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Harry's biography and life as a professional musician and entrepreneur, and Barbara's life with him, is told in Barbara's memoir, THE DRUMMER DRIVES! Everybody Else Rides.




An unusual urn for an unusual man.

Page 3: "In Memory of Harry Brabec,"
as recounted by his widow, Barbara

Moving from This World to the Next

Harry died peacefully at home at 4:30 a.m. on February 3, 2005. He was just 77 years old. After years of disability and pain, and one last month of fighting for life in the hospital and a nursing home, I put him on hospice and brought him home where he so longed to be. If we could all choose the way we died, one could not choose a more peaceful death than Harry experienced, in his own bedroom, with Dvorakís New World Symphony playing in the background and his wife and sisters-in-law there to hold his hands and caress his brow. His breathing and heartbeat simply slowed over the last half hour of his life, much like an old Victrola machine winding down until there was no power left, and his soul was released into Godís loving arms. As one of my sisters put it, "He was a musician to the end, with his heart going from prestissimo to a peaceful adagio ending."

Up until his last moments of consciousness, Harry retained his sense of humor, communicating with his eyes when he could no longer speak. As he grew weaker, he found it more and more difficult to find things to smile about, but several days after he had stopped eating and drinking and was too weak even to move, a phone call from a special friend who said something funny to him brought one final weak chuckle. And when he experienced a brief surge of energy the day before he fell into a coma, I asked another friend to quickly bring his dog, Caesar, over for a visit. When that big, fluffy white dog walked through the bedroom door, Harry said softly, "Oh my goodness," and gave us his last big smile. We mere humans couldnít make him smile . . . but his deep love of dogs, and the memory of our own beloved Ginger (left), who we lost in 1986, did the trick. After that, he simply closed his eyes and did not open them again.

Harry was adamant about not having a formal service, but a day before he died, we took solace in the private service we held in the bedroom, led by the Hospice chaplain, who read two Psalms of my choice (100 and 103). Although Harry was in a coma by then, we believe he heard our special prayers for him, and I hope he appreciated the loving, humorous memories of him each of us shared at that time. I know he would have laughed uproariously at our off-key rendering of Amazing Grace, which we all agreed was "amazingly graceless." Nevertheless, this unusual service gave us a lot of comfort.

Selecting an Urn

It was Harryís wish to be cremated without fanfare, and I respected his wishes. He never requested it, but I decided to send him off with a pair of drumsticks in his hands. I dressed him in clothes he liked to wear, and stuck a red handkerchief in his pocket, which he was never without at home. After looking at urns in the crematoryís catalog that cost a small fortune and didnít seem special enough for Harry, I chose to have his ashes returned to me in a special box he had kept on his chest of drawers for 25 years. It is woodburned and hand-painted with a picture of the famous little Civil War drummer boy on top and illustrations of Civil War camp life and cannons on the sides. A Civil War buff, Harry really treasured that boxĖone that I had lovingly crafted for him as a birthday gift. In time, I will add one last touch by carving his name and life dates on the top of the box.

Iíve been told that this may be one of the most unusual urns anyone has ever had. I used to joke with Harry that I was going to put his ashes in a brass spittoon he once bought at a crafts fair, the one he asked the maker to engrave for him. On the bottom, it says, "Old saloon drummers never die . . . they just take their drum and beat it." Actually, that was my humorous suggestion for his tombstone many years ago, except that he refined it by adding "saloon" drummer (something he once was). Iím sure Harry would be very happy to know that he is going to be near me always in his very special box, which Iíll keep it right where it always has been.

Page 4 - Life as Mrs. Harry Brabec (conclusion)
Harry, the man, and how he and Barbara met and married only 18 days after they met.

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Copyright © 2005-2014 by Barbara Brabec