A couple of weeks ago, my brother came to visit and my life changed
This particular brother (there are 3 more and a sister) has terminal cancer and was coming to see myself and my youngest brother for what was to be our last visit. He’d been on a short road trip with my eldest brother and the plan was a 4 night stay here in Vancouver and then home to New Brunswick.
He and I had, over the years, had our issues. Not surprising in a family of 6 kids, several of whom liked booze and drugs more than themselves. And it was an unsaid rule in our family that you didn’t talk about the past. You just got over it. So I was a bit nervous about spending that much time alone with him.
Although I’d been warned that Mike had lost some weight, I wasn’t prepared for the change that had taken place since I’d seen him last. It was like someone pulled a plug and part of him had drained away, taking several years of his life with it.
We got back to my place and after a short visit, he headed to bed. The trip had definitely worn him out. He got up in the morning coughing and kept coughing until he was sick. When he came out of the bathroom and I expressed concern he said it was normal. It happened every morning. But this morning was different. He was in enough pain to actually sit on my couch crying. I sat behind him with my hands on his back until the pain attack passed. The reality of what was happening hit me in that moment. He was dying. Maybe not today, but soon.
The next morning at 5 am I had to call an ambulance. For the first time since he’d gotten sick he had lost control of his body. He fell in the bathroom and couldn’t get back up and it scared him. Once he was admitted, they did a brain scan and found 2 tumors that were pressing against the part of the brain that controls movement. Hence the difficulty with walking, use of his hands and the nausea. For the next week, the goal was to get him well enough to fly back to NB so that he could die near his daughter. We had a ways to go, as his body was being wracked with pain so fierce it looked like a seizure. And he walked like he was drunk. It was a heartbreaking, scary situation for everyone.
And then amazing things started to happen
He shared with me that he believed everything happens for a reason. He couldn’t figure it out yet, but he just knew there was a reason he was here. We started to talk about what he believed would happen when he died. He told me that although he didn’t know the answer to that question, he did know there was a higher power and deeper meaning than what was known in this life. We talked about connection and energy, spirit and intuition. He told me that he had found peace at one point and wanted that back. Before he left, he and his wife had not been getting along and hadn’t spoken in a while. When he had arrived at my home it was to the point that he felt he never wanted to speak to her or see her again. While in the hospital we talked about how he might heal that, at least to a point of finding peace and he was able to do that. They began to talk and plan. My younger brother came to visit him several times and during those visits they healed years of upset, resentment and anger, leaving love in it’s place.
When his pain attacks would hit, I would put my hands on him and hold him until it passed. It was amazing to me for a couple of reasons. First, that he trusted me enough to allow it to happen and second that I was able to just be with it. No tears or upset. Just hold the space for him to get through it. What a gift.
After a week in hospital, much turmoil about how to get him home, many blessed visits and healing, he was flew back to NB and entered the palliative care unit.
This is what he left me with
Leaving things unsaid or unresolved will steal away any hope you have of a peaceful exit. And there is clearly a higher purpose that guides us. He was right about the idea that there was a reason for him being in that hospital so many miles from home. I believe it was to give all of us a chance to heal and connect as well as to give me the courage to accept the gift of being with another’s pain.
I love you big brother. Because of you, I am forever altered.
As of this posting he rests easy in NB with the love and support of friends and family. He is ready and wanting to move on to what’s waiting for him on the other side and I pray every day that he is carried home on the wings of Angels.
December 17th, 2013 Mike passed away in New Brunswick. There’s a big party happening on the other side.