Tuesday, August 9, 2011

July 29, 2011

July 13th my brother Paul called me to say happy birthday. I was shocked and honored that he made the effort to call me when he was in so much pain and on so many drugs he could hardly stay awake. He said he wanted to see me and the family again. He even said he wanted to come out my way for a visit. I thought for sure that was never going to happen, but I assured him JD and I were planning on a trip out to see him early August.

July 20th was my brother Nathan's birthday and Paul did the same thing, he said he wanted to see him again. This prompted Nathan to hop on a plane right away and visit him the following week. I wish I could have done the same but JD was far away flying and wouldn't be home until August 2nd. My Dad was already out there to stay with Paul and his now wife, Ruth (another great story I should tell soon). Dad planned to stay there until Paul's final day. At this point no one knew how far off or close that day was.

July 29th My Dad told me the hospice nurse said Paul had maybe 24 - 48 hours to live and Nathan's plane was due to land that evening. He wasn't sure Nathan would even make it to see Paul, his breath was labored and shallow. I again wished I could hop on a plane to see Paul right away but I wasn't sure if I would even make it in time to see him if I did that and I couldn't think of who could watch my kids, since the in-laws were busy for the next two days.

3pm July 29th I said, "Screw it... I'm going." This was after a neighbor of mine offered to take care of the kids for me. Amazing when neighbors offer help like that. She has 3 triplets of her own to take care of, but she does live with her husband and parents to help her out. But my MIL suggested I call my Dad to see how Paul was doing and maybe rushing out there to see him wouldn't be worth it. I considered what she said about rushing out there to maybe see my brother one last time before his final breath and maybe not making it in all my rushing and also what scene I would happen on if my brother had passed and how would I feel about that? I called my Dad and he said he didn't think Paul would make it another hour and doubted if Nathan was going to make it. Nathan's plane was almost landed and he would have another hour drive to go from that point. The flight I was planning on catching left at 6pm and arrived at 8:10pm, so I just gave up at that point trying to catch a flight and waited to hear from my Dad.

Nathan called me once he had arrived at Paul's and said he was still alive but not talking. He asked if I wanted to say anything to Paul and he then held up the phone to Paul's ear. I could hear him breathing heavily. I told him I wish I could be there to give him a hug and told him I love him. I was sorry i couldn't be there with him and the family. I then spoke to Nathan again about my dilemma in my head over whether I should run out there on the next flight or if I should just stay home and be at peace with the fact that the last time I saw Paul held good memories for me. Nathan said only I could really answer those questions and there was no right answer. I told him I would call if I decided to come out there.

Later I called one of my best friends and she said I should go and I would regret it if I didn't. I started crying. She was right. It didn't even matter if Paul was still alive by the time I got there. It was about being there with my whole family during this time and not alone in my house with no husband and feeling distant from all that was going on. So I called my neighbor up to let her know I still wanted to leave and she came over and helped me look up flights, this was around 6:30pm. We found a flight that was due to leave around 9pm. I called my Dad and Nathan and let them know my plans. I could wait to leave in the morning or the next evening but I felt I wanted to at least try to make it there as soon as I could for the possibility of being there with Paul one last time before he passed.

I frantically packed my bags and my neighbor got the kids things ready to go to her house and then my in-laws came over to help. My FIL offered to take me to the airport, so I rushed out the door with my one carry on bag and hopped into his car. On the way to the airport my phone rang, it was my Dad, he said Paul had just passed away. I told my FIL to not rush and to just turn around and take me home. I hadn't purchased the tickets yet due to the last minute plans, so I could just wait until tomorrow.

Later I learned that the time Paul departed from this earth was 8:20pm, just 10 minutes after my flight would have landed if I had taken the flight earlier that evening. I would have just missed seeing him and someone else would have missed being with him in those final moments because they would have been picking me up at the airport. I was glad I didn't take that flight. It was meant to happen the way it happened.

I purchased tickets that night for a flight that landed the next day at 8:10pm, it was the most direct flight. And the next morning Paul's wife Ruth called me to let me know how peaceful Paul looked finally. No more pain in his face, finally. I told her I would be visiting for a few days and landing that night. She was very glad to hear that. I was glad I finally would make it out there to be with everyone. I knew, even if Paul was gone, that the family would need me and I would need them to deal with the grief of Paul's absence.

The following days we all spent together memorializing Paul in unique ways. Paul didn't want a memorial service where everyone stood around and cried over him. So we went to a burger joint to each lunch one day that was the place Paul and Ruth went to just after they got married. (They got married one month and two days before Paul died.) Then we went to the fair where Ruth and Paul had gone a year ago just after he had started chemo. Then we all decided to take a Bikram yoga class together at the studio where Ruth taught. Ruth's son was there to help teach a class while the owner was gone, so that made is special on another level as well. So there we were, Nathan, me, Ruth, and Dad all in a row on yoga mats. We had never taken a hot yoga class before (except Ruth of course) and I bet Paul would have been tickled pink to see his Dad in there... not to mention Nathan! Then the next day Nathan had to leave for home and Dad and I decided to take another Bikram yoga class that Ruth was teaching that day at another studio. The class was dedicated to Paul and there were people there that knew Paul and were touched by the experience. It was very special. Paul had taught at that yoga studio when he just first found out he had cancer. That afternoon I flew back home.

I had spent a couple days going through Paul's belongings and photos and found a whole stack of his poetry, he was very gifted. One that I found really hit home and seemed appropriate for the time.

My weight will be transcended
mended and rendered
molded and shattered.

Blowing together again

Though the cloak
envelops me I will
peer through the weave.

My weight will be
rendered and mended.

Heaviness leaves me with
my exhaled breath.
The future is an inhalation
my weight will be transcended.

P.D. Humphrey
In memory of Paul. You will be missed.

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