Five down, one to go.

Well, today is the last birthday in the family before mine.  Unlike the other birthdays I am unable to be there.  I know family members end up living other places but I have never gotten used to you being so far away.  And never more so than this year.  I felt a sense of desperation that you were so far away as Steve made this one life changing decision that forever changed us all.  We talked about that a little in February, I so wanted everyone in one place.  When you were able to change your schedule the relief I felt was overwhelming.  Though still emotional over what was to come, I felt calmer and less hysterical.  We would all be together.  I could not imagine you not here with us.

While I know your life will continue to take you to new adventures and places, I still regret the distance of land and time between us.  I miss your calm and healing presence, my sister.

Every (damn) Day

Every (damn) day I miss Steve.  The holidays just make me miss him more.  Every year Steve wrote a Christmas letter.  He would take one word and write a paragraph that started with a letter from the word.  This year Polly wrote a beautiful letter using the word “traditions”.  It was a great way to honor Steve, so thank you Polly.  I know this was not an easy thing to do.

Every (damn) day as the holidays approach, I find myself feeling more and more vulnerable.  When making the Christmas calendar for my parents this year (oops, that’s a secret…don’t tell mom and dad) I was often distracted by pictures of Steve.  The memories the pictures evoked whisked me away and I found myself floundering.  They are all happy memories, but also reminders we won’t be able to create new memories of Steve, with Steve.

Every (damn) day I carry Steve with me (right here I could say, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” but I won’t).  He is tucked into my heart, and my purse.  Yes, my purse.  The coral heart Becky gave us all to hold the day we said good-bye to Steve, the fishing flies (kept in a butterfly container so I don’t poke myself rummaging in my purse).  I also keep the memorial pamphlet and the letter I had Greg read at the service. 

I read these often to remind myself how much laughter was part of Steve’s life.  I cry but I also laugh remembering what a personality he had.  I will need to remind myself of this often in the next week or so.  If he could he would make us laugh and laugh often.  Especially when the tears start to show.  Steve had a way of not letting people take themselves too seriously.  I need a little of that right now.

So here’s to you Steve. My good-bye letter that Greg read for me at the service in February.   Greg described it as a love letter to my brother.  That doesn’t sound the least bit creepy.

I have been doing a lot of writing about Steve the last few days, one would think I am out of things to say.  Anyone who knows me will know I always have something else to say.

Sometimes when someone passes everyone talks about how wonderful and perfect the person was.  So let me start by saying Steve teased me constantly, tricked me over and over (I fell for the same prank more than once), knew exactly what buttons to push, and he was hugely competitive sometimes he would do anything to win.  He hated to lose to anyone especially his youngest sister and we had to play Boggle with a dictionary to catch the words he would make up.  When he realized he would never win that game he refused to play. 

Now that I have that out in the open, let me say Steve was wonderful and perfect.  He took me fishing even though he knew I would talk the entire time and scare the fish away.  When I was 15 he took me to college with him where I spent my spring break attending classes.  I did not know how much I would love that, but he knew I would.  When I was 18 and he was 26 he took me with him to one of his baseball tournaments in Eastern Washington.  When we got back I got sick and he stayed on the floor with me for three days and brought me anything I needed.  He always made me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

We watched some videos of Steve this weekend and I was reminded of how vibrant he was, how much making others laugh and be happy was important to him.  I believe Steve showed how he loved others by his actions…baking, making us laugh, teaching us to fish, and remembering little details about us.  How hard these last few months must have been for him as some of these avenues slipped away from him.  How hard it must have been for him to watch our hearts break when he spent his whole life making us laugh.  But he never lost his sense of humor, making us laugh till the end, despite our tears.

We honor Steve with stories, memories and laughter.  Polly, Maddie and Kellen will have no doubts how much Steve is loved and missed.  Polly brought out the best in Steve and I see many pieces of Steve in Maddie and Kellen.   They embody many of Steve’s qualities and will find their own way to pass on his legacy. 

There are so many things I do not know about my brother.  In this last year I got to meet him many times over through how other people see him.  

I am proud to be his sister.  He is beautiful.

In Your Living Years

Why, I ask, am I here?  In your living years you asked me to go to Sun Valley with you and your family many times.  I never did.  Why…Look at the name, “SUN” Valley.  I knew it would be hot.  You know I don’t like the heat.  Or hiking, biking, running, tennis, any number of other things to do in Sun Valley…any kind of exercise really.  I never could figure out why you wanted me to go.  Probably to share the price of the condo?

But here I am, in Sun Valley.  Hiking.  In the sun.  Not in your living years.  Why?  To help spread your energy in this place you lived, laughed, loved.  I wanted to be part of this…I really did, but I did not want to hike to Baker Lake.  Before you left us I asked if you would want part of yourself to be taken to Yellowstone.  That I could do, I can drive there.  No hiking required.  But no, you just wanted to be left at Baker Lake. 

I was not sure I could do this hike.  I came, but I expected to either wait at the house for everyone to get back…or maybe try to hike but stop part way and read will everyone came down.  A couple of days before the hike I had a dream.  In the dream we were trying to get you up a river bank.  We laughed so hard because you kept making jokes using one liners like “with a little help from my friend” or “lean on me”.  The whole dream was pulling you, and laughing so hard we would fall back down, in the mud.  I woke up laughing.  You motivated me to do try the hike I was dreading so much.

I talked to you as I hiked, relived memories, and I cursed you a few times.  I really don’t like to hike.  Give me strength to finish Steve.  Why in the hell did you choose this place? Remember when you took me to college with you?  How about our joke when you would call me on the phone and ask me “Who is this?”  Another fly just bit me, thanks Steve.  I miss the way you tell a story, the way you giggle.  I hope you know how much I love you, look, I am hiking for you. The dream of you laughing was such a precious gift.  Help me finish this hike.  I hope I brought as much joy to your life as you brought to mine, still bring to mine.  I miss you, really I do, but this lake better be worth it.  Was that another fly?

The hike was worth it, eventually.  And the lake was beautiful.  I took many breaks to catch my breath but I didn’t mind stopping so many times.  Each pause surrounded me with butterflies.  And huge biting flies, which I tried to ignore.  There were butterflies, everywhere.   When I finally got to the lake I imagined you would have giggled a little at how long it took me.  Not a giggle to mock me.  But still a giggle.  Bec and Polly said you would have been proud of me for finishing the hike.  That was interesting to think about.  I don’t know if I ever made you proud.  Were you as proud to be my brother as I was to be your sister?  That would give me something to think about on the way down…which also took me awhile.

Leaving you at Baker Lake fitted.  You will be at peace, forever fishing.  As Ken went out on the lake to spread your ashes there were times he almost looked like you.  I hope you were with all of us as we wrote our messages to you on rocks and tossed them in the lake to forever with you.  I hope you heard Maddie’s song to you, it was perfect.  There were many people there to send you off, and many more that wanted to come.  In your quiet way you had a huge impact on so many.  The generosity of Polly, Kellen and Maddie is amazing.  To let us all share this moment with them.

I did not like Sun Valley.  I am glad I went though as I got to know more about you.  Polly pointed out all the things you guys would do here.  I was struck again with how much you truly and completely lived.  In your living years, short as they were, you lived life more fully than most people will do in several lifetimes.   Even the days you said good-bye to everyone were full of laughter and living. 

In the living years without you, I will try to never forget the life and energy within you.  I will always try to make the most of my living years.

Break Out the Day Planner

We plan the most important decisions, days and events of our life.  Or at least we try to.  Some plan how many children to have, and when to have them.  Most plan their weddings and if you are a woman (and some men), you probably started planning it in elementary school (I know I did, even had a folder I kept till my mid 20’s).   If we are lucky we get to plan what job we have and when to move on to the next job, or when to retire.  We plan out where we live as best we can. 

There are some decisions I can make very fast…but I can take an hour to pick out a name for a character I create in an on-line game me and my husband play.  It took me three hours to pick out my eye glasses, three years to pick out curtains, and 10 years to pick a color to paint my walls (I have only managed to decide on the bathroom so far).   If you think I am joking, then you haven’t met me or been shopping with me for glasses or paint.  The curtains I blame on my husband…he insisted on very thick, functional curtains and I wanted pretty flowery ones.  What did we settle on?  Sage green with tassels. 

If we spend time planning other parts of our lives, why is it so strange to plan the last important decision of our life? (disclaimer…only with regards to death with dignity, of course)

After trying to accommodate us by avoiding birthdays, looking at travel plans and school schedules, my brother picked his day and the planning began.   Yet, it was surreal, planning his last day with us and the celebration of his life.   We  grieved while we talked casually with him and each other  about food, preparations, programs, music.  He did not want a service but I and others told him the service was for those left behind, not for him.   We needed this for each other.  As strange as our conversations felt, looked, and sounded, for me it gave me a sense normalcy, just planning any other family event, right?  Though there were times it was awkward and I would think,

“Am I really talking to my brother about his death?” 

“Did I just ask my mom to bring her paper plates to my brother’s last dinner?  I am thinking of being green at a time like this?”

“Am I really using a toothpick to scrape the medicine out of the capsules for my brother’s last drink?”  

But, by planning for his death we were able to give his life the attention he deserved.  Probably over 100 people visited him in the last week, and he received many, many letters.  People were able to tell him how he impacted them, share stories and laugh.  If he had doubts at all that his life had meaning, those doubts should have been washed away by the downpour of love, gratitude, and kindness from those he touched. 

How wonderful is that?

Regrets begone

To my sister-in-law, niece and nephew (given to them 4/30).

I have been telling people what a gift being able to say good-bye is.  And that I have no regrets.  I was able to do and say everything I wanted to before he passed. 

I think about him every day and focus on the moments in the last couple days that bring me peace.  One morning few days ago it struck me.  I do have one regret.  I did not thank him for giving me, all of us, the gift of saying good-bye.  That morning when someone asked if anyone wanted to say something, I should have thanked him for letting us love him the way we needed to, which included being there when he left us.

Since I cannot thank him, I am thanking you.

Thank you. 

Thank you for sharing your last few precious weeks with him.   Being able to visit, help where I could, just sit with him was such a gift.  I know how lucky we were to be able to look him in the eye and say good-bye.  You let us share that with you and you did not have to.  A lot of people have told me not all families could have done what we did together.  Of course we would have preferred for the disease to not exist and for him to be with us for many more years.  But since we could not wish the disease away, being able to say good-bye healed as much as it hurt to say it.

Maybe there were times when you wished we would all go away and leave you alone.  But you never let it show.  And hopefully we were able to give you enough time to be alone with him, to be just the three of you (and baby Kai, woof). 

I love you all so much.

Niche

Today we gathered to put my brother’s ashes in his niche at the cemetery.   He rests in the perfect spot, close by where we lived as kids, overlooking the little town (well, it was little 40 years ago) we grew up in.  His daughter sang.  I could not even talk, I wanted to.  She sang.  Her dad would have been so proud of her. 

I thought today would feel like some kind of closure, help me move on.  It didn’t.

My Brother’s Holiday

I thought a lot about him today.  Well that is silly.  I think about him every day, many times a day. 

But today is kinda like it is his day.  He was always full of pranks.  You almost had to think it was April Fool’s Day every day with him.

I miss his pranks.  His laughter. Him.

The Wanabe Hermit 5/5/1958-2/18/2011

We celebrated my brother’s life 2/22.  For someone who wanted to be a hermit, he sure knew a lot of people.  I think over 400 people showed.  What a testament to his life and how he touched others.  

The location was perfect.  A lodge on a lake the he fished and jogged around and in the last year still tried to walk around.  The large windows faced the lake and falling snow. 

My sisters and I created a slide show for him.  Our tribute. 

I could not talk at his service but I had the following read.  I took out the names as I am still not sure if I want people to know who I am.

I have been doing a lot of writing about my brother the last few days, one would think I am out of things to say.  Anyone who knows me will know I always have something else to say.

Sometimes when someone passes everyone talks about how wonderful and perfect the person was.  So let me start by saying he teased me constantly, tricked me over and over (I fell for the same prank more than once), knew exactly what buttons to push, and he was hugely competitive sometimes he would do anything to win.  He hating to lose to anyone especially his youngest sister and we had to play Boggle with a dictionary to catch the words he would make up.  When he realized he would never win that game he refused to play. 

Now that I have that out in the open, let me say he was wonderful and perfect.  He took me fishing even though he knew I would talk the entire time and scare the fish away.  When I was 15 he took me to college with him where I spent my spring break attending classes.  I did not know how much I would love that, but he knew I would.  When I was 18 and he was 26 he took me with him to one of his baseball tournaments in Eastern Washington.  When we got back I got sick and he stayed on the floor with me for three days and brought me anything I needed.  He always made me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

We watched some videos of him this weekend and I was reminded of how vibrant he was, how much making others laugh and be happy was important to him.  I believe he showed how he loved others by his actions…baking, making us laugh, teaching us to fish, and remembering little details about us.  How hard these last few months must have been for him as some of these avenues slipped away from him.  How hard it must have been for him to watch our hearts break when he spent his whole life making us laugh.  But he never lost his sense of humor, making us laugh till the end, despite our tears.

We honor him with stories, memories and laughter.  His wife and kids will have no doubts how much He is loved and missed.  His wife brought out the best in him and I see many pieces of him in his kids.   They embody many of his qualities and will find their own way to pass on his legacy. 

There are so many things I do not know about my brother.  In this last year I got to meet him many times over through how other people see him.  

I am proud to be his sister.  He is beautiful.

 

 

Just Another Thursday Night (tomorrow we say good-bye)

Tonight we gathered for dinner at my brother’s house.  My dad cooked salmon, my brother’s request.  After dinner we shared memories.  Old memories, memories some of us heard for the first time, memories we have shared over and over.  We laughed till we cried.

We cried.  Tonight would be the last time our family would be whole.  Tomorrow my brother dies.  Tonight we gathered to say good-bye.  To create a new memory. To let him know how much we love him and will miss him.  And support this decision.

I don’t think any of us wanted to leave.  Maybe if the night never ended we could keep him here with us forever.  Like the last verse in P!nk’s song “Glitter”, we wished for an endless night, to hold the moon and stars in place and never let go. 

We are so lucky to have this tragic moment, to be able to say good-bye and have him say it back.   We all had a quiet word with him, I don’t know what the others said to him and I can’t remember all that I said.  We had a giggle when I knelt beside him and he said “Hello Lisa”.  We talked for a bit.  He told me he was glad we went to Yellowstone.  It was his last time there and my first.  I told him how much I love his kids and I would always be there for them.  I told him I love him.  I want so badly for him to know how much I love him.  A couple days ago we talked and I told him I did not know how to tell him what he means to me.  He said he knew how I felt about him.  If that is true then somehow I did something right. 

My parents clung to each other after their good-bye.  I cannot imagine their sorrow. 

Before we left he made us laugh, with a twinkle in his eye he claimed all the stories about him were untrue.

We come back tomorrow to see him one last time.

Tantrum thy name is, me.

So, I had this draft post titled “Toss me a pillow, I want to throw a tantrum” for a while.  This was going to be a lot of venting, spewing about the unfairness of life and this sick disease.  I don’t want to handle this like an adult, make the most of it, believe all things happen for a reason.  I want to cry like a baby, roll around and pound the floor, throw things, break things, raise my fist to the sky and scream from the tips of my seven terrible toe nails (I had 3 removed as they were beyond terrible).

Before I finished the post, I actually had a tantrum. I yelled, cried, threw my shoe, yelled at my cats, slammed some cupboards.  I threw an empty peanut butter container on the ground and “yelled, we are out of peanut butter”.  Why was that empty container on the shelf anyways?  I really wanted the PB and J sandwich! 

It was a small tantrum considering how much is churning inside me, I didn’t want to scare myself or my husband with the ugliness inside me right now.  I even told my husband he might want to stay somewhere else for a while.  I am afraid of what might come out of me and don’t want to hurt anyone.

It is very possible my brother may not see March.  I know he is suffering physically, emotionally and mentally.  He can’t stand to be dependent on anyone, it is killing him.  And he does not want his teenage kids to see him this way.  I get it.  I do. 

He is ready to go.

How do I get ready to let go?

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