As the one-year anniversary of my brother’s passing quickly approaches, I find myself looking back and thinking about the months, weeks, days and hours leading up to his final moments. When my daughter and I visited Michael in July 2015, he had us convinced that he was “better” and would live at least another year or so. By August, we were told he had six months…at best. Upon hearing from Elizabeth earlier in the week, Kathy had flown out to Milwaukee on the Friday before in order to say her last good byes. At that point, Michael was inpatient hospice and mostly in and out of consciousness, barely capable of speaking. On the morning of October 25th, Kathy called me to let me know that the end was coming soon – the doctors believed Michael would be gone by that Tuesday. I contemplated flying to Milwaukee. The only thing stopping me from going was reliving the death of my mother, who had also been in hospice at home, seven months before. She had died the day before my 50th birthday. Sobbing, I did the only thing I could to help me think through my decision…I went for a bike ride:
I rode almost 30 miles that day, starting out in a misty rain. By the end of the ride, the sky turned that beautiful blue I’d seen so many days before. On the return trip home, it dawned on me that my brother was no longer seeing the photos I was posting on Facebook during the weeks leading up to that day. At that moment, I knew there was no choice – I needed to fly to Milwaukee and see Michael one last time before he died. By nine years, nine months, three weeks and one day, he was my older brother…he was the only brother I knew. In the 50 years, 8 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, 2 hours and 40 minutes on this planet together, we had shared way too many moments to simply say good bye on the phone.
I booked the first flight to Milwaukee the following morning. By that afternoon, I was at his bedside. He hung on long enough to kiss me goodbye, hold my hand and “dance” with me to his favorite Christmas music. When I told him to hug everyone for me when he got to where he was going, he blinked twice. I told him I loved him a bazillion times and prayed for his pain to end. At 2:40am on October 27th, my dear brother most definitely passed on into Heaven and met with G-d.
Just like my mother before him, they both “died on a Tuesday.”
“And take a message to Michael, message to Michael
Tell him I miss him more each day
As his train pulled out down the track
Michael promised he’d soon be coming back”
Message to Michael – Dionne Warwick
” I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. “- Forrest Gump