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Loving a Brother

September 26, 2009

Imagine being a eight year old boy.

Now, think of all the activities that young boys spend their time doing—things like soccer, football, music lessons and playing with friends. Now imagine doing those things while your younger brother spent his afternoons alone with Mommy.

Families with cancer still have fun.

Families with cancer still have fun.

Think about being a an eight year old boy sleeping under blue cotton sheets with printed pictures of Han Solo and the Star Wars gang as your younger brother slept in the same room under the same kind of sheets. But you were more aware of the night.

Imagine that you had to stay at the neighbors house  when you had the chicken pox instead of being fawned over by your family.

Instead of two little boys giggling and hiding under their own little bit of pop culture with flashlights, one would lie awake listening to the respirator while the other would cough, or throw up. His immune system so debilitated that he couldn’t be around any germs, especially the chicken pox. His alone time with Mommy was traveling back and forth to the hospital for radiation treatments. Treatments that had yet to be perfected for children. Treatments that left burns on his head. Imagine waking up during his first seizure, well first as far as you knew anyway, screaming. Then having to sit there while everyone attended to him, not you.

Think about being old enough to understand that something was terribly wrong, but having absolutely no control over it. Consider that your older siblings and parents were all preoccupied with a family member’s illness and your youngest sibling was too small to comprehend or even remember what was happening.  Little children are inherently selfish. They can be giving and loving and forgiving too. But what is remembered is very self-oriented.

Lastly imagine wearing your best suit, and walking away from a graveyard without your brother just days after your own 9th birthday. What would you think? How would you behave? What would you expect? All the drama of the previous year had gone, but you’re left with a lot of grief, and fear. The fear that this could happen to you. That your mom could die, your dad could die, your sisters and brothers could die. That you could die.

Now consider yourself standing at the same grave 30 years later just after your daughter’s oncology appointment, the name tag still attached to her ankle. Who could die now?

Second generation Cancer.

Second generation Cancer.

This is my interpretation of my husband’s experience. Everyone who experiences a death from pediatric cancer has just that, their own experiences.  Each family celebrates the death in their own way. Jesse’s mom just went to his grave for his birthday. Anika requested that pink balloons be released. Even within one family the associations and feelings vary from person to person. We must remember the dead, and we must remember to love the living, even as life spans are lengthening, life is too short.

All I know is that 30 years later at the grave of  a little boy I never met, as I walked away while my youngest child was screaming that it was time to leave, I turned around, stepped back toward the grave then looked at my husband and said,

If it is this hard to leave him now, what was it like 30 years ago?

Walking away from the graveyard that first day, has to be one of the hardest things a father, child, mother, cousin, aunt, husband, wife, college roommate, sister, brother, you get the idea, ever has to do.

Gg decided to decorate with flowers.

Gg decided to decorate with flowers.

Isa & Gg placing the flowers.

Isa & Gg placing the flowers.

Gg decided to decorate with flowers and everyone joined in.

Everyone joined in.

She wore his hat today.

To honor him, she wore his hat today.

He was only five.

He was only five.

The thirtieth anniversary of his death. This grave may have been visited more this year than it has in a long, long time. This post has been a tear filled writing session.  Likely it is because, I am too close to being a mother who has to walk away from her child forever.  From what I understand, you go on, but you never get over.

Thanks for reading.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2009 10:19 am

    A touching post, and just heartbreaking to think about. I just have no other words.

  2. Kelley Wilson permalink
    October 2, 2009 4:10 pm

    Oh eebe. sheebe… I know that I often respond differently from most people to most emotions. Usually backward. I must have already felt sad and empathetic because now I have moved to feeling proud and envious of your strength and power to harness the sense of loss that consumes us when loved ones are sick, dying or gone. And by the harness, tame it to a seemingly bearable burden.

    I cannot decsribe in a comment post the energy of love that passed into me thinking of you, Money and the girls and of all people, really, while reading this. What a powerful experience to have not only lived through, to have even second-hand in stories your families share.

    In my own life, I could have used you and your strength about 10 years ago when I lost the… drive is the wrong word, but the essence of my spirit and wanted to, tried to die. I could not image living life without those I loved and they were sick and leaving me behind. Leaving me lonely. I mourned the lost of two unborn babies, the loss of a failed marriage and of my self-inflicted failure and the deaths of two of my best friends in what has been the worse two years of my 40. I don’t know if I got over it but I did go on.

    I went on, realizing that there are people out there feeling infinite depths of sadness to core of their soul. That the day to day struggle is hard enough and loss hurts forever. And I am here hopefully to help, to listen, to love.

    As usual I don’t know what I am trying to say exactly except I admire your courage. I acknowledge your pain. Please remember you have many fans who love and are pulling for you and for Isa.

    Please keep sharing.

  3. October 2, 2009 1:55 pm

    This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday –

    • October 2, 2009 5:18 pm

      Thanks so much to whomever nominated me for this,and thanks to Schmutzie for thinking it was a good post. She’s a writer you know!

  4. September 30, 2009 2:29 pm

    aw jei jei i’m cryin. i love you. mei mei.

  5. Kelly permalink
    September 30, 2009 7:51 am

    Good thing you are not here (at the office today). I would hate for you to see my tears right now. Hugs to all…

  6. Natascha Howe permalink
    September 28, 2009 8:57 am

    i don’t even know how to respond to that. words can’t express the deep sadness i feel for Papa G — what he had to endure then and now… How strong you are to not only go through this daily but to write it down afterward. You are an exceptional mother and wife…

    love, hugs, and prayers from your South Bend family.

  7. Tammy Stockdale Boldery permalink
    September 28, 2009 7:31 am

    As I sit here at work on this Monday morning, your email was one of the first one’s that I read. I have lots of emotion going through me right now. First, is deep sadness. I am taking deep breaths trying not to cry. I can’t even imagine what you and others have gone through and are going through. Second, I feel guilty because my kids and grandchild are healthy up to this point. Not that I want mine to be sick, but I want everyone elses to be healthy. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. God bless.

  8. September 27, 2009 8:28 am

    I caught myself forgetting to breathe while reading this post. To be able to write so eloquently while you are experiencing such intense pain is a rare gift. You must be helping a tremendous number of people.

  9. Linda J. permalink
    September 26, 2009 3:23 pm

    Aw, you need to write a book. This is very moving. So is there a genetic component or is it just crazy coincidence or what?

  10. September 26, 2009 11:59 am

    Been there, done that….twice.

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