"Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon,
and a horizon is nothing save the limit of your sight." Rossiter Worthington Raymond
I read this quote in a book given to my sister-in-law - a book by Hospice volunteers and nurses, I think. It's a comforting quote, reminding me that my brother's love lives on, that it's only my own earthly limitations that keep me from seeing him. My big brother, older by just 13 months, died of brain cancer August 19th.
In a post on The Blessing Bowl a couple of years ago I wrote about the bond I share with my siblings and included this quote from Anna Quindlen:
"'Flesh of my flesh,' they may sometimes say in the marriage ceremony, but it's just not true. It is not even true of our children who are part of us; part of someone dear to us; loved by us; but not made of what we are made of. But our brothers and sisters: Well, it is all the same clay."Reading this quote now I am better able to understand why I feel as though I have lost an essential piece of myself. Why I sometimes feel unmoored, why I feel that someone has pulled up the family anchor and set my sisters and me adrift.
|The four of us on a trip to celebrate our youngest sister's 50th birthday in 2007.|
If you were a reader of this blog before this summer's hiatus you may remember my post from February 2011 in which I asked you to hope with me for my brother's recovery from surgery and for successful treatment. The surgery did go well. Radiation and chemo followed with an MRI every two months. Last fall one of those MRIs showed new tumor growth - inoperable this time. Gamma knife surgery followed, then Avastin (a drug that "starves" the tumor and inhibits growth) and more chemo. Hope remained strong and Rick was buoyed by love and support from friends and family. In June there was another setback - another tumor - another gamma knife treatment. It became obvious that the disease was no longer under control. My brother opted to stop chemo. In mid-July when I was there for a visit it was obvious that the disease was progressing more rapidly that any of us expected. I began making the nearly 4 hour drive most weekends to spend time with him. My sisters were there, too, with my brother's wife, twin sons, and step-daughter. My husband and brothers-in-law joined us when they could. On the night I arrived for my last visit, we gathered in the bedroom and shared a meal - I think there were 8 of us sitting on the bed, the floor, and in chairs around my brother's hospital bed. The next morning he was unable to swallow or speak. Soon he lapsed into a coma. We continued to sit with him, talking to him, bathing his forehead with a cool cloth, and holding his hand until he died a few days later.
Three generations of family gathered the next weekend for a beautiful memorial service and time together at the place we all love on Lake Norman. I updated my Facebook status with this:
Comfort has come from many sources this past week - your prayers and kind words, services at Oakwood Cemetery and Myers Park Presbyterian, and the in gathering of three generations of Witheringtons at this place by the water that my brother Ricky loved and we all love so much. The youngest generation tubed, swam, ate watermelon, and argued about which of them was having the most fun. Their parents sat on the porch over cocktails and put the little ones to bed on air mattresses. The sun set and the grandparents gave thanks for the life that was and the life that is.
Life goes on, one day at a time. The garden remains a comfort and a form of therapy and I plan to be sharing it with you again soon.