How do you deal with losing a sibling? This is someone you live with every day for years and suddenly they are ripped from your life. It is one of those “life events” as they call them that will send stressors cascading through every facet of your life. A time like this is something you want to forget some days, but struggle to remember on others; because if you begin to let it go you fear missing that person forever.
It has been seventeen years since I stood with my family and so many friends for the funeral of my younger brother and only sibling Kevin. It was a surreal time, something I found so bewildering. It was not my first dealing with the loss of a family member, but certainly the first of anyone this close. If I only knew it was the beginning of a series of such events, preceding the death of my father and mother also I might have felt much more dread.
I remember the day my mother, a Registered Nurse knocked on our door to share her suspicion about my brother’s condition. At that time my mother’s proclivity for being correct about symptoms was just as sharp as always, but we hadn’t experienced this with people we loved and held dear. We wanted to believe she was mistaken, but she was not. Kevin had struggled with unexplained symptoms for quite a while and no medical professional had been able to give an explanation.
I also remember talking to my brother alone later that afternoon. We spoke of our faith and his salvation. Knowing that was secure, I told him we would take care of the rest and I began to pray for peace and strength as he began a shorter journey than we could know to his last day.
I was blessed by that time to know the truth about the value of family and time versus the collection of material possessions. But the lesson was echoed in the next 100 days as people smothered my brother with affection and gifts, because they had no idea how to deal with the declining health of a twenty nine year old loved by everyone. Nothing material brought to my brother made any change in his medical condition. He continued to wither away as the disease and the treatments drained his life from his veins.
By Christmas it was clear he would not survive much longer. As with any family facing this truth we feared losing him before that day. He was weaker every day and making it another was a huge accomplishment. Sometime near Christmas a group from the church we grew up in came to sing Christmas carols. I had managed to hold my tears, not shedding any in my brother’s presence, but on that night I could no longer do so. It was admitting publicly what I knew privately.
I was not with my brother when he died. My wife and I did spell my parents one night, staying in the room with my brother where he eventually breathed his last. It was a hard night as we listened to him struggle to breathe. When we got the call a few nights later we made the short trip to my parent’s home to be with them.
My wife tried to cover my ears as the funeral crew rolled the gurney out of the house across the wooden deck, but I heard the sound and knew what it meant. My brother was gone. I would never again enjoy his laugh or eccentric ways.