Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Last September

Last September I visited my brother in the hospital where he was being treated for cancer, and I remember talking with him in the room he shared with three other cancer patients. Four patients separated by L-shaped curtains. Over that weekend, my brother would periodically fall asleep during our visit and that would allow me a few minutes to overhear the other families chatting with their loved ones in the same room. It was impossible not to eavesdrop. Considering the circumstances it was inevitable. With a respectful glance here and there we all informally agreed and understood.

During those times, I listened to a young man react when his father shared an important regret. I listened to a husband and wife play a well-worn game with their adorable curly-haired pre-school daughter. The fourth bed was empty; at the time I tried not to think about why. Occasionally a nurse would stop by. Briefly looking out the window, I watched some staff throw a birthday party/bbq in the parking lot for a young cancer patient. Amidst all these quiet and soft goings-on, my brother would wake and we would continue our own quiet conversations, as quiet as my brother cared to be.

I found this both heart-rending yet comforting. Don't get me wrong, I know this wasn't about me. But watching my brother sleep, I began to grasp the magnitude of how many people are affected by cancer daily: patients, families, medical professionals. I also began to see that he was not alone in this: many others were sharing the same journey. A sad journey, but still, not alone. He had his wife's support and dedication, terrific children and friends and even one good friend going through cancer herself. I knew all this but my heart wanted more, mostly to ease my guilt and anger and frustration and powerlessness because I would soon leave him and return to my home over 1000 kilometers away.

Today I wonder, during his six months of treatment, what other quiet and soft goings-on he overheard every time he had chemo and radiation and what sort of fear or comfort or both they provided and I hope, hope, hope they helped him feel not alone.



7 comments:

Al Penwasser said...

It IS comforting to know that none of us are really alone on this crazy ride of life.

Mel said...

What a beautiful hope for you to share. No doubt in addition to what he heard, he saw much love between many people during that time - including the love between two wonderful brothers.

wendy said...

I think the most desperate feelings in life....would to think you were All Alone.
It seems the hardest things in life we go through, are eased by the support and love of others.

My best friend here had breast cancer and both breasts removed.

Michael Burrows said...

I see cancer weekly and it never becomes "just another illness" like all the people I see with self-induced strokes. I appreciate you making me think of how it brings us all together. A sad irony.

Alistair Robertson said...

I'm sure he did - and I'm sure he wasn't. One thing being around hospitals has taught me is that no matter how dire situations may be it's incredible how often people turn their glance out to care for others, for a moment or a while. I'm betting he gave and received those gifts too dbs.

Laoch of Chicago said...

When people in my family have gotten gravely ill I have noticed that they tend to want to turn inward. Their life gets smaller in a way. So it is important for people to have loved ones and even caring non loved ones to help them feel connected while they fight their serious illnesses. I am glad your brother had that.

Such a loss in one's family is literally earth shaking. Good wishes to your and your family and remember to be kind to yourself.

karensomethingorother said...

you've really captured something in this that strikes a chord with me: the quiet moments, and how your brother would drift off to sleep during conversations. This reminds me of my boyfriend, when we were 20, and my Mom, because there are those poignant sound bites that get stuck in our minds forever, reminding us we are not in a bubble with our pain as we might think we are.

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