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Losing My Brother from Another Mother – Remembering Hank Butzel

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

Hank Butzel was my brother from another mother. He had a profound impact on my life before his sudden death.
Hank Butzel, left, and me. July, 2011

This is the post I don’t want to write. I can feel the tears start just thinking losing my brother from another mother. I’ve locked this away for over two years now. And now it’s time. I have to write about Hank Butzel. Most people knew Hank as a pilot. He flew hang gliders, prop planes, sail planes, you name it. If it could fly, he’d probably flown it.

I didn’t know him as a pilot. I’m not part of that community, and I’ve never flown in anything except a commercial jet. I only knew Hank as my brother.

Hank Butzel Was My Brother from Another Mother

Of course, he wasn’t really my brother. I’m an only child, and Hank had a sister from his own family. But he was one of those people who just “got” me in a way few can — and even fewer ever will. He was the older brother I never had, one of those “soul siblings” who seems to already know you without you ever opening your mouth. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Hank Butzel died in a plane crash, August 18, 2011.
Hank Butzel died in a plane crash, August 18, 2011.

We were instantly close, and we had so much in common, particularly anxiety, depression, difficulties in intimate relationships, and a sarcastic, twisted sense of humor. Hank was a sensitive, gentle soul. They tell me I am too, but it’s hard for me to see it. Except I could see it in Hank, and I cherished it beyond words.

And then he was gone. Hank was killed in a flying accident in Idaho on August 18, 2011. I’d known him less than a year.

Although I didn’t realize it then, his death marked the beginning of a personal unraveling that’s still in progress. Hank’s passing was the start of my own mid-life crisis, that point in your life where you lose/question everything you were living for, and wonder if you’ll find anything ELSE worth living for – ever again.

Everything’s changed in the last two years. Relationship, career, living situation – it’s all in a state of flux. Everything is fluid. Nothing feels solid. Whatever life I had before is over. I’m given over entirely to this new life of grief, loss and possible re-birth that I don’t understand, hoping it will somehow lead me back to the world of solid things. I suspect, though, that whatever’s at the end of this tumultuous trail is beyond my understanding.

The only thing I know for sure is, time will tell. I just wish I could talk it over with Hank. My brother from another mother would have understood.

Greg Weber