Thomas N. Grassel Jr.





My brother Tommy died today.

I’d like to be able to tell you that he died peacefully, in his sleep, surrounded by friends and family… but that was not the case.

He died, pretty much the way he lived most of his life;  angry, frustrated and fighting his many demons.  Even once he began his end of life journey they would not leave his side.  Considering themselves his friends, they’ve  hung on till the very end.  This, along with the fact he was so sick, made his final journey, a long and arduous one.

It should be said that although my brother’s “body” stopped functioning today, he actually died some 50 years ago, and I have been mourning that loss ever since.

You see, my brother Tommy, the brother I had known and loved for the first 13 years of my life, died in Vietnam sometime between the fall of 1967 and the 4th of July, 1968.

Although the United States Army was kind enough to return his somewhat broken body, and what was left of his mind… the better part of him (the part many of his friends and acquaintances never got the chance to see) was left behind; a million miles away from here, forever entombed in the murky waters of a hillside rice paddy.

Like so many of his comrades in arms, he was not prepared for what he experienced in Vietnam.  And although he did only what he was trained and ordered to do, I don’t believe that my naive, 18 year old brother ever reconciled with what he witnessed and he certainly never forgave himself for any transgressions that he may have committed.

These were his demons.

Torn, between being proud to be a Sergeant First Class in the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division (aka The Screaming Eagles) and being (at his core) a pacifist, he constantly struggled with grasping a genuine understanding of who he “truly” was and what he believed in.

If you knew my brother at all, you probably had a love/hate relationship with him. Generally he was a nice, polite, funny, generous, outgoing guy who could (when he wanted to) be quite charming… but he also had a dark side.  He could become angry,  hurtful, verbally abusiveand quite difficult to deal with, at the drop of a hat.

He didn’t mean to be any of those things and he always regretted it.  It was just that the demons sometimes possessed him and devoured his sense of right and wrong.

As I said, if you knew him at all, at some point during your relationship/friendship you would have had a legitimate reason to call him an “asshole.”  If you didn’t, then you didn’t know him as well as you think you did.

Regardless of all his many shortcomings and imperfections… he was my big brother.  He was a good man.  He was an honest man and he always loved and protected me, his baby sister.  And I, with every fibre of my being, loved him right back.

His passing leaves yet another hole in my already battered heart.  After so many losses,  I now imagine my heart has taken on the texture of a sea sponge…  rough and pourus, softened only by absorbing tears, which won’t stop.

My brother is finally at rest.  He is finally free from the demons that have plagued and tourtured him for so many years.

In the last few hours of his life, I believe I witnessed a softening in his face… his usually furrowed brow was relaxed and smooth.  I choose now to believe he took advice I gave him earlier in the day… I believe he began the process of self forgiveness and acceptance and he came to understand that he, just like the rest of us are flawed and nothing short of human.

Hmmm?  Come to think of it, he did die peacefully with friends and family by his side… he had me, his only family and his best friend.

I love you Tommy.

Your baby sister, Lissa





  1. Dear Melissa I am so sorry for your loss, words seem so inadquate. Whatever demons were with him, he died knowing he was loved and that is worth a thousand words. Big hugs and light to you xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lissa – I did know both sides of Tommy and his demons but he was a friend to me and many others. I am so sorry and now Tommy can Rest In Peace with his demons gone and be reunited with his brother Charlie! Love, Cheryl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cheryl, I think you posted another comment, but it disappeared before I had a chance to really read and respond… It said something about my brothers correcting me if I screwed up a story! hahahahaha, you are probably right! xxx


  3. Melissa,
    Tommy was always in my heart. We stayed connected with a lot of spaces in between, but always connected I remember him as the fun happy smiling guy I met in 1968. The last time I spoke to him he sounded upbeat and happy yet sad. I’ll miss him dearly.
    Love and hugs,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My dear I have no magical words to say. You amaze me in so many ways. I can’t begin to count them all. I’m so fortunate to call you my friend and know Tommy was even more fortunate and blessed to have you as his little sissy. Renee and I are reading all this through the tears. If you want to unwind and see the kids in Florida before heading home mi casa es su casa my love. Come stay a weekend, a month or a year. Get some sun and relax. Either way we send you our deepest most heartfelt sympathies. We love you and pray for your peace. May Tommy rest in peace and find comfort with your mom, dad and brother again in heaven. Love ❤️ xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dear Melissa…Your brother was the love of my life and yet as I read your story my heart breaks for the loss of someone so precious. My heart has another hole that I pray will heal now he is finally at peace. I remember the young man who was there when my brother died. I remember dating him for a month and he never kissed me. I finally asked why….he said he didn’t want to go to fast and lose me. He was a gentle soul even with demons. His soul is free to be the Love & the Light. Love always prevails he is in the hearts of many. He is with his family….I pray he greets me when my time comes. You are loved.

    Liked by 1 person

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