Still numb, still deliberating if I should be writing anything at all. I got a call on Sunday, It was from my older brother who had been in the hospital too often these recent years. His words still echo in my head, “I’m dying.”
He won’t be leaving the hospital, weeks to months, it’s all unclear with the information I have. The waves of grief and nausea, the stabbing cold, the automatic memories that start to come from everywhere. I have caught it all, my giant has fallen, the pains for my Mother and family wash over me. When these things have happened before, he was the one I would turn to, what do you do now?
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, it never is supposed to happen. The trips to the hospital had prepared us in a sense for that eventuality, but to be aware, to be conscious of it, wasn’t a part of the thinking. What do you do? What do you say? Because I cannot fathom a moment in life when I didn’t have him there with a call, his voice carrying that of four men, his hands another knuckle in size. How do you close out a life? He called me to tell me this, he wanted me to know what was going on before I heard it through someone else. The lumps in the throat are still almost suffocating, the tears just don’t stop as the monitor becomes a mess of melted blurriness.
He is my giant, and I mean that in the way that any little brother would look up to a bigger one that had always been there for him. He always had the time to listen to his little brother’s emotional outbursts and his sensitivities when everyone else was teasing and dismissive. He was a giant in the literal sense as well, with features just a notch bigger than the sizes they had available. The kindness he showed for the size he was instilled in me very early in life that being careful with others is needed in life, it’s very easy to unknowingly hurt someone with either words or deeds. What do you do? What do you say? How is this all supposed to work out? Because I can’t breathe now, and the words can only come forcibly choked out of my minds eye at the moment. But these aren’t questions I can answer or find one for
I understand that we don’t get to… We don’t get what our expectations tell us they should be. We don’t get to fill out the little card of stuff we wanted to do… We don’t get to pick and choose what way the end will happen, it’s just there. I always knew these times would come, the eventuality of being the only one left out of all of us. The questions of how to say goodbye, what to do, what not to do, is still coming in waves only to wait until I speak to him again. That’s something that I cannot do easily, and when I do think I can, the idea of those questions cripple me. I’m not made for this, the grief and emotions overwhelming my everyday functions. An unfriendly cold snap has left all of this stuck in my head as I try to fathom these parts of life you don’t get to pick. Trying to find the words to say, when so many are inadequate to mean much of anything at all.
I don’t know how long he’ll have, or how many times we could visit. He is an ICU with only one person allowed at a time to visit. This is not the pandemic, this is complications from everything else he has had to go through lately. My Iron Giant, the guy who knew everything, and had the book to prove it. A new grandchild was recently born, a few marriages planned, the list of life is long. It hurts so much sometimes you feel like it is not worth the pain, the anguish, the pits of depression. Then you remember the big guy who picked you up, and sat you down in front of a TV so you would remember the landing on the Moon. Who took you to work on a Saturday to give his Mother a needed break, and the kid a look at something else for once. The guy that picked you up in the middle of the night when you get stuck in another town, unable to get home. There’s too much love there, to think about the opposite end of this spectrum is just unpaintable.
I would often tell others that lose their loved ones that it hurts when we make room for people to live on forever in our hearts. They just live inside now, and being a big guy, it’s going to hurt a whole bunch to get through this. Those of us who still speak will have each other to an extent, but singing to the choir is not our style. This is something that we must find our own ways through, and we will forget that there’s others, as healing has never been our strong suit. I am going to miss my brother beyond any means to describe it, I am going to feel like I should have done more, done something, but I cannot. His last wishes will be made as well as possible, and his character will live on in myself, as his voice stays strong in my mind. I will try to live a life that would make him happy, because my happiness was never too far off from his thoughts. I am going to lose someone who cared and those people come along so very rarely in a life like mine. I may not have very much longer myself here on Earth, but I will always remember the brother and friend that I love so dearly, who will never cease to be… Larger than life.
Is Heaven Real
I held his hand, he squeezed mine tight
He’d been crying about his Grampa all through the night,
Here in church, to say goodbye,
He looked up at me with those scared and tired eyes,
He asked me those three words that shook my life,
I just told him the words that felt so right,
Is Heaven real? Is all he said,
And with that everything I ever learned rushed to my head,
But there was only one place for a reply,
So my heart spoke as tears welled up inside
Is Heaven real? Well I don’t know?
I can tell you how I feel, and not much more,
When I lay my head, at night to sleep
I close my eyes, and it’s there I often see,
The ones that passed, oh.. they’re all still there,
They comfort me and guide my simple prayers,
I feel that they are watching over me,
Is Heaven real? I guess that we will see?
He squeezed my hand, and said that’s right,
Grampa told him all of that just last night.
He said when I lay my head down at night to sleep
I’ll close my eyes, and there I’ll often see,
The ones that passed, they’re all still there,
They’ll comfort me and guide my simple prayers,
He hopes I feel that they’re watching over me,
Is Heaven real? I guess that we will see?
But from what I’m told it’s not a mystery…
Is Heaven real? I guess that we will see,
But the way I feel it’s real enough for me…