Death Is Not Proud…Only Resolved

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My brother was four years older than I was, he was captain of the football and basketball teams, prom king and he dated the homecoming queen in high school. He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an M.B.A. He worked for a Fortune 50 company all his life, everyone looked up to him (…literally…he was 6 feet 7 inches tall and 260 lbs) and he was four years older than me.

I looked up to him and he treated me like I was sh*t for as far back as I can remember. I grew to hate his guts. I couldn’t stand him, I really couldn’t.

When I was five (…and he was eight or nine) we took baths together on Saturday nights while my mom did hair in the kitchen. He’d hide the soap and convince me to go to the kitchen and get a new bar. I had no bathrobe to speak of…

“It’s OK…they’re old women. They’ve seen naked kids before…they got some themselves”

So I’d run my naked little self to the kitchen, jaws drop, I’d grab the soap out of the kitchen drawer and run back like a little imp. Needless to say, I got a whipping for that.

Growing up there were no children around in my age group so the only way I could go outside was to hang around with him and his friends. As soon as we got out of sight, he’d beat me up and his friends would beat me up. I told my mother, he’d get a whipping and I couldn’t go out because if I did…they’d beat me up harder.

One Christmas, I was around eight and he was twelve, my parents bought him a pair of boxing gloves. His friends came over and they started boxing in the basement. I went downstairs and willingly played with them. That wasn’t the brightest idea in the world. They beat me senseless. Four of them took turns and I was a human punching bag. They laughed when I crawled up the stairs.

I got him back though. I got a football uniform (…helmet, shoulder pads, jersey, etc.) for Christmas. The next morning I got up before everyone else, put the uniform on with a pair of his gloves and hid in the closet. He woke up, opened the closet door and I reared back as hard as I could and knocked the ever loving sh*t out of him. I watched him fall like a tree…out cold. I proceeded to go to breakfast with the uniform and gloves on and eat.

I did the same thing around dinner too, except this time I walked up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder and cold cocked him. I heard him say, “Oh God!” before I clocked his ass.

The boxing gloves mysteriously disappeared after that day

I became a Chief Operating Officer for a Financial Firm (…I held six financial licenses)…his response…

“they must be pretty desperate to let you do that”

I can go on…and on…and on…and on

Fast forward to last summer and I’m walking home. I felt what could only be described as my life force leave me. I almost lost all consciousness and all my senses. The world grew dark around my eyes, my my ears clogged up and I couldn’t feel anything. I shook it off, steadied myself and I knew what was up.

I had that exact feeling before…when my mom died.

I went home, called his house and his wife asked if I could see them right away, he needed one of my kidneys…

You see, in college my brother was a tight end playing at the University of Tennessee…as a walk on..and one day he passed out. Test showed a blood infection ate a hole in one of the valves in his heart. His playing days were over.

Over the course of his life he had multiple open heart surgeries, and it got to the point where other parts of his body were degenerating as well…his kidneys were going.

…I told her no problem. I was there the next day. To see someone who in your mind’s eye was a pillar of strength being reduced to crumpling along strapped to a dialysis machine clinging to life is very deep indeed. Unless you’ve experienced it…see someone you looked up to despite all they put you through…become less than a shell of a person knowing they won’t live without a part of you…you don’t know.

IMHO…it will make you question God.

Anyway…

I made arrangements to stay until we could find out when he could have the surgery to replace a kidney…he was too weak when I got there. Honestly, it was the most poignant time in my life. For once, I felt like his brother…and I don’t know if that was his fault all those years or mine.

We hung out. I drove him to dialysis every day, we watched television together without fighting, we talked about stuff we did growing up. He didn’t apologize and I didn’t ask for one. But for a short span in my life I actually felt like he was my brother and not someone who treated me like a roach. I was hoping he would get strong enough for him to give him my kidney. I wanted him to be well again.

We were the only one’s left. Both our parents left this earth years ago, and quite frankly I never wanted to see my brother again. But at the same time I understood…so there was no question in my mind what to do.

I would’ve given my life for my brother.

One early July morning there’s a thud. I run downstairs and he’s in his bathroom passed out and can’t get up. His wife’s crying. I pick him up and walk him to his bed. I tell him he’s going to the hospital. I remember the look on his face, one of “f*ck no…not one more time”.

He argued, but between his wife and myself there was no choice. He asked if he could lay down a couple of hours…we begrudgingly agreed. Around 8 am, his wife and I wake him, it’s time to go. He’s cranky as all hell. I try to rationalize with him,

“Look man, you’ve got to go anyway…if for no other reason to see what can be done. “

“Yeah right,” he says. “Do you f*cking know how many times I’ve been there…I know what they’re going to do. “

I’m trying to put his pants on…which is not a small feat dealing with someone who doesn’t want their pants on…

“You’ve got to get better so I can give you this kidney. Geez, man hang in here. I don’t want to see you go this soon. This is the first time in my life you’ve actually been nice to me. I’m getting used to it.”

He says, “All the more reason…I must be losing my grip”.

They have a small mixed breed dog. The dog sheepishly comes into the room. My brother calls for the dog. I tell my brother I’ll be back I have to go to their master bathroom and get his slippers. The dog jumps on the bed and inches onto his lap. He leans over so he’s halfway on the bed with the dog in his face.

When I come back…he’s gone. The dog is sitting there.

If you’ve never seen someone go…whether they’re close to you or not…it borders on being surreal. It hardens you, the trappings of this life mean a little less and the spirit of those who pass means a little more. You notice the flicker in their eyes are gone, the arms and legs that held strength are now limp rags of muscle and bone, free to flop around in any contorted way gravity sees fit…like a giant rag doll.

You want to be careful with them, and then you realize you’re carrying dead weight, a seemingly inconsiderate, disparaging, uncontrollable mass that you really cannot handle. There’s no soul to prop them up even if they were passed out.

There’s no peace on their face, not indication of a transition to anything…another world or planet. There’s an empty sarcophagus.

I am the only one now, from a family I believe descended from kings. I am the only one left that’s flesh and bone. I know they’re with me in spirit, and I know they guide my hand. They see me do right and do wrong, they don’t judge…they know what it’s like to be human. They laugh when I laugh but they don’t cry when I cry.

They don’t because they realize there’s nothing to cry about…and I realize so long as they are with me…there is nothing I can’t do.

They make me…

Thanks

2 COMMENTS

  1. Dear mark, I red your story and felt very connected with it. We never expect what life is keeping for us, what matters is us discovering how good people we are; just like YOU !!. You are such an inspiration and I wish you all the best from all of my heart !