An Unkind Reflection and a Call for Kindness

There’s no nice way to put this, so I’ll cut right to the chase: Last night, my brother Mike collapsed and, as a result of a massive brain bleed, died hours later.

For obvious reasons, I considered taking a day off from my writing schedule.

For other obvious reasons I considered writing a eulogy about the man who was my idol from childhood — among other things, a star athlete, a career Marine, and my constant competition in a contest to see who could be the family’s blackest sheep. He was a good man, he was my brother, and he was almost certainly the best friend I’ve ever had or will have in this world.

But like me, he was also a curmudgeon who did not suffer a great deal of nonsense, and I think he’d want me to write what I’m about to write.

No sooner had I mentioned Mike’s death on Facebook than the condolences began coming in from friends and acquaintances. And, scattered among them:

“Was it the jab? Could it have been the jab? I bet it was the jab. He shouldn’t have got the jab!”

My carefully considered response: “What the [expletive] is wrong with you people? Are you throwing this garbage at his widow, too?”

I’m thick-skinned by nature. My feelings aren’t hurt because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t have feelings. And I’m capable of considering insensitive questions/theories and trying to offer rational answers. Like this:

My brother collapsed with a brain aneurysm for the first time in the 1990s. That happened after he retired from the Marine Corps and while he was attending a police academy. He recovered, graduated, and eventually retired a second time as a cop.

A few years ago, while looking at or for something else, doctors discovered and treated several aortic aneurysms.

For more information, consult the dictionary entry for “predisposition.” If I’d had to bet money on how my brother would die, I’d have bet on him dying exactly how he did.

Due to injuries sustained over the years, he became less mobile and gained weight. He had high blood pressure. He smoked, he ate what he pleased, and he professed to be neither in any hurry to die nor in any great fear of dying, only hoping he’d go quickly and with minimal pain, which seems to have been the case.

His vaccination status? I’m pretty sure he was vaccinated early (as a disabled veteran he was in the early wave of eligibility). I don’t know that he got any boosters. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE that the COVID-19 vaccination had something to do with his death, but it seems unlikely.

Suppose that it was likely, though. Does throwing your pet theories at bereaved families offer any clarity or closure? Does it make anything better?

I may not have feelings to hurt, but others do. Please be kind to them. Or, if you can’t be kind, shut your trap and go be unkind somewhere else.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.