I’d like to make an appointment for a grief wax, today, if possible.

I finally used up the spa gift card I won at Steve’s retirement/fundraiser event from 2010.  When I won the spa basket I was excited…helllloooo massage.  But, it turned out it was harder than I realized to actually use it.  It felt strange to benefit from my brother’s illness.  Your brother is dying, here have a massage.

I used the gift card mostly for leg waxing.

If only it was as easy to rip the sorrow out of my heart as easily as the hairs off my leg.  What a wonderful idea.  See, you have this pesky grief hanging on you.  You just need someone to forcefully rip it off.  The treatment would start with a hug, like the warm wax, it is soothing, comforting.  You say, this feels good.  Then, rip, off comes the grief.  It hurts at first because the grief became a part of you.  But like the hair, you say good riddance.

If only it were that easy. But like the hair, the sorrow would probably just come back.

I guess it was fitting to use up the last of the gift card today since tomorrow I am on my way to Oahu then next week Kona (by the way, the waxer lady used to live on Oahu, interesting).  My mind knows he will never again walk the beaches, body surf at Hapuna, jog in the early morning and bring us back a cinnamon roll, eat at that Thai place he loved so much.

But my heart knows he is there, and I can’t wait to see him.



Avoiding the Past (tense)

A year has passed.  My dad did a great blog of our day 2/18/2012…so rather than compete with my dad (hard not to do, we are a competitive bunch) and recreate the day myself, here is a link to his blog post  (Just between you and me, I would probably win.  Not that we are competing or anything, and it is not like I have to win.  It is just better that I do.  His ego is big enough already, we have to keep him in his place.  Mom needs all the help she can get.)


I usually write a post and re-write it over several days before I actually post it.  And as some of my subscribers know, I post and then usually make changes almost immediately.  This is the first one I wrote and posted in the same day, so if it jumps around some, that is my excuse.

When asked how many siblings I have, I say 3.  I still have 3.  Will always have 3.  No amount of time will make that number decrease. I find it is hard to refer to Steve in the past tense.  When I talk about him words like “used to” or “had” don’t sound right.  Nor does adding “ed” to words make any sense.  I don’t say “I loved him” because the love never stopped.  I love him.  Simple.

To me he still is.  He IS a fisherman, an athlete, brother, son, husband, father, friend, baker, prankster, promoter, cousin, uncle, nephew, brother-in-law, son-in-law, story-teller, shit starter (yes, I went there…you all know it is true).

And teacher.  There are so many ways he still teaches, not only us but people he just met for a brief moment and people he never met.  I am touched over and over by how much he impacts others.  Makes me realize we don’t often know what others will remember about our interactions.  Probably not how our hair looks (Yes, have to mention the hair.  It is always on my mind, no pun intended.)  Or whether our shoes matched, and I don’t mean match the outfit, but match each other (I don’t know how I made it out the door with two different shoes.  In my mind I told Steve about my shoes and heard him laugh and laugh.  That laughter, though only in my head, was worth looking like a fool for a day).  Maybe people will remember our witty comments, or sarcastic remarks.  Hopefully we will be remembered for our compassion, generosity, and heartfelt kindness that surprises the giver as much as it surprises the receiver…we don’t always know what we are capable of till we reach beyond our comfort zone (I know you will like that one dad, you risk taker you).

And Steve is still full of surprises.  Visiting us when we think we are alone or when we dream.  Sometimes startling us, sometimes making us laugh.  Sometimes just calling out our name, maybe to remind us we not as alone as it feels.  He still tries to comfort us the only way he now can…even if it freaks us out a little.  Actually, he probably likes that he makes us jump every now and then.

He is all he ever was, but I don’t think he is all he will ever be.  Holly found an article written about him in April 2010.  A man commented on the article in November 2010 after having sat by Steve during a flight back from Hawaii.  A total stranger, but after having spent 5 hours next to Steve this man states he “is a better person from having met Steve”.  Five hours and this man was touched by Steve.  Most people don’t leave that kind of impression after 5 years.

That kind of magic never fades, and I am oh so proud every day to be his sister.  (Sorry to those who have to keep hearing me brag…just kidding, I actually am not sorry because I am going to keep doing it.  You have been warned.)

A few bragging articles:




http://www.flintofts.com/  This is still available, including the guest book comments

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.

Can it be a Happy Mother’s Day?

Even though we didn’t talk about him much, he impacted us today.  We are a close family but we don’t always spend days like mother or father’s day together.  I guess we don’t feel the need to get together on a commercial holiday just because we are supposed to.  We do cards, sometimes small gifts (mom always says not to get her anything but we don’t always listen), or we call.  But we didn’t usually plan to get together.

But this year my sisters and I took my mom out to lunch.  Funny, I am not sure we have ever done that for mother’s day before, or at least not for a very long time.  I wanted to say to her “I am sorry”.  Sorry that you lost a very special son. Sorry for this loss that we can never fill.   I know my mom loves us all equally.  But there is probably nothing we can really do on a day like today to make it better.  I don’t think I even said the words “Happy Mother’s Day” today. 

I guess my brother gave my mom black licorice and biscotti every year.  Unlike a lot of men, he probably shopped for it himself.   Last year I took him shopping so he could buy his wife a birthday present.  Even though he could not get  there without help, and he could barely walk, and he could not wrap it himself, he still wanted to shop and pick out the present himself.  So my sister-in-law gave my mom some black licorice and biscotti today.  That was so incredibly sweet for her to remember and think of my mom today.

Happy Birthday, Brother

He would have been 53 today, his daughter is 18. 

I don’t think he liked being the center of attention, so sharing this day probably gave him some relief. 

Even though today was a good day…she did well in track, got asked to the prom, and a friend of mine had a baby today…it still felt sad.   Sadder than some of the other days in the last few months. 

I wonder if she will ever feel like she will want to celebrate this day.  If  years from now this day will always be tainted, even just a little.

When she was born, it seemed so sweet they had the same birthday.  Now, it will always be bitter-sweet.  I prefer white chocolate.

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.



I voted for WHAT?!

The Death with Dignity Law became effective in Washington in 2009.  I voted for it.  But actually going through this with someone you love can make you ask yourself, what in the world was I thinking?

When my brother picked an actual day to die, for a moment I wished the law had not passed.  In theory, death with dignity sounds like a good idea.  But when faced with the reality it was a shock.  I have to admit there were many times during the last few weeks I did not feel like I had any dignity, hence the temper tantrum with an empty peanut butter container.

But, it was only moments.  Brief and painful moments. At first I was ashamed of my reaction.  But, I think it was something I had to go through.  Get it out of my system so I could be there for him.

It was a beautiful morning. Some might find it inappropriate or strange for me to say that.  But beautiful it was.

This morning we gathered again.  My brother, his wife and kids spent much of the morning alone together.  Around 9:00 am, his chosen time, we circled him.  Those that wanted to spoke again.  

Their family dog said his own good-bye.  Once we all stood around my brother the dog ran down the stairs and jumped on the bed next to him.  My brother and his wife were holding hands.  The dog licked my brother’s hand over and over.  The dog jumping on the bed and licking are both unusual actions.  After a bit the dog stopped, looked up at my brother very intently for a few seconds, then started licking again.  After my brother drank the medicine, the dog then licked the hand of the volunteer who gave my brother the cup.  Almost like he was saying “It’s ok, thank you for helping relieve his suffering”.

One of my sister’s gave us all a heart-shaped piece of coral to hold.  I know we will all treasure these hearts forever.

His kids were amazing (ages 15 and 17).  They stayed by him, touching him.  After a few minutes he fell asleep.  And snored, which gave us some comic relief.  The muscles stiff for so long let go and it was wonderful to see.  It had felt like forever before we had seen him like this, relaxed with his back straight and his head up.  This disease had contorted him so much.  I am glad his kids were able to see him like this again.  That one of their last memories of him will be of him looking close to like he used to.

After awhile his breathing quieted.  His daughter leaned over and kissed his chest and he made a loud noise.  This was probably close to his last breath.  It was like her kiss released him.

This truly was death with dignity, a most appropriate name.  Despite our tears, anger at this disease, fear of losing him, anquish for his wife and kids, my parents, each other, our selves.  Ultimately I wish my brother never became ill.  But he did.  This is probably the most dignified event I have ever witnessed. I am so thankful I could be a part of it. I am forever changed.

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.

Translating love.

I am reading a book about the language of love, how people express their love for others and I think how people interpret how they are loved.  The book says there are 5 ways we express love:

  1. Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

My way, not sure yet.  Depending on the person I think I do all of these.

How does my brother express love, I think acts of service or quality time.   It is definitely not affirmations or physical touch (he is a one arm hug kinda guy).  He gives laughter, bakes, remembers small details about someone, helps in times of need. 

Right now we shower him in all forms of love.  We are drowning him with it, desperately trying to find ways to show we care, how much we care.   He is probably tired of it some days, overwhelmed with the level of attention.   But I can’t help thinking what a privilege we have to be able to do this.  Even if we are going a little overboard and annoying the crap out of him.

And while he is flooded with all our waves of love I also think how lost he must be thinking he no can no longer show his love.   He really hasn’t lost it, but he probably thinks he has.    He can no longer do as much for others, but he can still give quality time.  He feels like people must be bored spending time with him now.  What he does not realize is the time we spend with him now is so important, at least to me.  None of it is wasted.  Even if we just sit and watch episodes of Glee.  Every second is worth it, he is worth it.

He knows how much we are all crying, how that must crush him.  When he has spent so much time showing us his love by making us laugh, it must drive him crazy to hear our hearts breaking.

Pause for the cause.

Normally I am a very impatient person. I hate waiting for anything.  I usually multitask all day long, physically and mentally. 

I have patience in one place in my life, helping my brother.   Everything my brother does seems to be in slow motion.  It is so hard to watch him do things for himself, I just want to reach over and do it for him.  Not because I am impatient but because I don’t want to see him struggle.   Waiting for him to get in or out of the car, sit, stand, walk, feels like time has stopped.  He pauses in motion…does he need help, is he thinking of his next move, is he willing his limbs to cooperate?  I try to always ask first, “do you need help?”  I don’t want to assume.  Sometimes he says yes.  Other times he says he can do it so I wait till he is done.

Helping him is the most important task of that day.  It is the only task of the moment.  I not only physically wait, but my thoughts slow down too.  Everything focuses to being in the moment.  At times it is almost peaceful, everything I do and think in my multitasking world pauses.  There is so little I can do for him, but I can make him the center of my attention for that moment.  Then, when we are done with that task.  I step away, take a deep breath…and all my multitasking tendencies come back in a rush.

If it were possible I would patiently wait for him for him for the rest of my life.

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?

Half Day Fret Free

After the Christmas vacation everyone is back at work or school, which leaves my brother alone for several hours and leaves us all in a state of panic.  I think he likes some of the time alone…but there is a lot he shouldn’t do by himself….like walk or try to go up stairs. 

My husband is spending a few hours a day with him now.  We would like it to be more hours, but my brother wants some time alone, and for now while he can be alone I guess we have to let him choose.  We all still worry though, but at least it is a few hours a day less.  

My husband is really enjoying it.  He likes to help people and he loves my brother.  They laugh, read, talk, walk.  He takes him to some appointments.

When my husband said he would do it I burst into tears. I told my husband how much this means to me and my family.  We worry so much about my brother being alone. 

It means so much to me, I don’t think I can even tell him how much.  So much worry was lifted from my mind, the tension of wondering if he was ok.  Personality wise, they are probably a good match to spend hours together every day.  My husband is kind, helpful, caring, but also not intrusive.  The rest of us would probably be bugging my brother all day with questions and what we would think is helpful advice.  My husband has a way of making people feel good about themselves. 

I am touched more than I can say, and so proud of him.

To share or not to share

I don’t know how much time we have left with my brother.   As yet, I have not shared this blog with my family or friends, and to my knowledge, they have not stumbled upon it.

I struggle with whether to expose myself to him, or anyone.  Is this the right time, is it even something I should do?  Will it bother people, will they think less of me because I am angry and frustrated.

If this were someone else’s issue I would probably quickly tell them to share.  I don’t know if I am as brave as I would encourage others to be.

I don’t need a hero, just my brother

When I was younger, and sometimes still today, my family would say “you are so smart”.  Sometimes it was a compliment, sometimes an accusation. I hated it.  Still do.  Sometimes my co-workers say it too. 

Doesn’t everyone want people to think they are smart?  Why is this a problem?  Because it comes with a burden and responsibility I did not ask for.  If people think you are smart they don’t think you need help, or you should have more tasks than others, or make fewer mistakes, people rely on you more as if they are more functional with you around to remember things for them, figure out things for them.  It takes the burden off themselves if they don’t think they have to use their brain if your brain is around.  I did not then and still do not believe I am as smart as people say.  Some people learn better visually, others by doing and others by hearing.  I am someone who can learn all three ways, sometimes I need all three ways.  That makes me adaptable but not smarter.  I think differently than others, have a different perspective.  That’s all.

I wonder how my brother feels when he hears people say he is courageous, that he is their hero.  He is very quiet about how he feels about this disease.  He doesn’t complain, yell, cry out at the unfairness.  I wonder, does he feel he can?  If after hearing how much people admire him, are in awe at his calmness and his courage does he feel he can show what might be seen as signs of weakness or despair?  Will he feel he has let everyone down?  Will he feel guilty that he is not as brave as everyone thinks he is?

He must feel fury, anguish, the unfairness, he must.  How can he not?   Does he feel a burden that he must be the hero everyone thinks he is?  Be strong and suffer silently?

Often times when a tragedy happens to a loved one, everyone talks about how wonderful the person was.  If we are to believe all the interviews of the family and friends from new stories and true crime documentaries, only the good, happy, wonderful, loving, perfect people are killed or die a horrible death.  Maybe that is comforting to those of us less than perfect.  We can tell ourself it won’t happen to us because we are not the perfect human that the victim was. 

Well, I love my brother to death, but he is no perfect person.  This is a good time to remember all the wonderful times, but also not lose sight that he has faults too, like us all. 

So I give him permission to not be a hero.  To let it out, to scream, yell, fall down under the unbearable weight of anguish, to be angry he won’t see his kids marry, be a granddad, that he won’t ever fish again, jog with this wife, play hoops with his kids.  That his family will be less…husbandless, fatherless, sonless, brotherless. 

Permission to just be and know it is ok.  We love him anyways.   Frankly, for me, it will make him more of a hero, and someone I would aspire to be and could be.  Human.

Big Girls Do Cry

I am a big girl and I definitely cry.  I cry over commercials, tv shows (I can’t watch Little House on the Prairie), movies, stories people tell, songs (Tie A Yellow Ribbon gets me every time).  I would say I am normally a happy person but I cry when I am happy, sad, touched, mad, frustrated, tired.  I wish I could say I am so emotional at the thought of losing my brother.  But I have always been a crier.  I CAN say, I am much more emotional thinking of losing my brother.  It hits me at weird times.  So far, it does not hit me when I am with him.  When I am with him I just want to be normal.  We talk, we laugh.  We even talk about his disease, we don’t ignore it.  He tells me he wants to exercise our states die with dignity process and it is like we are talking about the weather.

Until I get alone.  Then I sob. 

One of my sisters counsels terminally ill cancer patients and their families.  On our trip to Yellowstone she said the patients often tell her they think their loved ones don’t care they are dying, that they don’t seem to love them.  Why, because they are not crying.  Then the loved ones say, they can’t cry in front of the one dying because they want to be strong for them.  What strange people we are. 

My parents have always been criers too…well, my whole family is, even my brother in the past though he would try to distract us with jokes or teasing if he felt the urge (I think he used to do this when we were kids watching Little House on the Prairie, damn show).  They seem to be able to cry in front of him.  At Christmas one sister looked on the verge of tears for 2 days.  My parents have broken down in front of him and in front of all of us.   Still, it is shocking to see your parents cry like this.  I have seen them cry all my life, but not like this.  I have an image burned into my brain of my mom helping my brother into the car on our trip to Yellowstone, then covering her face and sobbing in the parking lot.  I wanted to enfold her and protect her from the gut wrenching pain.  There was nothing I could do, not even cry myself.  

Like I said, I always cry, have always cried, still cry, will cry, cry cry cry.  And I still can’t cry in front of him.

If talking scares the fish away, sobbing would make them swim for the hills.

At Yellowstone, my brother and I went into the park very early one morning to be by the river as it got light.  He is a great fisherman and has fished the Madison River before.  Driving through the park in the day time I think he watched the fisherman as much as he did the animals.   He did not want to get out of the car because if there was an animal close by he would not be able to move fast enough.  So we sat in my car, in the barely there light and listened to the river. 

Sometimes he took me fishing when I was little.  Even though I talked like crazy and scared the fish away (of course a big brother would say that).  That morning, I fished around for how to tell him how much I loved him, how sorry I am this is happening to him, how wonderful he is now that I am getting to know this side of him.  He is not perfect for sure, but there is so much more depth to him than I realized.  Probably because I was always talking and he is fairly quiet.

While I was fishing for words, he was fishing the river.  So for the first time I sat quietly while he fished from my car.  Occasionally he pointed out where he would stand, where he thought the fish were hiding, how that bend would be a good spot. 

I found myself fishing too, for inner strength, acceptance, and peace.  What a beautiful place to be able to say “I accept what is happening”.   Instead, I fought crying as I watched him fish one last time.

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