GREATEST LOVE OF ALL
AN EMPTY CHAIR
FOREVER ON MY MIND
TEARING DOWN WALLS
AS I REMEMBER HIM
A YEAR TO REMEMBER
THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
THE CITY THAT ALAN LOVED
THE WORST LOSS - MY GREATEST JOY
MY AIDS QUILT LETTER
I walked slowly into Philadelphia's Society Hill Playhouse.
It wasn't my first time. I had been there many times before to see shows
that my brother, Alan, had publicized.
Until shortly before he died, Alan worked full time as a publicist for
an agency for the aged. He also juggled many freelance projects
simultaneously, and donated much of his free
time to a variety of community organizations. He would have been
shocked at the eleven obituaries that were published. Those came from
two Philadelphia daily papers, two weekly papers and the others in
newsletters from various organizations where Alan had volunteered.
This October night, the 26th of 1992, we returned to Philly for his
memorial service. My entire family was there‑except for my twin
brother Alan. I was fine‑until I saw the bulletin board displaying
his pictures. We had asked to videotape the service but his friends said
it would make them uncomfortable.
needed to have something else
to remind us of Alan. So, unknown to anyone, except my family, I slipped
a tape recorder under my seat.
Although Alan's friends had designed a postcard with a picture and a
favorite quote, I felt he deserved a Playbill for all of the shows he
had promoted. After being turned down by Playbill I designed my own
program, including his biography.
remember playing in the sandbox with our matchbox cars
remember getting up early on Sundays to walk to the bakery for chocolate
remember our walks back to Alan's apartment after the movies.
remember our trip to Hershey by bus, at age 14.
remember staying up late to help Alan get his mailings finished,
remember when we would go to see Grandma Sloane, sometimes at 2AM.
remember how Alan would give me support when I was worried about him.
My twin brother Alan, who died of AIDS on June 25, 1992, knew that his
illness was terminal but managed to enjoy life to the fullest. I have
chosen to remember him this way, enjoying life as best I can, and
getting involved, as he did.
brother died in 1992. Helping
with two TCF chapters, Daniel does
newsletter layout for the
NJ TCF chapter and is treasurer of the Rockland County, NY TCF chapter,
and is on the steering committees for both chapters, He is also involved
with an AIDS service provider in Rockland County assisting with fund
raising, as well as being newsletter editor and creating a web page.
The first wedding was two years after Alan, my twin-brother, passed away. My second oldest brother was getting married. I was waiting for the question, "When was I going to get married?" I was never asked so I couldnít use my prepared response, "When Alan could be my best man."
I thought if I did get married I would have an empty chair next to me. If Alan couldnít be my best man, I didnít want anyone. My brotherís name would appear in the program (that he would have designed) as honorary best man.
This year I turned thirty-six, it was my sixth birthday without Alan. At the restaurant we had made a mistake, the reservation had been made for one too many. I had ended up sitting next to an empty chair.
Although I thought, I was doing better, no longer crying at family events. I now realize that I will not have an empty chair at my wedding, if I can ever bring myself to get married without Alan being there. The loss I feel will always be there but itís much worse seeing an empty chair.
After my twin brother Alan passed away I was constantly looking for ways to keep his memory alive. Soon after the funeral I helped design the gravestone. When the first anniversary neared l started the scholarship his friends had long promised.
I often worried that besides having his name on a cemetery stone that Alan would be forgotten. I wanted his nieces and nephews to be able to know him. Alan, a Philadelphia resident, worked full time for the Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging doing public relations. He also was a freelance writer and volunteered for many arts and AIDS organizations.
With another brother married we had an empty room, which I wanted to be about Alan. The room includes articles that he wrote and articles about him, posters for projects he promoted and some he helped design. Above the double windows are Playbills for shows he promoted, each listing his name. One had a post-it note "Save this, this is my first"; I saved them all.
Included are interviews with Phyllis Diller, Lucie Arnaz and a Diana Ross biographer. An article, with his picture, at a Special Olympics event he coordinated, publicized and wrote about is also displayed. One project he developed was the "Senior Great American Smokeout". All of the Philadelphia nursing homes participated on the same day the American Cancer Society had their annual "smokeout". At the time of his death the project was nominated for an award.
The one item I am most proud of is the press release announcing his last job. He was asked to write his own press release. He once said he couldn't believe he got paid for a job he loved so much!
The room, 130 square feet, contains 55 framed items, which tell of Alan's career, interests, and love of life. His nieces and nephews will get to know their uncle, who-as his oldest brother said-did more in his thirty years then 95% of us do over an entire lifetime.
I attended my first TCF (Compassionate Friends) national conference in Philadelphia, Alanís second hometown, in 1995, shortly after the third anniversary of his death. The first workshop, for siblings, was called Dreams and Visions. Here I had hoped to learn how to live my future without Alan. There was a typo in the program; it should have been called Dreams and Visitations. I was about to walk out. I had dreamt for months after Alanís death that he was still alive but was not ready for the unknown.
A few years later, during tropical storm Floyd while walking to my car during heavy rain and winds, I suddenly got very worried, and upset thinking that the storm could damage Alanís stone at the cemetery. Then I stepped on a Hershey Bar wrapper and immediately stopped worrying. Alan and I had visited Hershey, PA very often, including a two-night stay, by ourselves, at age 14. I felt that this was his way of telling me not to worry.
Recently I was worried about another problem. I took my nephew to Burger King; where they advertised Hershey Park. The next day I saw a girl wearing a Hershey Chocolate t-shirt. The following day someone from Hershey checked into my hotel. I finally decided what to do about my problem; I like to think, with assistance from Alan.
I was once asked by a fellow TCF member to visit a medium. I am not sure if itís just by chance, but I like my way of hearing from Alan better.
I attended my first meeting of the Bergen-Passaic Compassionate Friends,
it was the day after my fifth birthday without my twin brother Alan.
Up to then I was working nights and unable to attend meetings.
Nine months later, May 1998 at a chapter meeting someone in the
circle spoke of the tenth anniversary of his or her childís death.
They said they no longer think of their child everyday and it
didnít bother them. This
was shocking to me, not to mention upsetting.
I couldnít imagine living a day without thoughts of him - both
happy and sad. I went home
after five years I always thought of him each and everyday.
To this day I will lick the bowl of frosting and think of the
times we fought over the bowl. After a snowstorm I write his initials in the snow.
When I hear something funny I think of him.
But I also think of all that he has missed.
He would have gotten to know his six, soon to be seven nieces and
nephews, including my niece Allie who was named after Alan. We would have been able to enjoy many vacations together.
June will be the ninth anniversary of his death. With the passing of time I have adjusted to not talking to
him everyday (we both had 800#ís at work).
I do think of what he would say when I have a problem to work
out. I think the part of
the old me is returning. I
have started to exercise again. This
is something I used to love to do before Alan got sick.
I have taken steps to advance my career, something I was planning
at the time of his death. I
also think I took on some of his traits like becoming a better writer
and not emptying the laundry basket after each wash.
are now many more good days then bad.
But almost nine years after Alanís death, I am probably the
only adult male to cry at a childrenís movie.
In ďRugrats in ParisĒ Tommyís father remarries sometime
after his mothers death. Tommy
is thrilled that he will have two mommies, one on earth and one in
heaven. I am forced to remember that I canít have another Alan.
have given myself a job that I love: The job of keeping Alanís memory
alive. I do this by putting
this newsletter together, collecting license plates, with his name, for
each new state that I visit, donating to his scholarship fund and in
many other ways.
ďPhantom of the OperaĒ opened on Broadway I had no desire to see it.
That was until it opened in Philadelphia, after Alanís death.
Alan was a publicist in Philly and the show was playing at the
only theatre where I had not seen something Alan had publicized.
One of the songs has a line ďThere will never be a day in which
I wonít think of you.Ē I
think this will be true for a long time to come.
I attended my first Compassionate Friends conference in Philadelphia during the summer of 1997. The fifth anniversary of my twin brother Alanís death had just passed a few weeks earlier. Until that year I worked nights and was unable to attend TCF meetings. Philadelphia was the place Alan called home after college. He lived only a few blocks from our grandmother who had passed away three years after him.
I remember walking around in a town where I had once felt so much happiness only to realize that the people who made it enjoyable were gone and that left me feeling even sadder. I was very anxious as I pulled into the hotel parking lot. I had heard that people had found past conferences most helpful, but what if I didnít?
think one of the highlights of the conference was the AIDS workshop. I was really looking forward to meeting people who had been
through what I had been through. At
that time I didnít personally know anyone else who had lost someone to
AIDS. The workshop
presenters had found out at the same time that their son was gay and
that he had AIDS. They were
fortunate to have a year to spend with him and take care of him.
The workshop started with an ďice breakerĒ, an activity where
we were given a list. It
was the job of the participants to find out from each other who had done
similar things or had similar traits.
The point of the activity was to show how easily people could be
Although the workshop wasnít as well attended as most, I found it to
be most helpful. It helped
to hear what had helped others and what they had gone through.
I had people to call upon if I ever wanted to talk.
Upon leaving the workshop I got very nervous. The leaders of my chapter were sitting in the back of the
room. I asked how
long have you been sitting here, they replied, not very long. At the
time I didnít realize they didnít know what the workshop they had
walked into. I said, ďI have something to tell you. At our chapter meeting when it is my turn in the big circle I
say that I had lost my twin brother Alan on June 25, 1992.
He died of cancer, but he didnít, he died of AIDS.Ē
I thought they would be angry and tell me not to come back.
They said what difference does it make how someone dies.
They couldnít understand why I would be afraid to say that Alan
died of AIDS.
The following year I took the same workshop, in Nashville; there were
only three in attendance. The
presenter knew of someone at the conference who lost a child to AIDS but
was saying the cause of death was cancer.
After Alanís death both my parents told me they would tell
people that he died of cancer. I
understood why they were doing this as I had told childhood friends, a
month before he died, that Alan had cancer.
I was afraid of losing life long friends.
Alan never told those friends and relatives of his sexuality and
I didnít feel that I could tell them about that as well as the AIDS.
Alan and I, as Alan said, shared a ďwomb with a viewĒ until we were
born in 1961. While walking
home from a movie he came out to me, he told me he was gay.
He was very surprised and relieved that I wasnít going to
disown him. Three years
after his death I made a panel, in Alanís memory, for the AIDS quilt.
This was one of the first things I did to commemorate his life.
I was asked to write a letter to accompany the panel, telling how
he would like to be remembered. One
of the things I wrote was ďThe making of a quilt for my brother will
come as a surprise for many people when they find out about it:
The friends from Philadelphia who were surprised that AIDS
wasnít mentioned in his obituary, and the relatives and family friends
who never knew of his lifestyle, because Alan had chosen not to say
anything. We never talked
about why, but I think that was what he had wanted.Ē
I answer an email from a newly bereaved sibling I say ďMy twin brother
Alan passed away of AIDS on June 25th 1992.
There isn't a day in which I don't think of him."
The greatest joy in my life was being Alan's twin brother. The worst time since Alan's death was turning 40. As the ninth anniversary approached last year I was very anxious. I had thought I was doing much better and couldn't understand why I was unable to decide what I should do. Afterward, I was still nervous, as I am each year between June and August, our birthday month, but last year was worse.
As my birthday neared I
realized that would be my first "milestone" birthday without
Alan. I decided I wanted to
go to Philly, Alan's town. To
me it would be easier than being with all of the family, all except
Alan. I had figured out my
family was planning a surprise party.
One morning before work, I became physically sick.
Even though I had survived without Alan for nine years I now
realized that I couldn't continue without help.
Twice a week for the two weeks before my birthday I received
counseling. I had decided I
would have a birthday party if I could make the guest list.
It turns out everyone I would have wanted was already invited.
Many didn't speak of Alan but they could see his picture button
while speaking to me. Thoughts
of Alan were never far and as I walked the last friend to his car I
realized that it was an enjoyable day but each milestone would be an
As I approach my 41st birthday, the tenth without Alan, I have had his initials put on my carís license plate. Each trip to a diner, I order Jell-O after a meal; each new state I visit I get a miniature license plate with his name. I gave his clothes to friends and charity, designed his headstone and developed a program for his memorial service. I started a scholarship, created an AIDS quilt, web page and a backyard garden. I devoted a room, ďAlanís roomĒ, with posters and articles by and about him. I donate items for AIDS & TCF auctions, write articles and volunteer for TCF, all in Alanís memory. As long as I live I will continue to find ways to honor his memory as I remember him.
up, my twin brother Alan and I had a scrapbook of the memorable events
in our life Ė school certificates, community awards, autographed
pictures and news of our favorite television shows.
Sometime after his death to AIDS in June of 1992, I would create
a scrapbook about Alan.
This one contains notes of sympathy, pictures, as well as the
notes that Alan had sent to me.
Because music was a very important part of Alanís life I
included a list of Alanís favorite songs. I was very fortunate to have Alan in my life.
He was a writer who liked to express himself, and I was wise
enough to save each postcard, letter and greeting card.
This past year was the 10th anniversary of Alanís death. My mom and I would make our annual trip to the New Jersey
family and friends marked the anniversary with a trip to Hershey,
Pennsylvania. Both of these places were favorites of Alanís. Another big event was a milestone birthday for my mom.
With the planning of a party I began to stress out, mainly
because Alan wouldn't be there for a "major" family event -
until I realized that this was a chance to remember Alan as well!
mom is always telling me to write a book with my articles about Alan.
I reply that I need a lot more articles. For the party I made a
birthday card booklet that included articles and pictures. I made a
HAPPY BIRTHDAY candy wrapper (since Mom loves Hershey Bars).
On the back it says Happy Birthday from all of your children
and grandchildren -- it included all of the names.
When we videotaped messages to Mom I was standing in front of an 11
X14 picture of Alan.
We had a dozen roses with a note that read ďRemembering
would have been the roses he would have gotten her.
For the nieces and nephews I made up goody bags. I got
all of Alan's favorites. I had to special order Wizard of Oz
coloring books; I got Crayola crayons, etch-a-sketch, a mustang
matchbox car and a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for each
one. I also got a CD burner and made Mom a CD of Alan's favorite songs.
closest childhood friend was given a copy of the CD for her support
and help in setting up the party. She plays the CD each and every
day, months later, on a trip to the post office, she had the CD
playing with her car windows open.
She was at the mailbox and didn't realize how loud the music was. The next
thing she knew this man came out of a restaurant a few doors down.
He started dancing on the way to the parking lot. His wife told him to stop, that he was making a fool of
himself. He said he hadnít heard that song in years. My friend apologized that the music was so loud and he said,
"You donít know how happy this song makes me" and began
dancing in the street and singing the song, ďIt Had To Be YouĒ.
ten years the articles about Alan are less frequent and harder to do.
Its true, we reach a point where our grief isn't as intense as
in the first few years, but we still grieve. We still
remember.... We still have our bad days.
It's ok to still tell stories and remember.
long as I can create new memories and make someone happy doing something in Alanís memory I will be here to share the story. I am getting on with life, doing the things that I enjoy but
remembering Alan as well.
On February 3, 1959, parents would lose children, siblings would lose brothers and grandchildren would die. This was the day a plane crash took the lives of singers J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), 28, Buddy Holly, 22 and Ritchie Valens, 17. Since all three were so prominent at the time, February 3, 1959, became known as "The Day The Music Died."
At the time of his death Ritchie Valens was a young man with superstar potential who, even though was still in his first year as a recording artist, had already made a name for himself in the music industry.
Growing up music would become a large part of my twin brother Alanís life. His interest in ďThe Wizard of OzĒ would lead to an admiration of Judy Garland and in time Liza Minelli. He had seen many of Lizaís concerts often sending her mail-grams of well wishes much to my motherís disproval. It was her fear that he would get arrested for harassment. We would travel often to other concerts as well including Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Kenny G and even Yanni.
Alan's interest in music and the arts began in high school with the artistic productions. After graduation from Temple University he would become entrenched in the Philadelphia cultural scene. Much of his free time was spent volunteering for arts, dance and theatre organizations. His name would be listed in the credits of many artistic productions. He, like Ritchie Valens, was just starting to realize his dreams. Then came June 25, 1992. Alan had died of an AIDS-related brain tumor that had started not more then two months earlier. This was-for me-the day the music died.
Don McLean immortalized the February 1959 tragedy with his 1972 hit ďAmerican PieĒ, a song that took Alan and I years to understand and memorize. I would mark my personal tragedy by constantly changing the radio station. So much that I thought I would break the buttons. A break-up song would remind me too much of my loss. While in a friendís car I had him turn off the radio rather then risk crying.
Then one day a few years later, upon leaving the cemetery, on the radio I heard Whitney Houstonís ďThe Greatest Love of AllĒ. Alan and I had recorded an awful rendition at a Hershey, PA amusement park recording studio. We agreed that no one else would hear the dreadful outcome. I switched stations twice only to hear the song two more times. It was my reflection that Alan was telling me to enjoy the music once again. To take pleasure in life and to do what we enjoyed doing together. I hear Alanís voice saying the words inscribed on Ritchie Valens grave "Come On, Let's Go."
Daniel Yoffee, TCF Board of Directors Sibling Representative. Reprinted from the summer edition 2003 of We Need Not Walk Alone Ė The national magazine of The Compassionate Friends.
I find it very important to spend each anniversary going somewhere or doing something that my twin brother Alan enjoyed. This year for the 11th anniversary my Mom and I, after visiting Seaside Heights, NJ, went to Philadelphia - Alanís second hometown.
At the shore I remembered Alan by buying raffles tickets for a Mustang convertible, eating a steak sandwich and getting a temporary tattoo with his initials. I was told the tattoo would last ten days - it lasted one. In Philadelphia we decided to eat in the places where we had shared meals and return to see the places where Alan lived.
Our hotel faced Alanís very last apartment building. I remembered the times we had spent looking in the direction I now stood in - eleven years later. I frequently gazed at his bedroom window, thinking of all that Alan - the writer, publicist, AIDS activist, volunteer and advocate for the elderly has missed, and what might have been.
A Bette Midler song talks about places remembered, ďsome have changed, some forever not for better.Ē Alan, who enjoyed many of his meals at various restaurants, would be surprised to see that some had closed ten years after his death due to the poor economy. The Savoy, Houlihans and IHOP (all places where we spent numerous times talking about college, careers, family and life) are also now just memories.
Alan had moved 11 times in 12 years for a variety of reasons. I realized there wouldnít be any new memories and I worried about forgetting the old ones - so I took pictures to remember each apartment and some of the memories they hold. As I looked through the camera I remembered many special moments Ėhis hosting a neighborhood coffee-klatch for a mayoral candidate; moving from a duplex apartment to a studio; staying up late to help with volunteer projects; dropping a box containing hundreds of pennies while walking across the street which Alan gave to a homeless person and the Wizard of Oz mural he had painted on his last living room wall.
As the years go by I think of Alan each and every day and feel life has become easier - except for some moments at family gatherings. As a recently bereaved father told me "the wound can heal but the scar is always there." With each move since 1988 an ad for the movie Beaches was affixed to Alanís refrigerator. It says, ďOnce in a lifetime you make a friendship that lasts forever.Ē My greatest joy is being Alanís twin-brother Ėkeeping our friendship and his memory alive.
The worst loss that I will have ever suffered took place on June 25, 1992. I lost my twin brother Alan to AIDS that June morning at 5:10 am. I had spent the previous four days at his bedside, 24 hours a day. Even though he had been HIV+ for almost six years, I thought he would be around when he was 80. Until two months before his death he was still working full time. I was in complete denial until a few weeks before his death. He died of an AIDS related brain tumor.
Later that June morning I went back to his apartment, the one with the Wizard of Oz mural painted on his living room wall. I wouldnít let anyone else in until I took pictures of everything just the way that Alan had left it. Those items included many family pictures, Hershey memorabilia, Alanís large music collection and posters for events he publicized. Photography was my hobby and this was my most difficult assignment. It wasnít until I was finished that I would have my brothers and Alanís friends over to give them each something of Alanís.
For some time after Alanís death, hearing the music that we enjoyed would bring great pain. Any love song reminded me of the loss of my brother and greatest friend. It took some time to enjoy the music again. I attended a recent Simon & Garfunkel concert mainly to hear the song Sound of Silence, a song Alan and I perform as youngsters with our graduating class. The words ďHello darkness my old friendĒ remind me of all that he is missing.
An interest of mine (and Alanís) since the age of nine was Hershey, PA and the history of the man who created it all, Milton Hershey. An article on Alan after Alanís death said that ďHe was like the man behind the curtain in his favorite movie - behind the scenes, working miracles that have nothing to do with magic and everything to do with good will.Ē It was written about Hershey ďHe had persevered, refusing to quit. In spite of his struggles, he stayed true to his passionÖĒ This was also very true of Alan, who knew that he was going to die.
I think an inscription on the base of the Statue of Milton Hershey that reads "His deeds are his monument, his life is our inspiration" describe Alan as well. It has been said ďIf you never loved, you never cried.Ē I realize that I would gladly endure the hurt to have had Alan in my life. It is my hope that my obituary will read that being Alan's twin brother was my greatest joy.
When I made an eight quote for my twin brother, I was asked to write a letter to accompany yet, telling how he would like to be remembered.
Alan R. Yoffee August 25, 1960 -June 25, 1992
This is one of the most difficult tasks and that I have ever encountered. To be asked to share my favorite memories of Alan, my twin brother, is the enjoyable part. How he would like to be remembered is hard. We never discussed character but spoke about family, friends, projects, jobs and how we would spend our next visit together.
To say that Alan worked as a publicist for an agency for the aged would be correct but also incomplete and describing his talent and energy. In addition to a full-time job he often had many freelance projects going simultaneously, as well as donating much of his free time to a variety of community organizations.
The making of a quilt for my brother will come as a surprise for many people when they find out about it: friends from Philadelphia who were surprised that AIDS was not mentioned in his obituary, and the relatives and family friends who never knew of his lifestyle, because Alan had chosen not to say anything. We never talked about why but I think that was what he had wanted it.
Having known that he had eleven obituaries would be a shock to Alan. To be compared to the wizard in the Wizard of Oz, a favorite movie, would be overwhelming. Being a journalist he would laugh at how his age was different and some papers, and be upset that a few papers forgot to list my name. I think that Alan would be very proud to have a quilt in his memory.
The quote that I made I wanted to be simple with pictures which represent very important people and times in his life. They include: a baby picture of us, who he once said shared a womb with a view; his good pal and grandmother, Betty, who often shared each other‘s company and caring; the vacation spot he enjoyed the most, Hershey, no matter how often we visited; the family gatherings like Joey‘s graduation were always very special to him; being seated on Santa‘s lap is just a sample of his out rages Christmas card; I’m here I’ll paint it on his wall featuring a scene from his favorite movies; a picture with Dr. Jay. And his friend Arnold, how many men as a nursing home volunteer, represents his enjoyment of his profession and volunteer work. Also, included in the “our“ from Alan‘s memorial service with his picture on a quotation which Apple Pay describes his passion for success. I quote would be incomplete without a picture of Alan and Mom, the one who gave him a great deal of support during his illness.
I hope that my writing so far tells of how Allan would like to be remembered. I prefer to remember the highlights of our life together; our visits to the Philadelphia zoo with our grandmother and aunt; the early Sunday morning walks to the bakery for chocolate chip cookies as teenagers; our first vacation by ourselves, at 14, to Hershey and Lancaster where we learned of the Amish people, as well as our enjoyable walks after the movies back to Alan’s apartment. I am not sure how he would like to be remembered but the greatest joy of my life was being Alan‘s twin brother.
Daniel P Yoffee
June 9, 1995