Update- Monday April 27, 2015.
I was hoping I would get a few more years before I would have to write this, alas God had other plans.
I had the distinct priviledge of witnessing my brother take his final breath on Thursday, April 23rd, at 11:45 pm.
After our family trip to Gatlinburg, he seemed to be feeling worse. I made the decision to come and stay with my family and visit with him on April 17th. When I arrived it was obvious he wasn’t well, but I still felt hope.
As the days went by, the difference day to day was astounding, and soul crushing. He hadn’t eaten in in two weeks because of a neck tumor blocking his esophagus. Drinking was difficult for the same reason. He would take sips, which would result in very painful coughing fits that would sometimes last several minutes.
He was always thirsty, always in pain. He didn’t feel hungry, that urge had left him weeks ago.
Many family members and friends came, and showered him with love. My sisters laid by his side, rubbing his feet and legs. Helping him drink, wiping his face. We spent hours watching “Dirty Jobs,” because that what he wanted. ( I really didn’t mind, since I have a bit of a crush on Mike Rowe.)
Except to bathe and eat, my mom rarely left his side. The entire week, I can count the number of times she left him on one hand. She was his constant companion. She was his giver of pain relief in the form of medicine, the giver of love in the form of leg massages and quiet words. When she wept, she wept quietly so he couldn’t hear. I have never seen so much capacity to love.
On that night, she was completely spent. I was asked to stay with my Aunt, who was also giving her precious time and love to help my mom. The plan was to let my mom sleep in an adjoining room, and my Aunt and I would stay in the room with Justin. My brother was very attached to my mom, there were many times he called out for her, and she wanted to be close in case he needed her.
I arrived to Justin’s house around 10:30. I had spent a few hours with my Dad. We watched “Hot Fuzz” and laughed and laughed. The previous afternoon had been very stressful, so I took a break. I think it prepared me for what was to come.
My Dad dropped me off and went back home. We began getting settled in for bed. My Aunt Joy gave him a dose of his medicine, but he was still restless. I was laying on the bed next to him, thinking to myself…
My Brother isn’t going to be with us when I wake up in the morning…
Aunt Joy got down on her knees at the foot of the bed, and prayed, for what seemed like a very long time. I felt no comfort in this. I wish I did, but I just didn’t.
Aunt Joy laid on the floor next to the bed. We had started out sharing the bed, but she told me she wanted me to sleep next to “your baby brother.”
I laid next to him for a few more minutes. Watching him grimace in pain. I asked him if he needed anything.
He said he was thirsty.
I asked him what he wanted.
He said it didn’t matter.
I was dreading giving him that drink, because everytime he drank, he coughed, and it hurt him. I hated watching him cough and choke. I hated watching him in pain, but there was no hesitation. I got out of bed, and I grabbed a bottle of 7-up that was sitting on the shelf.
I went over to him, and gave him a towel, that he put down on his chest. This was his routine, because he would dribble whatever he was drinking due to his Bells Palsy.
I opened his drink, and handed it to him. He hesitated for a second, so he could get his strength to lift the bottle.
He took a drink of the 7-Up, and handed the bottle back to me.
He didn’t choke. He didn’t cough.
He laid back, relaxed and I watched his eyes open wide. He was looking at something. Intently.
Then I realized.
He was gone.
It was almost instant. It was almost as if he was waiting for that last drink.
My brother, who had been talking to me, moving around, and put his own towel down on this chest only seconds before, was gone.
The next few minutes were a blur. I grabbed my Aunt, I grabbed my Mom, I grabbed my sister in-law who was asleep on the couch.
I made a phone call to my sobbing sister. I called my husband and I couldn’t even speak.
At one point I collapsed onto the floor, because my legs wouldn’t hold me.
Family came. Friends came. Everyone he loved was with him until the funeral home came and took him.
I am crushed. My heart feels a void that can never be filled. I feel immense guilt for being the one who was with him when he passed. I feel such priviledge for being the one who was with him when he passed. I feel like I robbed my parents of a moment that should have been theirs.
The thing I feel the most?