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The following ran in last Saturday’s edition of the Bangor Daily News.
Peter Stuart McIntosh, 61, died on January 22, 2020 in Bangor.
He was born in Framingham, Massachusetts on June 23, 1958 to Dorothy and Richard McIntosh. He grew up alongside his older brother Richard Jr., and helped raise younger brother Jason years later.
After graduating from American International College, Pete held roles ranging from hotel cook to night watchman before finding his true calling, assisting adults with severe autism. He worked at special-needs homes throughout Maine, where his deep and devoted caring touched many lives.
Pete was devoted also to his wife Janice, married in 2002, his companion in every aspect of life. She predeceased him after a long illness in 2014, with Pete willingly becoming her full-time caretaker in the end.
Pete continued life after this loss by joining the Bangor chapter of Clubhouse International, a nonprofit advocate for adults with mental illness, and he made many dear friends in this community.
For his whole life Pete loved paperback novels, superhero comics, and Boston sports teams. He instilled in Jason a love of reading, whether Spider-Man or Steven King.
Peter is survived by his brothers Richard and Jason and his cat Moxie.
In lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor Pete’s memory may make a donation to the American Stroke Association or to Clubhouse International.
This represents the third family obituary I have written in seven years. I suppose it benefits from this past experience, but it differs from the previous two in that I didn’t enter the month expecting to write it. I had to scramble to pull a first draft together before the paper’s weekend deadline while juggling every other sudden responsibility that fell to me upon my brother’s wholly unexpected death. My first try proved far too lengthy, and with friends’ help I ground it down below the $300 mark (at the paper’s $1.25-a-word rate).
As such, much remains unstated here, including the cause of Pete’s death. A car struck him as he crossed the street while walking home after dark. Within hours surgeons had set to work repairing his many broken bones. They could see brain injuries as well, but imperiled brains often surprise doctors with their resilience, so we waited for days to see if he’d regain consciousness. He did not, and the long sleep plus the nature of the injury meant that he almost certainly never would. His family agreed to let his body slip away, joining the personality that the car probably obliterated on impact.
This oblique stroke cut short an already tragic life. The obituary’s first draft contained no details of the accident or its aftermath, but it did put more words towards the complete and permanent devastation he had experienced six years before with the loss of his wife Janice six years ago. Her death tore him apart, and he never really came back together.
Pete triggered the previous time I had to race to Bangor in an emergency mode, which I detailed in a cotemporary post on my old LiveJournal. In short, after I rescued him from despair-driven homelessness, he proceeded to live an utterly enervated existence, defined primarily by mourning, for years to come. I can reveal now that “Hank” in my angry and self-loathing Gameshelf post about the Walking Dead video games was Pete. These articles from a half-decade ago accurately and frankly show the poisonous frustration I felt for my brother, my will to sympathize with his terrible loss balanced with my inability to understand why he couldn’t move on from it.
In time he came partway out of this state, largely thanks to Clubhouse International, whose Bangor chapter helped him out a great deal, and even set him up with a dishwashing job for a little while. But Janice’s ghost never, ever left his sight. No conversation with Pete could happen without mention of her, right up through the last time I spoke with him this month. If he laughed at a joke, he’d often catch himself, horrified, and explain that his laughter doesn’t mean that he’s forgotten Janice. When he got confused while paying for his groceries, he’d mumble apologies to the cashier about how he hasn’t thought straight since his wife died. Death made her larger, infinitely large, Pete’s whole universe, forever.
On Tuesday, having done everything I could in Bangor until the spring thaw — when I plan to lay Pete’s ashes to rest by his wife’s, in her northern Maine home town — I returned home by train. The landscape smearing past the window invited my mind to drift, for the first time in two weeks, to contemplate my own loss. I wondered if Pete had time to turn to face Janice in his final conscious moment, to send out a radar-pulse of love to her memory as he abruptly transitioned into memory himself. Without thinking too much I summoned up “The Commander Thinks Aloud” by The Long Winters on my phone, a deeply sad and beautiful song about the last thoughts of someone perishing in a sudden, violent accident. The lyrics reflect not pain or fear but longing, an ultimate unrequited longing. Can you feel it, we’re almost home sang its voice, as my tears ran freely, and Connecticut rumbled on past.
I carry the terrible ambiguity that in my final conversation with Pete, on the telephone a week before the hospital called me, he sounded quite upbeat. As the years went on, he never stopped living every moment for Janice, but he gradually got better at the living part. He made friends, he started attending church again, and he got back into reading. He also struggled — letting bills pile up, frequently losing his housekeys, and developing balance issues that forced him to stop driving, and then stop working. He sometimes called me in confusion or desperation, but that last time he felt calm and hopeful.
And underneath surged an impossible longing for his lost partner, a roaring river of it, wider and deeper than anything I’ve ever felt, maybe more than anything I am capable of feeling. I needed a song to unlock this revelation, and to glimpse the tragedy of so suddenly losing someone capable of feeling so much love, so much love that it may well have drowned him.
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