Remembering Frank Pierce

Frank Pierce died three years ago today. The kindness and compassion Frank showed me and the many he loved and cared about was genuine and loving and sincere beyond description. Those who knew him knew a man whose caring and commitment to others, brain injury survivors and their loved ones were what I witnessed the most, was matched by few and outdone by none. He touched the hearts of those who knew him, including mine.
Not long after Frank died I was talking with his wife, Jane. I told her how Frank would say, Love you, brother, to me, and I thought it wonderful that was an expression he used with people. “No,” Jane said, “That was just for you.” Like I said, Frank touched my heart. He touches it still.
Frank left this world, but not our hearts, two years ago today. Having said that, I am republishing a piece I wrote on December 9, 2008, one day after Frank died. I loved and love Frank very much.

– Peter


Remember to say I love you to those you love. I don’t know what it is about those three often maligned and misused words, I love you, that makes them as special as they are, but I do believe that when they are meant, they should be said. Not only to the many who deserve to hear it, but by the many who deserve to say it.

My friend Frank died at 7:35 yesterday morning with the two he loved and who loved him the most by his side. Like many others, I loved Frank. And whenever I’d say, Love you Frank, he’d smile at me and say, Love you brother. And I knew he meant it. I can still hear his voice saying those words to me, Love you brother. He meant them too, all three of them.

The words I love you are remarkably hard for some of us to say. For still others, they are difficult to hear. Still others avoid the phrase because it is has been used as a tool for manipulation and, in some cases, cruel manipulation, in too many scenarios.

However, I think the only necessary guideline for saying it is honesty. Say it if you mean it. Your history, those who betrayed you, used the phrase to manipulate you in one way or another, denied your ever hearing the phrase, none of these people deserve so much control over you today that they stop you from saying it at all.

A woman I love very much said to me recently, “Peter, you love everybody.” Not true. Not by a long shot. Rest assured, there are people I don’t love and there I even people I dislike, some intensely. But what I do believe in is letting those you feel love for know it. While there is certainly such as thing as too much hate in the world, there is no such thing as too much love. However, there is such a thing as not enough love – and not enough expression of the love that is there.

The first game the Yankees played after Yankee captain Thurmon Munson’s tragic death in 1979 was in Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles catcher was Rick Dempsey, a former Yankee and back-up catcher for Munson. The Yankee manager was Billy Martin. Dempsey sent a note to Martin in the Yankee clubhouse before the game. In it he told Martin that he, like so many others, loved Thurman and he, like so many of us, did not always remember to tell people he loved that he loved them. And so, in this note, he told Martin that he loved him.

And so if you love people in your life, whether you love them as friends or more, tell them. Use the words I love you – all three of them. I would ask the few of you who might feel saying I love you is a wimpy thing to do why saying it is so hard for you to do? Were it an act of weakness, to say them, it ought to be easy, no?

Take care of yourselves in life. Love each other as best you can. And when you do, say so.

I am going to miss you terribly, Frank.

Love you brother.


A man I’ve grown to love very much over the years will likely leave this world soon. He is under hospice care as I write these words. His name is Frank. I’ve never known anyone more loving, nor have I ever known anyone with their feet more firmly planted on the granite landscape of integrity. When he does leave this world there will be a little less light in the day and a little more light in heaven, of that I am sure.

Like far too many of us, Frank is a brain injury survivor. It is in the world of brain injury that I met him and discovered his passion for justice and fairness, his wondrous tenacity and his seemingly endless willingness to give to others while asking nothing for himself in return. He is, I might add, well known for speaking his mind. More often than not, lovingly and gently. But, believe me; he can ratchet up the furnace when needed. Not a problem.

On one occasion, Frank spoke his mind directly to me in a way that I will never forget, always treasure, and, in a way that caught me completely off guard. I had just arrived at a podium to speak at conference hosted by the Brain Injury Association of New York. I can’t remember why I was speaking that day but I do know room was packed with an audience numbering in the hundreds. Having arrived at the podium the first words I said were, “I love all of you.” And then it happened. Unbeknownst to me, Frank was sitting in the center of the audience directly in front of the podium. He stood straight up and said in a loud voice filled with heart and soul, “And we love you, Peter!” I knew he meant it. Frank meant everything he said and you can’t say that about too many people, at least I can’t.

Frank told me a few years ago that words I’d said to him had helped him decide not to give up. Who Frank is and who he has been to me has helped me not to give up. Now, in this moment, as Frank moves ever closer to his departure, I find myself wanting to work even harder in life to give hope to those who feel there is none, help someone unfurrow their brow, lift their chin, square their shoulders, raise their eyes.

While Frank may soon leave this world, he will never leave my heart, nor the hearts of the many, many people who love him dearly. Frank will always be in our hearts. Death doesn’t get everything – not even close.