David

This blog is very personal. It’s about the loss of my brother. If you want to skip this and wait for my next blog about strategy or environment or sustainability, please feel free to do so. But this is something I have to do.

My oldest brother, David Nadler, died earlier this month. David and I had been distant, at best, for decades. When he received his cancer diagnosis in 2012, many things changed. One of them was our relationship.

David had dominated my youth. He set the bar. I wanted to be like him and I wanted to be accepted and validated by him. His seeming distance intimidated me, annoyed me and inspired me. Some good bit of my professional success can be traced to the burning desire to prove myself to him and to be worthy of him.

By our twenties, we had gone our separate ways – geographically, professionally and politically. We saw each other at family events and in family crises. We met infrequently as our paths crossed, at an office in New York City or a pub in London. We could work together when needed, but kept our distance. Our mother attributed this to David and me being too much alike; frankly neither of us cared enough to agree or disagree with her.

After David’s diagnosis, with David nearing 65 and me nearing 60, with our children grown (and some of them getting along with each other better than David and I did), we connected. As we joked, we didn’t reconcile; we had never “conciled” to begin with. We didn’t pretend; we openly referred to our growing relationship as one of the “silver linings” of his cancer.

DAN and SENWe spent time together with increasing frequency and ease. We found much we had in common, including music, books, movies and TV shows. Our mother was right: we were very much alike, even both guilty of “dreaming in PowerPoint”. We differed in many ways too. We cheerfully argued over our disagreements, especially in culture and politics. I castigated him for believing The Wall Street Journal; he pitied me for believing The New York Times; and we discovered we both really relied on The Economist.

For readers of this blog who are waiting for the applicable lessons, here are two:

  1. It’s never too late. While David and I had a meaningful relationship for only two short years, I will treasure that relationship and those two years for the rest of my life. As I told David, someone asked if I regretted that we hadn’t connected sooner. I could only quote the sage (Willie Nelson): “I could cry for the time I’ve wasted, but that’s a waste of time and tears.”
  2. Don’t let the differences obscure the agreements. After David’s last battle with his cancer began, we found ourselves spending New Year’s Eve together in a New York hospital. As we argued politics, we found we were about 98% in agreement on climate change, its causes, and what should be done about it. Who knew? What might we have accomplished if we had realized and acted on our areas of agreement over the years, instead of focusing on our disagreements?

But this isn’t about useful lessons. This is about my brother, whom I came to realize I loved and even liked, and who is now gone. To go on with my blog without giving him his due felt disrespectful and dishonest.

I will miss you, David. I will not forget you.

[Scott Nadler is a Senior Partner at ERM. To share this post, see additional posts on Scott’s blog or subscribe please go to snadler.com. Opinions on this site are solely those of Scott Nadler and do not necessarily represent views of those quoted or cited, ERM, its partners or clients.]