Dannie McBrayer is my eldest brother and he joined the ancestors of my family line yesterday on November 17, 2013 as he transitioned from this mortal plane of existence. Dannie is the first born male of my parents, Dolores “Pauline” (Alston) McBrayer and Jerry Lee McBrayer, Sr. His other siblings include Karen, Belinda, Jerry Jr., Denise, Amanda, Kevin, Marvin, Lance, and Randall. Dannie has one beloved and treasured child, his daughter Danielle McBrayer through his first marriage to Dorra Blue. He current wife is Lita McBrayer of Dallas, Texas.
Within traditional African philosophy, there is no distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world; the afterlife is regarded as simply a continuation of life on earth. Death is regarded as part of man’s destiny, a departure in which the physical body decays but the spirit moves on to another state of existence, As long as there is someone alive who can remember a deceased person, that person is considered as part of the “living dead.” After no living person remembers the name of the deceased, he or she becomes part of a collective, community immortality (New World Encyclopedia).
In the heritage of this very African concept, I wish to remember my brother here by sharing some of what I experienced and know about him. For me as a young boy, Dannie was one of my earliest and best examples of manhood. I grew up unabashedly admiring him for what he could do and who he was. It seemed to me that he was capable of incredible feats, fixing anything that needed repair and making all things possible. He was strong, a physically strapping product of my father’s formidable genetic inheritance for body build. Having played several sports in school, he was also a life long athlete with his favorite pastimes being basketball, football and tennis. Dannie was also a very handsome man with classically masculine features chiseled in his face and a confident, disarmingly warm smile. He was also very charming, possessing a personality that knew no stranger and generous with laughter or wit.
My brother Dannie was a deeply spiritual man. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness as we all were in my family, he had an enduring love for the Bible and God that he fondly called “Jah”. Rooted in his faith, Dannie also had a profound sense of community and oneness with humanity. He was a true man of the people, making friends easily wherever he went and leaving behind an impression through his deeds of kindness or service. I use to marvel and perhaps envy a bit how naturally he could make connections with complete strangers or how varied his associations where in all walks of like. He had the gift of ministry and in his best days preached a gospel of universal love.
A proverbial Jack of all trades and master of some, Dannie was skilled at many things. He was perhaps best known as an automobile mechanic, having chosen this trade very early in life. He had the mind of an engineer and loved to solve problems. A serial entrepreneur, he tried his hand at a number of businesses over the years. I was an under aged employee of his landscaping enterprise during my adolescent years in Dallas, Texas. The manner in which he worked me was certainly in violation of some labor laws, but I benefited from gaining early the value of industriousness and pride in craftsmanship. He was precise, reliable, and thorough. These are the elements of character and core values that I learned at the feet of my big brother.
Perhaps more than all else, Dannie is a head of our extended family clan. He loved his family and being family. With a strong sense of who we were and how we should be in the world, he modeled the values of fidelity to kin as a elder sibling. There were enough of us brothers and sisters for him to be a surrogate father to we younger ones and he fulfilled that needed capacity gladly. He continued a dedicated focus on young people in his roles as an uncle and member of congregations or other social networks. He taught me how to ride a bike, cut a manicured lawn, drive a car (manual shift), play chess, perform an oil change, put on a tie, shoot a jump shot, and swing a tennis racket. He showed me how to be a man.
One of Dannie’s greatest joys in life was chess. He had an all consuming affection and fascination with the game. It spoke to both his competitive spirit as well as Dannie’s formidable intellect. He was no casual player, investing himself in studying chess books and the Masters. At the same time, he was always willing to teach a novice the basics of the game as if he were its ambassador to the uninitiated. In chess, it is respectable for a player with no more reasonable moves available to resign in a gesture of dignity and pride by laying down his king piece on the board. For reasons too complex and unknowable for me to address here, Dannie gradually resigned from the game of life some time ago. We played our last chess match together online during my birthday last week on November 10th. Good game, my brother.