Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Tribute to my brother, Arthur

 Arthur Yarborough, Jr.

Twenty-six years ago today, I lost my brother, Arthur.  We were only 17 months apart.  The two of us grew up together, almost like fraternal twins.  We did everything together, shared the same experiences, good and bad.  When Arthur died, he took all of the secrets of my youth with him, because he was the only person who knew and (in many cases), shared them.
 My mother, Mary Yarborough, poses with her newborn son, Arthur, Jr.

Arthur Yarborough, Jr. was born on August 23, 1960 in Bremerhaven, Germany, to parents Arthur, Sr. and Mary Yarborough.  He was said to have been a very good natured baby from the start, with an even temperament and a quick and easy smile.  I remember hearing stories about how Arthur, as a baby, would always stop whatever he was doing when television commercials came on, and would watch and listen intently.  Once the commercials ended, he would resume his activity.  This was an interesting bit of family lore, since Arthur grew up to be a Mass-Media enthusiast and majored in it in college.
  Above:  Arthur as a toddler (Presumably, before I was born)
Below:  My dad, Arthur, Sr. and my brother, Arthur, Jr. in Louisburg, NC
circa 1968
As a boy, Arthur was involved in many community activities.  He was a Cub Scout, played Little League Baseball, and enjoyed attending youth activities at our church.  In high school, Arthur was a triple-sport athlete, playing basketball, football, and baseball.  After two years at Bethel High School in our native Hampton, VA, he decided to go off to military school at Augusta Military Academy in Staunton, VA.  It was there that Arthur truly blossomed as an athlete, as well as as an ROTC officer.  He graduated from Augusta in 1978.
Arthur, the Little League's star pitcher

 Top left: Arthur's Junior picture @ AMA.  Right: QB Arthur (#10) and another player pose for their football picture at AMA.

Arthur returned home to Hampton to attend the alma mater of our mother, and our two oldest brothers, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University).  Known by the nickname, "Yang", he was very popular and well-loved by his fellow students.  Arthur grew deeply involved in his major, Mass Media Arts, and became best known for his smooth jazz radio show, "Inspirations", on Hampton's station, WHOV.  In addition, he wrote for the school's newspaper, and anchored a 15-minute nightly broadcast on Hampton's "Newswatch 10" a weekday cable news program.  He also joined several social fraternities, including the oldest on Hampton's campus, Omega Sigma Chi.  Arthur graduated from Hampton in May, 1982, two months after discovering that he had cancer.

 Hampton Institute president, William R. Harvey, congratulates Arthur and hands him his diploma on Mother's Day, 1982

Though the news of my brother's illness was discouraging, he never let it stop him from working towards his goals.  What began as a mystery-illness, with symptoms of abdominal pain and blackouts, was first diagnosed as a hernia.  Plans were made to surgically remove the hernia while Arthur was on Spring Break during his senior year at Hampton.  However, what we thought was going to be the solution to his problems turned out to be just the beginning.  Once the hernia was removed, surgeons discovered a tumor on my brother's liver.  Primary liver cancer of unknown origin.  The fight began...

 Here, Arthur, wearing his fraternity tee-shirt, snaps a picture of himself in the mirror.  I kind of like the "halo" effect. :)
 For the next two years, my brother, with the support of my then-divorced parents, did everything he could to beat the odds.  Liver cancer was one of the toughest to beat, especially as the primary site.  Arthur tried traditional and experimental treatments.  He tried dietary changes and supplements.  He had good days and bad days.  Good weeks and bad weeks.  He underwent chemotherapy and radiation and was in and out of the hospital.  During this time, we remained in close contact, via phone and letters, but I was away in college and unable to be by his side as often as I wanted to.  Then, in 1982, just before my third year of college, I gave birth to my first child, Natasha.  I named Arthur her god-father, and in the summer of 1983, decided we could stay away no longer.  I wanted my brother to know his niece, so I got a job as a teachers aide, and my daughter and I moved back to Hampton Roads, so that we could be near him and assist in his care. And, during that year, my brother got to know my daughter, and she, him. Though she was very young, the two of them developed a very close relationship, and she remembers him, to this day.  I praise God for my decision to move back home, because it was during that school year that my brother's health took a turn for the worse. 
My brother, Arthur, with my daughter, Natasha, sometime in 1983.
Although Arthur was sick, he was determined to continue his quest to find employment in the media field, which he loved so much.  He completed an internship at our local CBS affiliate television station, and was being considered for an anchor position at the time of his death.  Additionally, he worked as a sports writer for the Daily Press, our local newspaper; and as a newscaster for WNIS, news/talk radio station. I give thanks to all of these companies who recognized his talent, and were willing to give him opportunities to do what he loved, despite the fact that he sometimes was too ill to work.

In March, 1984, Arthur took ill and was admitted to Riverside Hospital (now Riverside Regional Medical Center).  The doctors were pessimistic about his prognosis, and pretty much let my parents know that this was it.  But still, my brother stayed positive and hopeful.  He was in a coma for the first week or so, but once he became alert, he started talking about coming home and about wanting to get back out onto the golf course with my dad.  We were taking turns sitting with him - my mother, father, and I - and on my shifts we enjoyed reminiscing about when we were little, and he played with Natasha, if she was with me.  A few times, when he was sleeping, he would seem to choke and stop breathing, but I would shake him and say, "Breathe, Arthur, breathe!", and he did.  At first, my parents and I were just quiet about the idea of him coming home, but he was so insistent, and he seemed to be doing so well, that finally the doctors agreed to let him go.  I believe the plan was for some level of in-home hospice care, although I didn't really understand what that meant at the time.  (I was only 22 years old, and I think the hospice concept was fairly new.)   My mother was so excited, and she worked hard to get his old room clean and ready for him, with a hospital bed on order, and plans to have nurses checking in.  Unfortunately, early on the morning of April 6th, the day before he was scheduled to come home, and with our father by his side, my brother, Arthur took his last breath. 
Today marks the 26th year since the day my brother died.  Words can't explain how deeply the loss of my brother has affected me, and changed the course of my life.  Although I do have two other brothers, they are so much older than me, that they were both gone from home by the time I was seven years old.  So, it was just my parents, Arthur, and me for most of my life.  Arthur and I fought like any other siblings, but our love for each other was undeniable, and our paths (I'd thought), inseparable.  When he was in the hospital, I prayed and prayed, always asking God to help me to accept His Will, whatever that turned out to be.  My brother's death was, and has continued to be a lesson in FAITH for me.  I miss him so much, but I know that he is in a much better place, and that he is rejoicing now in heaven with our father, grandparents, and all of the ancestors that I'm working to learn about now.

  This is my absolute most-favorite picture of my brother and me.  I think it says so much about us, without having to say anything at all! 

In closing, I'd like to share a poem that I wrote three years ago, on the anniversary of Arthur's death.  At that point, he'd been in heaven for as long as he was here on earth, and these are the words that came to my heart:

To Arthur
For twenty-three years you were here on this earth,
Now for twenty-three years you’ve been gone.
And I know in my heart that you’re better off now,
As you rest in God’s heavenly home.
I’ll always remember the things that we shared,
The good, as well as the bad.
The ups and the downs, the smiles and the frowns,
And all of the secrets we had.
Without you, my brother,  life’s not been the same
But I’ll try not to dwell on the past.
God knew what was best when he took you with Him
To anchor on Heaven’s broadcast.
For twenty-three years you were here on this earth,
Now for twenty-three years you’ve been gone.
I’ll see you one day, when God chooses me
To rest in His heavenly home.  
                                                                            With love, from Renate
                                                            April, 2007

 One of those Easter Sundays.  I miss you, Arthur.

Thank you for reading.

The content and pictures included in this post are the property of Renate Y Sanders, and should not but used, copied, or embedded without the express permission of the owner.  Please contact me via email at yarsan@aol.com.  Thank you.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to your brother. So sad that he died at such a young age. You honor him by telling his story.

  2. Thanks, Kathy. You must have read it as soon as I posted it! It is very sad, and I miss him so very much. Thanks so much for reading.


  3. Renate,
    Nothing could have stopped be from reading this beautiful remembrance about Arthur, your wonderful family and you. Absolutely beautifully done. blessings.

  4. This is a beautiful tribute to your brother Renate. I'm sure Arthur is so proud of you for telling his story in such a wonderful way. And the pictures are priceless ;-)

  5. Renate, It wasn't too long ago that you posted the photo of your mother in the car at the cemetery, so I was quite interested in this, you have a fabulous way of sharing your information. Although sad, I thank you.

  6. absolutely beautiful. thank you so much for sharing your memories of him with us all.

  7. Thanks for sharing. This is a wonderful tribute. I especially loved your poem and my hat goes off to you for writing such a sentimental piece.

  8. This is so beautifully written and with such passion and love. I was in your brothers Hampton Institute graduating Class of 1982. I did not know him well but I feel I missed out on knowing a truly terrific guy. I too lost my brother at the young age of 38. He attended Hampton for 1 year but did not graduate. I understand the emptiness you still feel but I ask that God continue to reveal His unconditional love towards you and your daughter and that He will bind up your broken heart and continue to restore your Joy.

    This was the 2nd demonstration of God's love and God's promises to me today. This really blessed me. Thank you for sharing your brother with us.


  9. This brought tears to my eyes. A beautifully written tribute. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Joan, Sharon, Barbara, and Taneya - Thanks so much for your comments. April 6th is a tough day each year, as are the days leading up to, and following it. However, not a single day goes by that I don't reflect on my brother's life, and the times that we shared. We were closer than most people realized, and I'm just so thankful that we had the 22 years together that we did. :)

    Avis, thank you for stopping by my blog. I think I might remember you, or at least maybe hearing your name. I'm sorry to hear that you also lost your brother. I know you understand. God is good, all the time. May He continually bless you and yours, also.


  11. Kathleen, how did I miss you in my last response! Thank you! You are always such a supportive reader. :) Though I wrote the poem three years ago, this is the first time I've shared it with anyone. (And, now I go and share it with the world, huh?) :) I'm so thankful to have found this community of people who support and care so much for one another. Thanks again for visiting and commenting on my blog. :)

  12. Betty, thank you, too, for reading and commenting.


  13. I am so sorry for your loss, but I thank you deeply for sharing the life of your brother with us. It is a beautiful tribute.

  14. What a wonderfully written story. You are such a beautiful writer, I almost forgot why I came to your blog today. have nominated you for the "Ancestor Approved Award" and posted your name and
    a link to your website on my own blog. I hope it generates some traffic for
    you. You can read about it at
    http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2010/04/ancestor-approved-award.html You
    can pass along the award to another blogger if you would like.

  15. Heather, thank you so much! I always enjoy your blog also. I will get to work on that award post very soon. You are the second to honor me with it, but I just haven't gotten to writing the post yet!
    Thanks again!


  16. Renate, you probably don't remember me, but Yang and I were great friends at Hampton, and colleagues on WHOV-FM, the college radio station. Fortunately for me, Pam Bivins and I have remained close, and she forwarded this to me. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing, sweet-spirited young man! It brought tears to my eyes. Since his death, April 6 has, at times, been bitterweet for me--the day my mother came into this world, and yet, also the day one of the dearest friends I've ever had departed it. While Yang's life was much too short, and he was gone way too soon, he will forever live on in the hearts of those who loved him. Thank you so, so much for sharing his story--you did a wonderful job honoring my friend. Continued blessings to you and your family. Jacquie Monroe (Eminence, Class of '81).

  17. Renate,
    The beauty of those words you wrote can only be supassed by the love that you have for your brother. Be comforted as he has settled in now among the Ancestors, 23 years here, and now more years with them, and he smiles upon you as you continue this journey to tell the stories of the past. The most precious photo of the two of you as children together, just says so much of a bond that will never be broken. Thank you for sharing Arthur with us.

  18. Renate, I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the Ancestor Approved Award

    Have a great day!

    Betty Tartas

  19. What a beautiful tribute to your brother, Renate. It brought tears to my eyes. BTW, your brother and I share a birthday - he was born exactly 3 years before I was. It would have been an honor to know him.

  20. Renate,
    You know how we feel like we know someone...and you keep trying to figure out how...and now I know-not only through Sedgefield and the Frazier family but
    thru your brother... as I too was in the class of '82. Though I did not know him personnaly I knew the name! I thank you for your reflections of love and recollections of his and your life together- for they are forever intertwined! Noted (and not as an irony but as a blessing and testament of things happening right on time) that I would read your blog on the life and experience that Arthur went through at such a young age on the date that I celebrate My last Chemo treatment for Breast Cancer. We hear and tend to focus so much (perhaps as women on the Cancer's that affect us...but there are so many more- especially the ones that affect the young (men) and that sneak up on them- undiagnosed- missed diagnosed- cancer stories that we rarely hear about (the young lives that are lost). As I progress thru my recovery and treatments I will remember your Angel up in Heaven- healed, whole, and happy....Arthur (aka) Yang! Pam

  21. I envy your very good ability to tell the stories of your loved ones. The three blogs "Riding With Mom", "My Brother's Grave", and "A Tribute to Arthur" were all very touching and brought floods of memories about my own Mother and brother. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  22. Love your blog and recommended it for the Ancestor Approved Award. Go to http://a3genealogy.blogspot.com to pick it up.

  23. Love your blog and recommended it for the Ancestor Approved Award. Go to http://a3genealogy.blogspot.com to pick it up.

  24. Wow! This is the most comments I've ever gotten on any blog post! Thanks, everyone for your heartfelt support. Jacquie and Pam, thanks so much for stopping by. It's been touching to have the Hamptonians visiting my blog (although a bit of a surprise)...lol. All of you were so special to my brother, as was Hampton itself, so thank you so much for leaving comments on this post.
    Angela, having met you last week, just two days after I posted that, it adds another level of comfort because I can actually "hear" you saying these words. Thank you.
    Elizabeth, your constant support of my blog is heartwarming. I've always had a special feeling about you, and now I know why!
    Betty and Kathleen, thank you both so much for nominating, "Into the LIGHT" for the Ancestor Approved Award. I've written my award-post, and you can view it at http://tinyurl.com/yhqwblb.

    Thanks again, everyone. May God bless you all!

  25. I can't help but wonder how my life would have been different--so different!--if I'd had a brother like yours. You were so lucky to have him, Renate!

  26. renate your brother was one of the most wonderful people i ever knew.i will never forget him.and miss him still.thanks for posting this david ennis

  27. David, thank YOU so much for your comment. It means so much to hear from someone who knew, and cared for my brother! :)