Saturday, March 03, 2007

"It is better to be in the house of the mourning...."

I’m writing this a little late but the week has been a flurry and this is the first opportunity with some peace and quite I’ve had to put down the events and my thoughts.
Sue’s brother Jerry has been battling colon cancer for over a year and in this last year there have been hopeful times and set-backs. I’m not sure he was entirely candid with us about his condition as not to over worry us.
In the last few months he has become increasingly ill and as of Monday early morning he lost the battle. It was a difficult thing to watch, as this six foot four man of 250 pounds, shrunk down to a frail one hundred pounds, jaundice, weak and finally succumb. As difficult as this has been to watch for me, I’m sure his mother was affected the most and of course his daughter and two grandchildren, as well as his two sisters and brother, there is a bitter sweet aspect to it; I watched as old friends learned of his condition and they visited him, offered help and in many cases brought thoughtful things for his comfort. It was heartening and l couldn’t help wonder if the same would happen if I were in his position.
His mother, Lois, prayed, worried, talked to doctors, and continually looked for some option that would offer the least bit of hope. His daughter was at his beck and call offering support wherever needed. And all of his siblings rallied around him with such a display of love and affection, as well as care, that it made one proud to be a part of such a family. Of course I saw closely all that Sue did. I suppose if there is a silver lining in having a disease that doesn’t take you suddenly it is that if offers opportunity to demonstrate your love to the dying person. Sue spent the night with him nearly each night at the end and they probably bonded more in the last month of his life than at any other time. They talked, embraced, told each other of their love. Not just Sue, but other’s as well.
Jerry’s girlfriend Debbie has elevated herself in my eyes beyond description; she spent so much time at Jerry’s side not wanting him to be alone or have need of anything. The outpouring of love and support from all was humbling and so inspiring. This is the true meaning of love, of family. Now that he has passed, his mother Lois is the recipient of this outpouring of love, as friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren visit her every day and spend nights with her as well.
I want to share one incident that I think displays the thoughtfulness in the family.
As it happened, Carissa’s birthday fell on the day that Jerry died. We planned to have a traditional birthday party at Lois’s house, Carissa’s great grandmother, but frankly we had little enthusiasm and it was impossible to not talk about Jerry and get distracted from Carissa’s birthday party. As it turned out, Heather, a relative about 24 years old heard that there was a party that night and obviously she considered we would have difficulty with the party spirit, so she decided to come, which she has never done before, and she arrived with balloons in hand and a big shopping bag. She swept in and with zealous birthday accolades, sat Carissa down in a chair and began tying the balloons pronouncing this chair as the royal throne for Carissa; then she brought out a paper crown and crowned Carissa with it, then she pulled out a silly looking plastic fly swatter with a big flower on it and gave it to Carissa explaining this was her royal scepter and with it she could command her wishes. Then she pulled out a pair of royal slippers and promptly pulled off Carissa’s shoes and the transformation was complete. She continued that evening to use her love and energy to salvage what promised to be a gloomy party. At one point in the night as I sat by Carissa alone, I said that Heather is really a great gal; she replied, “Yes she is, and I want to be just like her.”
This is by no means the only example but one of many thoughtful acts of love and friendship that have flooded the week, cards, phone calls, flowers and visits all bearing support and love.

When someone dies it always brings us to a sober place and as I watched the loving acts by so many people, I pondered on the meaning of life and all the issues death brings up. Certainly one conclusion is true, Sages and philosophers through the ages all agree that a key ingredient in a successful life is measured by the love one receives in their life, in that Jerry was a very successful man.

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