Friday

Its not goodbye

Its taken me a few days to come back here.  Finding my strength, sleeping some and going through the motions of my brother's death. Funeral, family and formality.
My brother died Sunday morning.  I was alone with him, at his bedside when the end came.  The week before had been tumultuous. There were episodes of restlessness and pain that required constant physical care.  On Wednesday, he asked for Last Rites.  Following a very moving time with our Priest, Mama and my girls, he went to sleep.  From then on, He never spoke.  I performed his physical care, slept at his bedside and waited.  On Friday night, an ice storm came.  For those familiar with this part of the country, ice is rare but snow is common.  We live quite rural and access to us became limited.  My Husband, in a desperate attempt to help, began salting.  Our drive, our deck and sidewalks.  
Saturday came and went. I turned him every couple of hours, did oral care and kept him clean. He did not respond at all.
Sunday morning at sunrise, I awoke from my station on the couch to see the sun coming through the window in a bright ball of light over my brothers bed.  My husband and I previously occupied that room and is all our years there, I had never seen such a thing. I snapped a photo and began to care for my Brother.  I was tired, scared and a little bit crazy. I defaulted to what I knew. Nursing.
At 0930 my Husband ventured out for "fancy" coffee.  He's a kind man and wanted me to feel better.  The icy roads were not going to stop him.
I sat down at my Brothers side. His eyes closed with no response for days.  He was clean, dry, carefully positioned (I used 9 pillows). At about 10, He opened his eyes and turned his head and looked at me. Startled, I asked him "are you in pain"? He didn't answer but slowly closed his eyes and took his last breath.
It was peaceful, quiet and over.
I spent about 30 minutes alone with him.  It was the greatest gift.  I knew the days and moments following would be hard.  I took that time, I believe, God given, and relived our life as only siblings.  He was important to me.
There has been some humor that I'm sure my Brother orchestrated.  Hospice couldn't make it out after his death, due to icy roads.  Our local coroner, accepted my pronouncement of his death as I am a nurse (finally that ER experience came in handy).  The funeral home was delayed, also due to icy roads.  My husband and I enjoyed "fancy coffee" and muffins with my Brother's remains.  After all, food was a quality factor for him.
So, its not goodbye. There's more to this journey.  The cancer part is over. I await his ashes, which I'll store til Spring.  He was very clear that I not make a shrine, so I imagine I'll keep them in a cabinet.  Then off to New Mexico at first weather break.
I'll post here on occasion.  The transcripts of this journey as well as my personal  journal and notes from our Hospice nurse and Priest will eventually go to an copy editor for publication.  It was my Brothers final hope that someone else could learn from his journey.  Typical B Alvarius fashion



23 comments:

  1. Hard to see through tears. Will be with you all the way. Thank you, Beth. <3
    Kathe Andrews

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  2. Thanks for sharing that moment with your Brother with us. His writings have touched many of us over the years, and he has a broad network of friends through this web site. We shall surely miss him.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece. I have a distinct image in my mind of Bruce's beautiful blue eyes communicating with you, and of the bright sunlight shining in his/your bedroom. A precious morning shared between loving siblings. ~karin

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  4. Thank you, Beth. Again, you give us gifts.
    Your brother was a very blessed man for many reasons; one of the biggest is that he had you as a sister.

    He constantly taught us many things about the desert, about light, and about life. I sensed he was passionate about light. His photos show the magical effects that glorious ball of fire brings to us. What a wonderful thing that light on his last morning must have been. I think he has become light now.

    Like he did, you have taught us many things. Thank you for that. Please do update us when it feels right.

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  5. My family and I were blessed to meet Bruce when we vacationed at the Painted Pony this last June. We snapped a family picture at the end of our stay with Bruce in it. It is a memory we will hold dear to our hearts forever. God rest his soul and may his memory be eternal. Praying for your comfort in the coming days and weeks ahead.

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  6. I live in Rodeo and hike with the group that hiked with Bruce. We look forward to hiking with you to scatter Bruce's ashes, at least some on a hike; probably you and Bruce have some planned for the Painted Pony Resort. I'll send you my email and address if you need to contact me about your visit. DiAnn plans to come here from Mexico or Tucson, wherever she may be. We hike every week on Thursdays but if you want a different day, we can do that, too.

    Hospice nor the coroner could not get through the ice storm but the barristas were on duty! Glad you and hubbie had your "fancy coffee" !

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  8. Your writing is as elegant as Bruce's photos are. My heart breaks for you and your family, to lose a loved one too soon, but my heart smiles to know Bruce's pain is over. debbie

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  9. 12/26 Returning to work felt good. It felt normal even though I'm different now. I'm sure the routine will get old on occasion but the first patient I touched felt like a reunion. A strange lesson it was, caring for my Brother. Learning strength from vulnerability.

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  10. Thanks for a very moving recount of his final days. Unlike most readers, I never met your brother and knew him only from this blog. His revelations, recently, that B Alvarius was his nom de plume, that he studied biology and became involved in the sky gipsies controversy, intrigued me and made me search the internet. His adopted name was likely a motto or a trope. Paging through his book, I hope the collection of his magnificent photographs of the sky islands finds a good home and possibly an issue in book form.

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    1. Some of his photography has been published. Give me a little time and I'll post links here. My Brother was a PhD prepared biologist specializing in molecular genetics. At one time a Senior Staff fellow with NIH. A brain tumor 25 years ago changed his life, but never his brilliance or creative view of the world. I have so many flash drives full of his views. On time I hope to share.

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    2. We'd love to see more of his work, Elizabeth.

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  11. Happy 2017 to you Beth and to Robert and your extended family. "happy new year" seems a bit cliché to say, but it is meant sincerely.

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  12. Thank you. We are moving into 2017 changed. I'm taking the paperwork of resolving my Brother's life slowly. Taking my time, savoring memories. I went thru a few thumb drives today and looked at his photography and listened to audio recordings he had made of birds. I hope to share some of this soon

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    1. A good plan.
      Having lost a brother, I understand some of what you are going through.

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  13. How's your mom doing? I'd like to tell her she raised two very wonderful children!

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  14. She's doing pretty well. She lives in a lovely retirement community near me. She has had so much support from her friends while I was taking care of my Brother.
    My Brother and I were blessed with good parents. Losing our Dad in 2005 was monumental for all of us.
    I will give Mama your message. I know it will make her smile

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  15. Wow! A retirement community in your tiny town! I'm so glad she had so much support!
    Thanks for passing on my message.

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  16. I read the minutes of the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon meeting from January 4, 2017 that were posted at the Rodeo Post Office. "Reed Peters, (President of FOCCC) expressed gratitude for Bruce Thompson who was an intrinsic member of FOCCC who donated his video equipment to FOCCC before he left the area. Rick Beno stated that he can make a bench that can be dedicated to Bruce and we can have that bench at Willow Tank."

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  17. Yesterday was our weekly hike. One of the hikers who lives in Michigan half the year and in Rodeo half the year, brought up Bruce's name yesterday. He said "Bruce was on ALL these trails!" Lots of choices for you for where we scatter his ashes!

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  18. I can't wait to be there. Struggling with some closure waiting to fulfill that promise. Plus....it's winter in Illinois.

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  19. 3 days here in the 80s, first since October; now 2 days of rain, high in the 50s now, furnace is running; I am just getting over my SECOND winter cold, got 'cabin fever'
    should be beautiful weather when you come here and hopefully clear highways!

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  20. Crying re-reading this. Bruce would rather I laughed at the icy roads keeping people away. Bruce named our girls' outings to the Pink Store in Palomas, Chihuahua. He called them "the Bootheel Social Club" lots of trips there and lots of photos.
    I'm organizing a trip there for some snowbirds that leave late March or early April. We'll toast Bruce!

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