My brother George left this world one year ago today at age 57. At the time, I considered it one of life’s great ironies that a man who never drank—and who was unfailingly obsessive about his diet and weight—died so young of liver cirrhosis.

My brother was a dedicated servant to his chiropractic patients and most in his element when giving advice about nutrition and health. He lived and breathed health-related issues far beyond chiropractic, and was always ready to impart his knowledge to anyone who needed it—without asking anything in return and despite his own illness.

My brother’s liver disease was already “advanced stage” when he was diagnosed in 2001. So it is no small miracle that George managed to survive eleven more years. I have little doubt that his self-imposed regimen of strict diet, daily supplements, and constant self-deprivation afforded him those extra years of life; this is a testament to my brother’s courage and determination in the face of great adversity. But I am not one to rewrite history; anyone who knew George could immediately see he was a brilliant mind with a tortured soul.

The riddle of my brother’s death has troubled me for the past year. How does someone like that contract liver cirrhosis? I never believed George’s explanation that he “took too much beta carotine" (a form of Vitamin A). Though my brother went to the grave insisting he was straight, I always suspected otherwise. This was a man far more enthralled watching rippling male muscles on a power-lifting podcast than spending time with his closest female friend—a cute chick a quarter century his junior whom I always suspected of being his “beard.” When my brother’s symptoms first presented in the mid-1990’s, my first thought was that he had AIDS.

So I sat down at the computer the other day and began researching liver cirrhosis to “connect the dots” between male sexual acts and the disease that took the life of a man plainly uninterested in women. Sure enough, with a few quick clicks of the mouse, I learned that unprotected anal sex can lead to Hepatitis C, which, left untreated, can cause liver cirrhosis and eventual liver failure. I recalled those weekends my brother spent alone in the Poconos with his closest buddy during the late 1980’s, and it was not hard to put two and two together.

While I admire my brother’s drive to become a chiropractor and his commitment to remaining functional and self-sufficient while facing down his illness (amazingly, despite a fully gangrenous leg from an unhealed weight-lifting injury, he kept up his bodybuilding and nutrition regimen until the day he died), I consider his inability to find happiness to be his biggest failure in life. And how could it be otherwise? No one can be happy denying his essential nature in favor of putting on a misguided “front.”

I still miss my brother, and probably always will. It feels like a cruel joke to have lost my oldest brother without ever truly knowing him. I hope that his tormented soul is in a better place and at peace; I hope he was able to move on to wherever he was meant to go, and can now be fully himself.

Here on earth, he is missed and will never be forgotten.