Brian Eldridge’s brother wanted the world to know about his misunderstood sibling’s heartbreaking and lonely life after he died alone in his apartment in the US state of Minnesota — so he wrote a brutally honest obituary.
“Brian was a quiet shy boy and man. He was bullied as a child and teenager because of his shyness and vulnerability. As an adult he didn’t fit in. He never learned to use a computer or a cell phone, which kept him from applying for most jobs,” Steve Eldridge wrote in the obituary, published in Minnesota’s Pioneer Presson Sunday.
“He worked and supported himself through paper routes, aluminium can recycling and janitorial work. He was exploited by employers. His last job was cleaning a bingo hall at midnight for $10 ($A15.40) per hour 7 nights a week 364 days a year with just less than the minimum weekly hours to have any rights or benefits.
“He had no friends or family who kept up with him. He was quiet, smart, generous and lonely. When found in his apartment he had been dead at least four days. I’ll miss him,” the brief eulogy concluded.
The obituary immediately touched the hearts of local readers, with dozens moved to write to the paper in response, according to the Pioneer Press.
A retired priest in Crosslake, Minnesota, 232km north of Minneapolis, wrote that he had shared Mr Eldridge’s obituary during his weekend homily.
“You could have heard a pin drop, it was so quiet,” he told the paper. “I didn’t know Brian, but what a wonderful lesson for us all.”
Another woman, Marie, said she came across Mr Eldridge’s obituary after finding a newspaper left on a bench.
“Not sure why I read Brian’s obit. But I do know that your writing has changed me. Bless you, dear friend. Eternal rest upon Brian,” she wrote.
The heart-wrenching obituary has since gone viral, wetting eyes across the internet.
Mr Eldridge, 76, was found in his cramped two-bedroom apartment in Mounds View, outside of Minneapolis, on July 11 after his brother called him for four days with no response.
Steve Eldridge, who lives in Oregon, said his family had been planning a trip to Minnesota and was calling Brian to tell him they’d like to see him.
He told the Pioneer Presshe’d last spoken to his brother on his birthday, May 4, and saw him in person last October.
“Nobody else knew him,” he told the paper when he was asked why he chose to write the obituary with such affective frankness.
“When our other brother, David, died in October, I basically explained how his life was shot because of schizophrenia. I wanted to be just as honest with Brian’s obituary because his story is sad and true.”
Steve Eldridge was equally frank about his own feelings after Brian’s death.
“I personally struggle with the question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ I have to live with the guilt, regret and shame that I didn’t try harder to stay closer, to see him more, to call him more, to be there for him,” he said.
Brian Eldridge was born in St Paul, near Minneapolis, in 1947, the middle of Franklin and Cecile Eldridge’s three sons. He suffered from asthma and a kidney condition called nephritis, his brother said. He also had severe acne as a teenager.
He was “painfully shy” and increasingly left out by the kids who teased him.
“I was basically his only friend, and we played together all the time as little children. Once we got to high school, that changed,” Steve Eldridge recalled.
Brian Eldridge was drafted to serve in Vietnam and sent to basic training for two weeks — but was sent home because his acne problem was so bad.
“It’s too bad because he actually kind of liked basic training. He liked being in a group where nobody knew him,” his brother said.
Struggled with tech
Brian would struggle to keep himself employed for the rest of his life, trying to hold down jobs as a baggage handler and then as a newspaper deliveryman and collecting cans at night. He also worked at the bingo hall mentioned in his obituary.
He struggled with technology, and Mr Eldridge had to show his brother how to use a microwave, a new television and computers that he had never used before.
“When you’re computer illiterate, everything is just hard,” Mr Eldridge told the paper.
“He tried taking a computer class at the local library once, but he said after the first one, everybody was so far ahead, he was embarrassed and he quit.”
Brian went more than 50 years without seeing a doctor before he was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2013, which his brother believes may have contributed to his death.
By the time he died, Mr Eldridge said his brother’s hair — of which he proudly hadn’t cut in probably 45 years — was halfway down to his calves.
Steve Eldridge said he has been moved by the tributes to Brian, but is frustrated by the lack of kindness or friendship the community showed him while he was alive.
“Why didn’t anybody find out his name? It’s not like he had friends, or anyone invited him anywhere or even talked to him,” he said.
“I just wanted people to meet my brother and maybe empathise with him and to say to themselves: Could I have met him? Known him? Introduced myself? Talked to him? Or somehow maintained contact to the point where we wouldn’t have discovered his dead body after God knows how long because nobody cared?” he said.
“That’s all. It’s a sad story.”
This story appeared on the New York Post and is reproduced with permission.