I’ve never grieved without drinking. I’ve lost both parents, 2 brothers, numerous friends and others. But never without the obliteration of alcohol.
My brother Richard and I have a special bond.
My first memory of him was watching a summer storm together… I was about 3 or 4 and he is five years older so he was around 8 or 9. As we stood at the screen door looking outside at the thunder and lightning, which us kids always loved and found thrilling, he looked down at me and said: “I’m going to marry you some day, you know.”
He is now dying.
After a 2 year brutal and exhausting struggle with throat cancer, he’s being called home. Mid-December, my 2 sisters and I took a road trip up to where he lives near the Canadian border. To hug him, to love him and to say goodbye. It was a 5 hour trip each way. He didn’t know we were coming.
Because he would have told us not to.
Not because he didn’t want to see us. He most likely didn’t want us to see him so helpless. He wouldn’t want us to worry. And his battle had left him totally spent. Head sunk down on the table spent.
I don’t remember a time when his life has ever been about him.
Richard is a stubborn, self-reliant Vermonter through and through….with a huge heart. A soft heart. And a servant’s heart most of all.
As I write this, I’m wondering if this is his moment….. Or is it now? An hour from now? Or a day. Only the Lord knows.
What I do know, is that a part of me will be leaving with him when his soul takes flight.
I want to be awake and ready at the exact moment he finds his freedom.
I’ve spent the day in prayer, candles lit, gazing at the last picture we took of him and me. And gathering together all the photos I have of him with me and the rest of our brood.
Because grief is exhausting and it’s only just begun.
Through it all I have remained sober.
Thanks be to One who set me free.
I am the toddler on the right. Richard is standing behind my sister holding me.