7 Years (TW: Dying, Death, Grief)

More text after the beautiful hummingbird by Travis Bruce Black

(no MP, please)

It's coming up on an anniversary that's rather difficult for me. Everyone, as we grow up, has those days that we must mark - days of loss, sorrow, grief.

One of mine is coming up this weekend.

Seven years ago this weekend, my older brother died after a grueling twenty months fighting metastatic cancer. He was in his mid-30s.

So, everyone has their sorrows. Many of us have stayed by the side of someone who was dying. Some of us even have siblings who have died (a sucky group to belong to, for sure).

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But, my brother's dying process was something else. It was pretty damn unique. My bearing witness to it changed me forever, as these things do.

There are so many pieces of memory and emotion that come up, I wish I could just download the video stream that's playing inside my head… but I can't.

He was part of a big, passionate activist community, and some would say he was right at the heart of it. (Even as a child, he had that certain 'golden' quality, more than charisma, more than personality or charm, that people wanted to be around.) He had so many intimate friends within this community, and was surrounded by loving admirers of his work. His family and friends from other parts of his life also stood by him.

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So, there was always news about his status, and he had the good fortune of always being looked after… but that's not the unique part...

There were the three shamanistic healing ceremonies - he had worked closely with some Native healers while in South America, and one of them came up to perform the ceremonies for him, including one at a stunning house in Malibu. I could write, and have written, about these for days.

There was the small, achingly beautiful impromptu cello concert at the palliative care floor solarium at the hospital in the city.

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There was a living wake with so many people heaping praises and sharing experiences that family barely had the chance to speak.

There was a sweet canine companion that clearly wanted his questions answered, if only he could ask them.

There was that peaceful expression on my brother's face, a calm, almost beatific smile, once he had passed.

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There was the small wake after he died that took place on the tiny houseboat with everyone sharing the same virus, and beautifully framed large-format prints of my brother's photographs, and the generous offer to give each of his relatives one… and the breathtaking picture of the sun rising over the rainforest that now hangs on my wall.

In many ways, his dying was a shared time, an intense experience shared among many, with everyone having an angle… while in others, of course, it was deeply personal.

There's more, so much more I could say. Snapshots, essays, diatribes. They don't matter so much for this space. If you're reading this here, just know that this pretty incredible, upright, passionate, loving man lived well and was loved so very well. He had many complicated relationships, but ours was simple. I was his only sibling by blood, and we both cherished that particular connection. His world was expansive and dynamic, and it gave me heart to be in the nucleus. He died too young from a disease people his age don't get, and he's missed every damn day.

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Thank you for reading. Here's the part where I state what I need: if you would like to offer sympathy, condolences, or platitudes, I do appreciate it, but instead of doing so here, please turn it outward - help someone today, perform a random act of kindness or good will. Connect with someone - that's what my brother would have done. If you have comments or questions, of course, feel free to share.