Lesson Learned: Bittersweet Appreciation

This past Friday and Saturday were tough days for me. On August 11, 2011, my brother died of lung cancer. He was alert one minute and the next gone. I wonder if he knew what was happening to him. Did he decide to go or was the choice made for him? Was he aware of what was going on?

He had been looped up on drugs to keep him pain-free. He knew who we were when we came to visit, but he’d repeat a sentence five times and not realize it. His hands shook when he poured creamer into his coffee cup. He’d take a sip, only to spill on himself. He was too stubborn to let us help. That was Mike.

Now, I look back and remember how much pain he’d been in. How the cancer ate at his spine and left him paralyzed from the waist down. We were selfish to want him to stay with us and to fight. We were guilty for wanting him to go so he wouldn’t have to suffer.

My brother Mike wasn’t perfect by any means. He was stubborn like a bent, rusty nail stuck in a board. No matter how hard you tried to pull on him, he’d stick to his way or no way. He was weathered in both looks and demeanor. Life had been hard for him, but he always found time to laugh or joke around. He could talk your ear off, and you were lucky if you completed one sentence. And then when he finished talking, the conversation was over.

I had days when I got along with him and days when I didn’t. I still remember both. Those memories are what made my brother, and I will keep both good and bad in my heart. I tell myself that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to grieve. And it’s okay to laugh at his idiosyncrasies and to cherish the times when he was a true brother. In fact, I bet wherever he is right now, he’s got a fishing rod in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and laughing at us, wondering why it took us so long.

Here’s to you, Mike. I love and miss you.


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