just stood around and gaped.
The most important statement about Brad comes last. When he married Tracy, he also married her two young children, Dane, 13, and Jamie,16. Within a few years both of them, by their own choice, were calling him Dad. You can’t say more about a man than that.
Clearly, Brad has left a big hole in all our lives.