For You My Brother; My Teacher

I am sitting at the airport waiting to pick up my sister. Every time the phone rings I cringe. It’s surreal to think that as I sit in this parking lot, an hour away my brother’s breath is heavy and labored.

For three years now my brother has been under treatment for cancer, but this week his kidneys began to fail. It’s only been three months since my other brother passed away from liver cancer. I believe that because it was so recent, a part of me is more accepting of what’s happening with this brother. A part of me has a larger understanding of what’s happening and of release, but of course there is a part of me that is angry, confused, and sad that my brother (whom I have wonderful memories with) is dying.

My brother is the kind of guy that expresses what he enjoys freely. Everyone knows that he lives for swap-meets,  car shows, and antiques. That he prefers the era of Marilyn Monroe and pin-up girls; when men wore hats and women wore gloves. He’s well-known for being a thrifty man who is conscious of how he spends his money and can always find a way to make a dollar out of fifty cents.

This brother has a special place in my heart for he is the one who I share my learning experiences with. When I get excited about a new theory or piece of information, I immediately want to share it with him. In many ways he has always been my teacher. As a child, he always tried to teach me new things. As I grew older, we became philosophical sparring partners. We call each other randomly with the latest existential question or curiosity regarding politics and society. There is safety in knowing that we can always call each other and contemplate any matter together.

As a child I remember our annual family trips to Mexico. We would take breaks at rest stops during our drive through the desert at night. I was a fussy traveler and very impatient, so he would try to entertain me by pointing out the stars, moon, landscape, and the changing colors of the desert sky as the sun rose. He would also trying teaching me about miles and time.

During lunar eclipses, he would try to keep me awake till three in the morning to try to catch a glimpse of these phenomenons. I was so little and could never stay up that late. But I could stay up late enough to watch Benny Hill reruns with him. My brother taught me many things, and ultimately, his lessons were about being a better person in this world by being kind, generous, and forgiving. Perhaps the greatest lesson he ever taught me was that of gratitude for people, for moments, for the blessings.

So this brother is now in the hospital. His breathing is heavy and labored and he is surrounded by his family, friends, and old coworkers. The veil of this world is slowly being lifted and it scary seeing him waver between this world and the next. I’ve never seen him so strong before and so excepting.

Although I know that he is transitioning into the greatest consciousness one can ask for, it’s difficult to know that I won’t be able to call him anymore. I know that I’ll be able to speak with him and that our relationship will change. But I’ll miss hearing his voice during a late night call exclaiming, “Did you see the moon tonight?”


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