Two Deaths

Two deaths this week saddened — and diminished — me. The first life, easier to celebrate, was a public loss, although I, probably like a legion of others, could say that I had know Brother Blue over the decades in which my life centered around Cambridge. The storyteller serves a unique, ancient, and in my opinion irreplaceable function in our society, and Brother Blue was the best.

R.I.P. Brother Blue, 88

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Brother Blue by Roger Gordy

The City of Cambridge lost an icon this week: a master storyteller known as Brother Blue.

If you’ve spent time in Harvard Square in the past three decades or so, you’ve probably seen Brother Blue, with a crowd gathered around, telling stories. He stood out of the urban environment in his signature bright blue ensembles.

Brother Blue also told stories in classrooms and jailhouses — anywhere he could find an audience.

He and his wife Ruth produced hours of programming on Cambridge Community Television.

Susan Fleishman is the public access station’s executive director and says the show, “Street Corner Classics with Brother Blue,” was adored.

“Everybody knew who Brother Blue was, and many of the children who are now in their 20s, 30s and 40s remember him from when they were younger,” Fleishman said. ” He was just such an iconic character.”” (WBUR obituary)



The second death had a more personal meaning. A 48 y/o father of two young children died in a medical bed in my hospital this week, of multi-organ failure consequent to his severe alcoholism. He had first come to my unit soon after I began working there five years ago, seeking help with his alcohol addiction. I treated him through more than fifteen episodes since, watching him struggle and slip inexorably downhill in the grip of a gruesome disease, swearing he wanted to stop but utterly unable. Too late, during this last medical stay, desperately ill, he tried unsuccessfully to say goodbye to his children and express his regret at how his life had gone, and how it had impacted theirs. We could not help him and it is difficult to find anything to celebrate about his life. I had this fantasy of marching every other treatment-resistant alcohol-dependent patient down to his room to see what awaited them.