Thankful & Thoughtful

Charles

The things alive do not know the secret… Of late years, however, I have come to suspect that the mystery may just as well be solved in a carved and intricate seed case out of which life has flown, as in the seed itself.  – Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey

My brother died at 3:25 am July 5.  The pop and sizzle of neighbors’ firecrackers kept him company that night, gray skies and a gentle rain in the morning broke the spell of heat and drought and sun; more soothing than melancholy.  Determined and independent in his dying days as he was as a vibrant, healthy man, I have no doubt his plan was to make it through July 4; July was his favorite month and Independence Day his favorite holiday.

In the hours and days after his death, little things took on weighted importance: the memory of the last meal together at a restaurant; the image of a sweet smile when at last voice and words, but not comprehension, were taken from him; the half-full glass of water by his bed; the backpack on the kitchen table containing bottles of aspirin, ear plugs and a bathing suit from the last trip he took (to California); the tube of toothpaste, indented in the middle by the squeeze of his hand; his beat-up work boots looking as if he’d stepped out of them mere moments before.  It is those things more than the profound and sobering permanence of passing that make me break down.  What is more poignant than the little, seemingly insignificant objects and moments that make up a human life?

Anyone who has suffered through an illness or has helped a family member or friend knows that it is not a solo project.  It is a team effort requiring tens of supporting and supportive roles.  And so I have many people to thank.  First and foremost among them, my family.  My mom and dad dug deep and called on reserves that any 20-year old would envy.  Their strength and dignity through that lonesome night of loss is an example I will carry with me.  My other brother whose advise and care steadied during moments of stress and uncertainty.  My sister was a rock, holding firm during times when I melted like a candle.  Love to my partner, Kel, for keeping the home fires stoked and for caring for our little (furry) one, Ike.  His support has never wavered.  He loved my brother.  The caring embrace of extended family was felt over the long miles.

It is impossible to imagine what this process would have been like without the guidance, knowledge and compassion of our hospice team.  There were many late night visits and phone calls – moments of doubt and fear made manageable by a comforting voice on the other end of the line.  Stacey, Robyn and Carolyn guided us down that very difficult road.  Special gratitude goes to John, the gentle aide who helped my brother maintain his pride and dignity up to that very last day of life.  We were also fortunate to meet Riley, a young man who made our nights easier by his patient presence and his willingness to be touched by a family’s saddest hours.

Thanks and love go to the many friends – old and new, near and far – who sent emails and called.  The comments both here and on Facebook were deeply appreciated.  In challenging times, the true and the false are shown in stark relief: some of my brother’s friends reached lovingly out to us, shared aspects of him we never knew and offered to help in any way that they could.  Fate or coincidence sent Somer into my life at just the right moment.  She shared her huge, loving, nurturing heart with my brother, but also loaded the back of her vehicle – several times – with plant-based deliciousness and made the trek to Bountiful to spend time with me and open her arms for much-needed hugs.  Her beautiful kids never failed to cheer me with their exuberance and their life and energy.  Along with her friends Amanda and Erika (who have never met me, by the way) she provided heart, soul and stomach nourishment.  Thank you ladies of the Good Clean Food Relief Society.

In a strange twist, Faye came into my life on the very day my brother died and at the very coffee shop where he and I would go after his appointments at the clinic.  Over mutual admiration for short haircuts, I learned that Faye has the same type of brain cancer as my brother.  I’m not one to linger long on the oddities the universe occasionally throws across my path, but one would have to be devoid of imagination not to think something rather huge was up.  I hope to spend a lot more time with Faye and to share with her the thin threads of knowledge gathered over the past couple of years.

Merck and Genentech earned my gratitude for providing their prohibitively costly chemo drugs gratis through their assistance programs; big pharmaceuticals aren’t all bad.  Novocure not only requires thanks for pursuing interesting cancer treatment options, I’m indebted to them for giving my brother – free – their Novocure TTF helmet, a recently FDA-approved alternative treatment using electric fields to disrupt cancer cell growth.  Dr. Santosh Kesari at his lab at UCSD prescribed the device and he also, up until the last weeks of my brother’s life, suggested other treatment options.

Lastly, thanks to my brother’s medical team at The Huntsman Cancer Institute, especially to sweet Crelley who has become a friend, and Sean, who spent hours with me on the phone over the past two years explaining complex issues and trying to figure out what made my brother tick.  From the beginning of this journey they provided hope and knowledge and gave my brother another year of life when all seemed lost on bleak November days in 2010.  I often wonder how they can work day after day knowing that many of their patients will live only a short time post-diagnosis.  I am grateful there are people willing to devote their lives to treating such a formidable disease.  May a cure be found soon.

49 thoughts on “Thankful & Thoughtful

  1. wildbluewonder

    Oh, goodness, this post is so lovely and your love for your brother so evident. My condolences, dear. I’m moved by this incredible list of your appreciations, and by your gratitude itself. Please accept my wishes for you and your family, that you find peace and the solace of loving memories. Take care of you.

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  2. Susan Johnson

    Very nice tribute to your brother. Sorry for you loss. I too have suffered loss in my family to cancer. I have also had it but am surviving at this time. Just sending you a big cyberhug …

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  3. bar

    Beautiful post, Annie. Your words are somber and comforting at once. May you continue to find strength within yourself and among your loved ones. I wish you all peace and love as you heal. xo

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  4. keepinitkind

    I am so sorry for your loss, Anne. I find your strength so inspiring and your beautiful words a great reminder to not take your existence for granted. Everything is a gift. Much love to you and your family during this difficult time.

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  5. tearoomdelights

    This is beautifully written Annie, full of love and appreciation, and obviously very heartfelt. I’m extremely sorry for your loss but glad that you have such a fantastic support network and so many happy memories of your brother. I’ve been thinking of you during this very difficult time and hoping that you’ll find the strength to get through it, and it would seem that you are indeed weathering the storm and still managing to give to others, which is wonderful. Blessings to you and your family.

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  6. The Good Luck Duck

    Ann! I am so, SO sorry. I feel stunned to learn of your brother’s death, just because your family’s devotion and stamina is so strong. It seemed unlikely anything could prevail against you.

    I’ve been thinking about you extra this week. Now I understand.

    Hugs,
    Roxi

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  7. Robin Jean Marie

    My sincere sympathy goes to you and your family and friends, Annie. You have written a beautiful tribute to your brother, and the community of support is a tribute to him, as well. I hope that the love that surrounds you will strengthen you and comfort you in your grief. Blessings to each of you.

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  8. Rachel in Veganland

    Hi Annie,

    What a beautifully written and inspiring post. My heart goes out to you and to your family during this time of grief and mourning. May your brother’s spirit continue to bring light to all of your days.

    Much love and many good vibes,
    Rachel

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  9. inkspeare

    Although we have not met, I am truly sorry for your loss. By the way in which you talk about him I can tell that he was loved much. May his spirit and energy inspire you and help you through your mourning. Blessings.

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  10. tinykitchenstories

    I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, and didn’t want to bother you. Thank you for answering all of my questions so beautifully in this post. It is a wonderful tribute to your brother, and I’m sure your help and presence at his side was a true treasure for him in those final days. I nursed my mother through her last months with cancer–enough said.

    Sending you big hugs from California. I missed you!

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  11. Gabby @ the veggie nook

    I am so sorry for your loss and I am moved my your strength. I am sending you love and support to help you during this time. Your love from your brother is so clear and this was such a beautiful way to remember him.

    Take care dear Annie!

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  12. toxicvegan

    Dear Annie, what a lovely post and written with your usual beauty and grace. Sending you more love and strength to add to the lots you are clearly already surrounded with.
    XXXXXXXXXXX

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  13. yankeeburrowcreations

    my dear friend…I think of you, and pray for you, often. I too have been where you are, I lost my oldest sister (and my best friend) to breast cancer the year she turned 50. much too young. I can tell you this, that there will be a day when the memories that will come up will start to bring you more smiles and less tears. As long as we keep our memories, we never truly lose those that we love.
    Debbi

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  14. Debb Thorne

    I know. And I’m so damned sorry. For quite some time, it will be managed with just one breath followed by the next.

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  15. Somer

    I feel incredibly lucky to get to know Charles just a little bit before he passed. I feel even luckier to have you as my friend and grateful I was able to do something to help. More virtual hugs right here. Love you girl. Are you back at home?

    Reply
  16. Brittany

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s amazing to hear how much love was with you all for these past few weeks. I admire your family and will keep you in my thoughts!! <3

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  17. annesturetucker

    Dearest Annie – I cry with you,thank you for sharing this – love is amazing!
    I am so happy you were able to be there with your brother to the end.
    I am thinking of you and your family and sending you love!
    Take care my friend

    Reply
  18. My Plant Based Family

    I’m so sorry to hear this news that your brother has passed away. Please know that I have been praying for you, your brother, and the rest of your family since I heard of his cancer and I will continue to pray.

    I am sorry friend!

    Reply
  19. aspiringsteph

    I am very sorry about your brother.
    Your heartfelt words, and the optimistic approach to finding a cure has really touched me. Writings like this somehow helps me to prepare myself for any similar situation. I learn that even in times of despair and darkness, it is important to keep hopeful and remember the beautiful moments instead of the sad ones.

    Reply
  20. Sophie33

    Hello Annie!
    This is such a moving & thoughtful post! I am so sorry for the loss of your lovely brother. Your writing in this post & the last moves me, touches everyone,… Remember your beloved brother forever. Time spent with him was so precious. We will think of you, your family & everyone that he has touched with his hart.
    Many hugs from your Belgian friend, Sophie xxx

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  21. Keri Wellman

    I am deeply sorry for your loss. I was looking through my old emails yesterday, finding the ones from my aunt when your post was sent to my inbox.

    My aunt died from cancer just over a year ago. She is one of my inspirations for healthy living, and for running marathons, and since we lived thousands of miles apart, I took her with me in spirit on my runs–and then told her all about it via email. She was one of my very best friends, and her words to me are still encouraging, which is why I was reviewing them before my big race.

    Anyway, your post is a beautiful tribute, and I pray that the memory of your brother will continue to inspire you to revel in the lovely ‘little’ things that make up life.

    Blessings,
    Keri

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  22. Shira

    Sorry to hear of the passing of such a special person in your life Annie – sending strength and healing your way from Vancouver. Wonderful to read of all the support received during such a difficult time. xox

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  23. Isobel Morrell

    As I’ve said before, having just lost my best friend and husband of nearly 43 years, who also suffered before he left us, we cannot wish our loved ones back! Your post sums up your positive take on an unhappy situation: keep it up, dearest Annie – you’re in my prayers, as ever, and Charles and your family too!

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  24. Shaanthz

    Annie, your love for your brother will keep you going – a very powerful and moving tribute of your dear brother. You and your family will be in my prayers.

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  25. Fran

    I am so very sorry for your loss. My mom died of cancer a few years ago when I was a sophomore in college, and I didn’t think things would ever get easier. But my Dad was right when he told me that after a year has gone by, it DOES get a little easier; after a year has passed, you can recall where you were and what you were doing one year prior, and it will no longer include activities with your loved one that immediately bring up sharp, painful feelings. In the meantime, all I can suggest is to take things one day at a time (it’s a cliche for a reason). I send you love, and wish you peace.

    Reply
  26. * Vegan Sparkles *

    What a beautiful post, Annie, and it’s so good to hear that you have so much love, kindness and support around you at such a difficult time. I’m so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a beautiful man who was very well loved. xxx

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  27. hannah

    Have been thinking of you and your brother. I am so glad to hear that all of you were surrounded by such love and peace – and I am thankful to hear of these little things that eased your way and his. I think, if my own experience holds anyway, that you will find he is not really gone from your life – a thousand little things will remind you, always, of your brother and his life and his love. I hope it is so. Take care.

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