What I Cherish The Most

What I cherish the most isn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘who;’ the person who I had looked up to and then had lost too early in life. This was my brother, Neil Leist.

Neil was the type of person who lit up a room when he entered it. He was 6’2”, but it wasn’t his height that drew others’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality and his intelligence. Those grey eyes mirrored his great intellect and capacity for greatness. He acted as my father when my father wasn’t home but working long days and nights driving a taxi. He took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help out. He sheltered me as much as he could from life and responsibilities. He shouldered these burdens himself.

He did well in college but he flourished in the business world. He traded on the Commodity Exchange until he had enough money to take over a Fortune 500 company. With a majority share in its stock, he took over American Bakeries. Taystee Bread was never going to be the same. He took me along on his ride to stardom. I worked for him on the Exchange and in his offices on Madison Avenue, New York. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. All was going well for once in my life and in my brother’s life. My parents were proud. He helped them out. All was perfect until that awful phone call in the middle of the night.

My lights went out. All the light in the world was gone for me. I was stuck in darkness as dark and deep as the one my mother lived in. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His fancy, red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a great driver with quick reflexes. He drove the car off the road and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him. A truck was parked in his path and the Porsche crashed beneath it.

Neil was in a coma for two years before he passed away. Meanwhile, his so-called friends at American Bakeries were undermining his position at the company causing the stock price to drastically plummet. We had to sell off his investment in one big chunk at a big loss. Most of his money was tied up with this company. It took me eight years to settle his estate.

I got an M.B.A. in Finance but high finance soon lost its appeal to me. I worked at different investment companies. Then I made the big decision to become a full-time mom for my two beautiful daughters. I devoted myself to them. I took on part-time jobs in the financial field, but I was always available if they needed me.

The big 50 was approaching and I was beginning to feel that I had lost out on life. My brother and then both my parents had passed away. My daughters were beginning their own lives. I needed a focus, a reason for my life. My book, The Dead Game, took me ten years to write.

My life had taken many unexpected twists and turns. Memories of my brother followed me across every speed bump; thoughts of what Neil would have done in each situation kept me company. I don’t have my brother any longer but I have his memories. I also have a cherished picture of him standing alongside Mayor Ed Koch when they had met to discuss the possibility of moving the American Bakeries’ factory to New York City. It’s proudly displayed in my house and now for everyone on my blog to see.


  1. Barbara July 23, 2015 / 10:47 pm

    Thank you for sharing memories of your beloved brother.
    I am so sorry for your loss. Sharing your heart with us
    Is brave. Your story is so indpiring!


    • Susanne Leist July 23, 2015 / 10:56 pm

      Thank you. I couldn’t think of an object to cherish that didn’t have some connection to my brother.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 9:34 pm

      Thank you. It feels like opening an old wound that never fully healed. Maybe it will begin to heal now after 30 years.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barbara July 26, 2015 / 2:56 am

        Writing is a way to heal and find wholeness by releasing creative energy. I am hoping by writing and sharing that you have much support and love from your writing friends. Thank you for having the courage to share your heart.xoxox


  2. Yvonne July 24, 2015 / 3:17 am

    He was a good role model for you, I think. What a shame his life was snuffed out all too soon.


  3. Peter Nena July 24, 2015 / 8:03 am

    Hi. I read with deep sympathy what happened to your cherished brother. I have had a similar experience myself. So I felt it. I’m sorry.
    Thank you for participating in the #Cherished blogfest. Have a great weekend.


    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 9:33 pm

      I’m sorry you had to go through a bad loss such as mine. People say that God is testing us. And I say that I don’t want any more tests. So I wish no more tests for us.


  4. Jane Risdon July 24, 2015 / 12:38 pm

    Such a sad story and experience you have been through. I am so sorry for your losses (brother and parents) but happy to know you are a survivor and you will go on and succeed. You are inspirational. Wishing you great happiness and success in all you do. 🙂


    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 9:31 pm

      Thank you. I am survivor because I had no choice. I had to go on. What we do with our time makes us inspirational. I have long while to go before I could acquire such a lofty title.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jane Risdon July 26, 2015 / 4:27 am

        Susanne, it is how we face things and how we decide what to do next, which makes us who we are. As my gran used to tell me when I was little: ‘two prisoners looked through prison bars; one saw mud, the other saw stars.’ 🙂


  5. C.E.Robinson July 24, 2015 / 8:30 pm

    Susanne, what a heart-warming, heart wrenching story. Your sadness and suffering through the loss of your brother and your parents, and your journey in life! What triumphs is your writing and your family. Hold onto that! Look forward to reading more on your blog site. Christine


  6. Angelika Schwarz July 25, 2015 / 12:55 am

    Cherished is a wonderful word when describing one that we hold in our heart. How blessed you are to have had a brother like Neil.


    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 9:37 pm

      He was special in so many ways. Thank you for mentioning his name. It feels good to hear his name after so many years.


  7. Marje @ Kyrosmagica July 25, 2015 / 5:03 am

    A very touching and personal story, thank you for sharing it with us on the Cherished Blogfest. So sorry to hear you lost your brother in such tragic circumstances. I too have an older brother and I can’t imagine what life would be like without him. He is a very special person. I have never heard him say a bad word about anybody.


    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 9:36 pm

      An older brother is precious. He’s like a father and a friend at the same time. Enjoy him!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marje @ Kyrosmagica July 26, 2015 / 3:23 am

        Thank you Susanne. I will, shall be seeing him in August when I’m up in Edinburgh. 🙂


  8. saymber July 25, 2015 / 10:43 am

    It was great to read something so personal from you and it gives a great insight to where your path has lead you — to one of the most therapeutic tools to cope with grief I’ve found — writing. I’m most certain he would be so proud of you! As you already know, our loved ones are never truly far away. They live on in us.


    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 9:30 pm

      Thank you. I don’t usually write about myself. I try to create stories of escapism. It took many years for me even to talk about it. Now that I’ve turned writing I might be able to express some of my deep thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. laughtermedicineforthesoul July 25, 2015 / 1:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story with us. I have one brother I cherished dearly who disappeared, he was my best and favorite brother. So I can sympathize with your loss.
    I will look for your book, it sound very interesting even thrilling. I love the fact it took place in Florida, where I live.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. inesephoto July 25, 2015 / 4:42 pm

    That is a beautiful tribute, Susanne. So sorry that your brother’s life was cut short so early. Your life would be different if he lived, but look, you managed on your own, and he is very proud of his little sister. Thank you for sharing this story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 9:27 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. I hope he is proud of me. I know he’s up there watching over me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • inesephoto July 26, 2015 / 12:12 pm

        Of course he is. No doubts on that.
        Started reading your book 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Russell J. Fellows July 25, 2015 / 10:15 pm

    He sounded like a great guy. I’m sorry you lost him so early. It’s good that you still hold his memory so strongly. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne Leist July 25, 2015 / 10:35 pm

      Thank you. Some days I’m afraid that I won’t be able to see his face in my mind. But I always do. I just wish my husband and daughters had met him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Russell J. Fellows July 25, 2015 / 10:44 pm

        Continue to tell his stories, even little ones, and he’ll remain vivid in your mind and for those who’ve not met him. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. pathbreakingwriter July 26, 2015 / 3:17 am

    I am so sorry for your loss, but I also appreciate that you have paid tribute to him in a different way. Thank you for participating.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. agmoye July 26, 2015 / 2:29 pm

    The tragic loss of someone that means the world to you and was your role model is sad. A great tribute to him.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Susanne Leist July 26, 2015 / 2:31 pm

    Thank you. He would have been 67 this month. I could only imagine what he could have accomplished.


  15. John W. Howell July 26, 2015 / 9:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing Susanne. Wonderful picture of a better time and I want to thank you for introducing all of us to your brother. I’m sure he would have done much in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Susanne Leist July 27, 2015 / 1:11 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that. I hope life is changing for the better for you.


  17. Dan Antion July 29, 2015 / 7:07 am

    I am so sorry to read this story. The sadness of losing your brother followed by the nasty behavior of the very people who could have helped ease your pain. Thanks you for sharing this with us in support of the Cherished blogfest. This is a nice tribute to a wonderful man.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Susanne Leist July 29, 2015 / 12:53 pm

    Thank you. Too bad we had to sue a Fortune 500 company. Some hard years.


  19. Guilie Castillo August 1, 2015 / 12:25 am

    What a gorgeous tribute to your brother, Susanne. You made him come alive for those of us who didn’t know him–and now he’s reached out, through you, to touch more lives. Thank you for that.
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne Leist August 1, 2015 / 11:52 pm

      Thank you. You just brought a tear to my eyes. I’m happy I could make him feel alive again.


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