Sunday, February 22, 2015
How do you say a final good-bye to someone who has been in your life for as long as you can remember? Someone who has known you through the good, the bad and the ugly and loves you anyway just because? Someone who shares the same parents, sisters, DNA, and early memories?
My little brother died yesterday. I have trouble using "passed" or "passed on." I don't know why. I just do. He was only 54 years old. He was born June 27, 1960 in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, 23 months after me. I didn't want him. I wanted Mama to take him back to the hospital. Supposedly, we can't remember things that happen to us before the age of 3. Freud called that "childhood amnesia" and thought that around age 9 we erase or lose early memories. I read once that our earliest memories are usually something scary or traumatic. (I am practicing amateur psychology here.) And maybe I am confusing his birth with that of my sister who is three years younger than me. I do remember sitting on a bed with him and letting him roll off into the floor. He survived that, but I worried about it. No, I did not push him. By that time, I imagine he had grown on me.
I choose to remember him as he is in this photo. That's when I knew him best. I left Spruce Pine behind at the age of 19, never living at home again. We were typical kids. We played together a lot. Spent time at our grandparents' farm playing outside. Weekends camping out at Lake James. Eating foot-long hot dogs on Friday nights because Ma was too tired to cook after a long week of work. Throwing snowballs on days off from school. Fighting. Saying mean things. He had to put up with three sisters. He was always getting stitches or a cast. I decided one day that dropping Coke bottles out of the window of my grandparents' garage would be fun. I didn't know he was under that window. That scared me plenty. Lots of blood and stitches. I remember Daddy made me take him along with me to football games. I didn't like that one bit and I am sure I let him know it. David and I played with football trading cards. We made forts in the woods. Growing up in our house wasn't easy. We all carry scars from our childhoods, but I am not going to remember those or dwell on that.
David's kidneys failed. He was never really a candidate for a transplant. He talked as if that was going to happen early in the diagnosis. We all kind of went along with him, but we knew it wouldn't happen. He didn't follow his doctors orders and his body seemed to be in no shape to fight it other than with dialysis three times a week. I spent time with him at Christmas at my mom's house. All of us kids were there. I am the only one who left Spruce Pine, so they have spent a lot more time together over the years. They may fuss about it, but they are always there for each other. My mom and sister took good care of him. As good as he would let them. I am grateful that my sister called me and that I went to see him in the hospital and in the nursing facility where he spent his last 24 hours. I am grateful to Hospice of the Blue Ridge for their support and for keeping him comfortable. The nurses and caregivers at Brookside Rehabilitation and Care were amazing, too.
I think that he is now with Daddy. They are sitting on a boat in the middle of a lake, talking about Duke's win over Carolina, about the start of a new NASCAR season, smoking a cigarette (if you are allowed to do that in heaven) and just hanging out. The weather is hot, but not too hot. They don't care about fishing, just about riding in the boat. They have an endless supply of gas and a good motor that will always start. There is also an endless supply of Kentucky Fried Chicken in their heaven. The fat content and calories don't matter and there is no more special, bland diet to follow. You see, I think that is what heaven is all about. You are at your happiest time with the people you love. There are no more worries or illness. You can watch your loved ones who are still on Earth, knowing that they will join you someday. They will stumble through life the best they can, much the same way you did, without your help. And that it will all be okay in the end.
Rest in peace, David. You were loved.