It’s Weird

Tomorrow, it will be three weeks since my older brother died at the age of 54, from Pancreatic cancer-by the time they caught it, it was everywhere- stomach, kidneys, liver…everywhere.  He was 18 months older than I and was a very quiet person- mainly because after I came along, I rarely shut up!  He had a great sense of humor, a sharp wit and a good heart.  He was thoughtful and kind; always remembering birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions. He was very dear that way. He was a wonderful Father to two precious children- one is 12 and the other 14.  He was always involved in their school activities and sports activities- as so many Dads are these days. He was a coach, volunteered at their church and was also a ham-radio operator. He also leaves behind a sweet wife of 15 years, who loved him deeply and is suffering his loss horribly. My folks are doing the best they can along with my younger brother. We are all handling our grief in our own way.

I am writing because I miss him.  When we were young, we had all sorts of photos together because my Mother loved to take photos, and let’s be honest, we were adorable.  As we grew older and our lives grew busy, we lived in different states, and we didn’t have the opportunity to take photos as before unless my Mother took them. I was too busy talking and laughing and soaking it all in to stop and take a photo- mostly because the smart phone hadn’t come out yet (I am old) and then afterwards, because it seemed wrong for me in the end because we just never had done that.  I just wanted to burn his image into my brain- his voice, his blue eyes that came from our Pop,  his determined attitude in the face of this horrible cancer.  He was so brave- to the very end he handled things his way.  He wanted to be at home and he was. He used the minimum of painkillers, choosing instead to deal with incredible pain, rather than be “out of it” the remainder of his days.  He didn’t want to miss his last months with his children and wife.

I am sending this out to the void that is the internet -just because I can. Writing is cathartic and it is how I am working through things.  I am a Christian so I pray through the sadness, but I am not trying to avoid it or down play or be ashamed of it or medicate it away -for some that is necessary- I am not judging here. I miss my brother. It is right that I should feel sad, that I grieve his loss and feel this rock that is sitting on my heart.  I am just going to wade through it and know that, in time, this ache will decrease a little- but until then, I will write.

 

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The Throw Away Things

Here it is, the 13th again. Four months have passed. I celebrated my birthday on 10/22 and got a call from Don’s wife and children, who sang the Birthday Song to me.  I can only imagine it was as  hard for them to sing it without him as it was for me to hear them sing, knowing Don’s voice was missing. So strange that something so seemingly meaningless, almost automatically done, could be so important.

In our family, we sing the Birthday Song. It’s “TRADITION!” and as the years have passed, it’s become more and more important to me. Not only as the listener, but as the singer as well.  It takes all of maybe two minutes- dialing the phone, waiting for the birthday victim to answer and the warbling of that timeless tune. Precious, wonderful and important. It just lets that other person know that TODAY, above all days, THEY are special and deeply loved. Two minutes.

Isn’t that always the way?  It is the little things that mean so much.  A kind word from a stranger, a card that a sweet friend sent just because they were thinking of you? It costs very little, sometimes, it is a throw-away gesture- but it can mean the world to the other person.

Today is my son’s 21st Birthday and I know that Don would have called. He was so good that way.  Holidays and Birthdays, he would call. It probably was a little meaningless nothing, something that we always do as a family but it mattered- it MATTERS.

As we go through the coming days, or weeks- I hope that when we think of calling someone just to say “hi”, or just to hear their voice for a moment because you miss them- we don’t delay- don’t shrug it off because something came up or it is too exhausting to call because texting takes less effort (texting is FINE, but it can’t be the only way we communicate). Face-timing is a modern miracle we don’t use enough! You can SEE your precious loved one right there! How incredible is that?  By hearing their voice or seeing their face, we can truly know how they are- hear something in their voice that we missed in texting, or see in their eyes what cannot be conveyed by a few quick key strokes.  Or, if you really want to be “old school” drop a card in the mail. I know it is stupid, but my heart leaps a little every time I get a card from my precious friend Jamie who lives in FL. I try and send her little care packages just to cheer her day- she does the same for me. It is filled with stupid things like candy or a cute hand towel – but she knows I am thinking of her and missing her and wishing her well.  My sweet Mother sends cards and includes articles she has cut out for me, photos she printed out at Walgreens, or just writes what is going on with her and Pop even if we have talked about it on the phone already.  I’ve kept them all.  Sure, eventually, I’ll be highlighted on “Hoarders” but for now, I’m keeping them!

Don’t dismiss what you do, the throw-away gestures, because what we “throw away” may be treasure to that other person.

 

 

 

 

Salt of the Earth

Friday the 13th, will mark 3 months since my brother passed away. Seems fitting. Friday the 13th being, for some, a dreadful day, filled with bad things and foreboding.  For me, since both of my darling children were born on the 13th, it was a happy day. Nothing bad associated with it, until 3 months ago.

Going back to his funeral, I remember riding to the cemetery, my sweet husband driving and my folks there with us.  We had just survived the funeral service- and it was a long drive and we were all behind the hearse and I watched as other cars passed our procession, busy and oblivious to the monumental event taking place.  Cars on the other side of the road kept going rather than pulling over for a funeral procession- perhaps this is just a Southern thing- to take a moment to pause and a person is taken to his final resting place, his family and friends in tow.  When we crossed over to the other township, we were met by officers directing traffic- it might seem a simple thing but it meant to much to my folks and to us. For a moment, the world stopped.

Gone is a good and kind man and yet the earth still spins.  There are so many precious and wonderful folks out there. They go about their daily lives, they are not famous, but they are important. They are the coaches, scout leaders, teachers, preachers,  volunteers, those who are quietly serving others, doing for their families- the silent but important folks. They are the salt of the earth and recently, it seems there are fewer and fewer of them on this planet.

I remember Matthew 5:13:13, “You are the sale of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot.”  The news, tv, sports and movies are all filled with narcissistic and vapid individuals, only taking and demanding to be the center of the universe.   Often it is hard to see the salty folks-those who are the pillars of communities with their quiet support and involvement. Serving others, leading by example, living lives of quiet, brave dignity. My brother was a quiet, private man. Never talking about himself, but just going about the business of being a good man, husband, father, son,  and brother.  He was a “salt of the earth” kind of fellow.   The world needs more salt, especially since July 13th.

 

The Thief

It’s been 68 days since my brother Don passed away from pancreatic cancer.  It had already metastasized to his liver, lungs and kidneys before they found it, so of course, there was little hope.

In the 8 months that he fought, and now the 2 months and one week since his death- I had found a name for grief. It is “Thief”.  It robs you of so many things- sleep, peace of mind, joy and even your voice.  It can manifest in so many ways and the hardest seems to be isolation.  The world continues to spin, people carry on their lives as if nothing has happened and yet there you are- in this bubble watching, folks moving on as if nothing has changed and yet, everything has changed.  The world is missing someone you love.

He came to me in a dream- I had a few minutes left before I had to get up so I rolled over and rested some more. He came into the house (one I knew to be a childhood home but did not recognize) and he was excited about something he had done. He was young and strong, tall and handsome and was laughing. I was caught up in his joy for a moment and then it hit me- he wasn’t supposed to be there- and I woke up in tears.

Since his diagnosis in November of 2016, I found the grief sitting in my throat.  It is weird to say that I know, but I found myself unable to speak at times.  The grief wrapping its’ hand around my throat and just SQUEEZING. I can feel it pressing against the sides of my throat, hard. It burns as the tears well up and stifles any communication other than a ridiculous squeak.  I sing, or at least did – but right now it is impossible. I go days or even weeks with this scratchy, horse voice and singing is completely out. I used to hit a high “C” without thinking. I’ve always been loud when I sing as well-  I’ve just always had that, singing at weddings, funerals and performing solos throughout my life in church and now- silence.

My niece had her 1st confirmation Monday night.  Something Don would have been at in the front row, beaming with pride as “Special Package” went through the ceremony.  He called his daughter that all the time because he considered her a gift. He loved his children and was so happy to be a Father. It “completed” him. He found his purpose in being a dad and it brought him such joy. His son turns 13 on the 22nd and it is the first birthday since his death. It is hard to think of them going through all these special days and events without their biggest supporter there-

It’s hard to be “left behind”. I know he is no longer suffering and as a Christian, I know where he is. I know he is healed from his horrible cancer and is probably enjoying a huge, delicious meal now with a big grin on his handsome face. But it is hard to be left -I miss him. Every day, every minute- I just miss him.  I am aware that my grief must be nothing compared to that of his wife and children and that burdens me too. I hate they are going through all these wonderful moments and events without him, knowing he would have been front and center, cheering them on.

Eventually, I know that things will get better and  will recover what has been temporarily stolen. It takes time and I am just wading through it like everyone else does. In the meantime, I’m staying busy and focus on the good still here. My sweet husband and children. My work, and I am crocheting a baby blanket for a friend who has 2 new grandbabies. New joy, new hope, new life.