The heavy burden of grief hangs on my forehead, presses between my eyes and makes my vision blurry. My sister’s husband of almost 43 years is suffering from cancer. 43 years in three weeks, if he makes it.
Complications from chemo have been ravaging his body for at least the last 8 months, maybe more. First his entire digestive system ulcerated, his bowel rotting within, leaking into his body cavity. Doctors removed it in a colostomy surgery, giving him relief so that he was able to eat. Not eating for several months left him severely malnourished. Many weeks of healing, nutrition and physical therapy allowed him to return home.
Somehow he was not told he had diverticulitis, so ate the wrong foods and ended up in the hospital with an infection which they think spread to his lung, giving him pneumonia. I saw him then, when I went back to New York in July. He was not 'My Loving Bother’ that I remembered even from the February visit I made. Bald, white beard on half of his face and much, much thinner, he struggled to force loose the lung infection. Psoriasis covered much of his body, but was actually healing because of the massive antibiotics and chemo. He was anxious to go home.
He became gravely ill again three weeks later and almost died from septic shock. Two days back at home and he regressed to the point of now being on positive air pressure. I’m saddened that this once hale outdoorsman is being eaten up by his own body. I’m saddened that he is in pain and peril, scared for his life and his wife’s life without him. I’m saddened most of all for my sister who adores him, cares for him and does her best in what is most likely a losing battle. And while I have my own views of death, the life after and eternity, my sister does not need a sermon. She needs comforting arms around her and loving voices telling her that they will take care of her needs, her bills, her food, her horse. She doesn’t have many arms. Our family is cantankerous and divided. And I am 3,000 miles away on the opposite side of the country, calling her frequently and sending her money. But I wish I could do more.
I am ready to leave on a moment’s notice. She asked me if I wanted her to call when ‘it’ happened. I told her I’d like to be there for her when it does happen, if she has any warning. I can be there in 24 hours. Her son and daughter are there, though, and that brings me great comfort. They have both come from long distances to be with their family.
So I send flowers and balloons. I send money. I send love. I send prayers. I am going to the temple now to worship and pray for my ‘Big Gerry,” “My Loving Bother.” It’s fast Sunday; my prayers have never had greater need or urgency. I have enlisted the temple patrons by putting him on the prayer roll. I have enlisted my 300 some facebook friends for their prayers. I have enlisted my own sheer faith that he can be healed, that miracles do happen and they can happen to him. After all, they have happened to me.