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Monday, January 17, 2011

Close the rip, repair the tear

My brother died yesterday morning.  I realize the heaviness of that as an opening sentence.  It was an unexpected heart attack.  The first thing my husband said was, "He's the strongest person I know."  Yes, but his heart had forgotten that.  Or didn't let his brain know that it was struggling.  He survived esophageal cancer.  Another heavy sentence considering that the survival rate is only 5%.  But the complication is that he often had indigestion due to the extensive surgery for the cancer.  So when he had nausea perhaps he mistook it for an everyday occurrence.  We do adapt don't we?  Usually that is a good coping mechanism but sometimes it is not.  He decided to get help when his hands went numb and then he collapsed before he could get to the ER.   His two beautiful daughters and his lovely wife of 40 years are left behind.  They had taken a walk together in the morning, he had rototilled the yard and then lifted weights.   All on a beautiful summery winter's day in Southern California.

The hardest part of all this is imagining that the things he worked so hard to create are now just abandoned.  Or maybe not abandoned but waiting and wondering. Years of making his corner lot absolutely beautiful.  Fruit trees bare but with a promise of lusciousness soon.  His racing pigeons looking anxiously from behind the cage wire to see him bringing feed in the early morning.   His dog confused that he didn't come home this time.  The favorite chair patiently expecting the weight of his body.  He had a wonderful sense of place and loved his family and home. This is all so very sudden and final.

Grief for me is like some sea creature.  Moving to envelop and explore a memory and then moving on, changing color to indicate emotion.  A huge sea creature that barely fits inside my body and threatens my breathing from time to time.

I hadn't spoken to him in five years.  A rift, a rip, a tear in our relationship, a disagreement over some inherited property.  This is the most difficult type of grief for me.  The loss coupled with the regret over missed opportunities to stitch back together the relationship.  Close the rip, repair the tear.  A repaired thing can be stronger because of what is added.  Understanding.  Forgiveness.  Resolve to try again.  A commitment to love in spite of an unexpected cost.  I do not want to dwell in regret.  I will miss him.  I will think of him often and I will try to love better and forgive more easily.  Yes, he was the strongest person we knew and in the coming days we shall draw on his legacy of strength.

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