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Monday, October 11, 2010

Death disrupts order

I have been systematically going through my top 25 labels as of post 300 and breaking them down label by label. I am up to # 8 and was about to wax eloquent on the many and various sayings of my precious little puppy.

This was until I saw the topic of the latest Men's Monday Meme, How do you handle the death of a loved one. This made me jump all the way from daughter at # 8 to brother at #2 with Keith for 300.

I will return to the puppyisms next time. For now let's turn to Tim the author of Families Again. He reported in his last post that his mom is possibly terminally ill and he's not quite sure how to handle things like last goodbyes and tying up loose ends. In his meme he raised these questions for any men who wanted to answer them:

How do you fellow men deal with things like this? What are your secrets? Is it okay to be weak sometimes?

As I alluded to, this reminded me of my brother Keith. Keith passed away in April of 2009. Coping with his death and remembering his life have become mainstays of this blog. Keith's death took me by complete surprise. However, he had been in and out of hospitals with kidney and heart ailments for almost three years. Some of the hospitalizations lasted for months. When he was in the hospital, I would visit him at least once a week, sometimes even staying overnight in the hospital. My purpose for visiting him so frequently was three-fold: helping him pass the time with games and watching shows together, being an advocate for his health care, and there is something compulsive in me about visiting people when they are in hospitals. Even though I never expected him to die, you never know.

When I was out of work in 2006, Keith became ill. Within a month, he was at the Mayo Clinic. I had found a job that didn't start for a few weeks, so I was able to take the entire family and Keith's daughter to visit him. After that, Keith's health and well-being was like a family project.

I found that the more I got involved, the easier things became for me. Especially after he died. I never find myself thinking, "Why didn't I do more? Why wasn't I there for him?" As for being weak, that's a difficult one for me to answer because I've never been one of those Let's Chop Down a Tree and Not Talk About Our Feelings, kind of guy. Even though at some points, Keith had only 10% heart use and 10% kidney use, I never felt like his death was imminent. Perhaps that's why when he was living, I never felt weak.

I did often feel drained from the frequent visits. At the same time, Amy's dad was also having months long hospitalizations and at one point, my dad had a hip replacement and spent several weeks rehabing. It seemed we were always visiting someone in a hospital. Amy was especially encouraging and understanding during those times. I was working outside the home at the time and would often be at home only to sleep.

After Keith died was when much of my weaknesses showed. In some ways, I'm still in shock. Today I looked at a picture of Keith and me taken when I was living in Russia. The first thing I thought of was I couldn't believe he was dead. The initial grief was seemingly omnipresent. I would cry for no reason. Some of those moments are well documented in these posts. My family was a tremendous blessing to me during those times. I remember a time where my oldest daughter wrote a letter to me that was incredibly encouraging.

When Keith was in high school, I was his youth group leader. Several times he came forward saying he wanted to follow Christ. I was always unsure whether he was genuine or just trying to please me. When he was in college, he began to grow in his faith. My grieving for him is lessened knowing that he is in heaven now and someday I will be reunited with him.

Since Keith died last year, I have been active in the lives of his widow and children. Spending time with them and helping them as they need it, has also helped me move on to the next stage of life.

If you are interested in participating in the Men's Monday meme, click here. If you want to see more things I wrote about Keith, click here.

Next time: A Lucyism by any other name

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