• Our hearts learn compassion in our challenges...

All our lives, family and friends had told us both that we would live forever. After all, our parents were well into their 90s. We shed lots of tears on his hospital bed. Tears but not fears, at least not openly. My brother was a lot more optimistic or perhaps in greater denial than I was. So I felt I had to tread lightly, not wanting to dampen his determination and positive attitude.

My Personal Path-Brother

When my father’s lack of motivation and physical decline became apparent, I called my only sibling, who lived in Australia, to fill him in on our father’s health and what I saw as the likely progression. My brother’s back had been bothering him; he wasn’t sure if he could handle a 17-hour plane ride and didn’t know how much assistance he’d be able to provide. I basically said – “look, the choice is yours. If you want to see dad again, I suggest you get here soon. I am working full-time, trying to encourage dad on a path to health, looking for a place for mom to live, paying their bills and making decisions for everyone. You can come or not – your decision.”

My brother did make the journey and actually arrived at the same time we were moving my mother to her new home. I asked him to spend the first few nights with her hoping his companionship would help allay her fears. This transition was immensely difficult, just as I had predicted.

The next few weeks were excruciating. We held a large memorial service for my father, worked non-stop to support my mother, spent time in her place, answered repetitive questions about why she couldn’t return to her condo, ate meals together and did whatever we could to calm her nerves.

During this time, my brother continued to complain about his back. We sent him to a chiropractor, a body worker and a massage therapist. Nothing seemed to help. He tried to be a good sport, but frankly I was so tired that I missed a lot of telltale signs and basically told myself he was old enough to take care of himself.

After several more weeks, we discovered that my brother had Stage 4 prostate cancer that had metastasized into his bones. His back hurt because his spine was covered with tumors. The prognosis was not good. There was no choice other than hospitalization. The blessing here was that I could place him in the hospital where I worked, where I knew lots of doctors and knew he would get excellent care. Everyday, I left my office a minimum of three times to visit him and make sure his needs were being met. The goal was to get him well enough to make the return trip to Australia as that’s where he wanted to be.

My brother spent at least two months in the hospital. Over the course of 15 days, he had 13 radiation treatments on his spine. He had multiple scans to determine how far the cancer had spread, an orchiectomy plus weeks of therapy on the rehabilitation floor.

As if that was not enough to deal with, his situation was further complicated by the fact that he had no health insurance in the United States.

All our lives, family and friends had told us both that we would live forever. After all, our parents were well into their 90s. We shed lots of tears on his hospital bed. Tears but not fears, at least not openly. My brother was a lot more optimistic or perhaps in greater denial than I was. So I felt I had to tread lightly, not wanting to dampen his determination and positive attitude.
In early May, 2006, we put my brother on the plane with his wife, thankfully a nurse, who had flown to make the journey with him. We had said good-bye to our father, put our mother in a retirement facility and were now saying good-bye to each other. I was pretty sure I’d never see him again.

My brother passed away early December, 2008, two days before his 67th birthday, his wife and I each holding one of his hands. I was blessed to have made it in time.