You’ve just been told you have 5 to 7 months to live! How would I react to a declaration such as this? I’m sure I would be devastated, and my mind would begin racing with hundreds of thoughts all jumbled. Let’s face it, five to seven months could seem like an eternity to someone who is in pain, both physically and mentally. To others the feeling would be “there’s just not enough time to get done what needs to be done!” And, I imagine others would simply be numb with little or no thoughts at all.
I recently received word that my beloved brother; my protector when we were children, my sometimes aggravation when we were teenagers, and always my shoulder; no matter our ages, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his liver and pancreas, and cancer in his esophagus and stomach, with an estimated 5 to 7 months to live. I am going to visit him this next week, and while I am going there to be his shoulder to lean on, I am in no way going to give him sympathy. That is the last thing he needs. I am hoping to give him encouragement to live each hour, each minute and each day to the fullest; however that may be.
I don’t know how I am going to manage this because I am extremely emotional about his condition and I am prone to break out in tears so easily, but I have decided I’m going to spend every minute I’m allowed at the VA hospital, to memorialize the past so that he can leave, not just a footprint, but a larger than life memory to share with his wife of 30 years, children, grandchildren, other siblings and anyone he has crossed paths with for the past 72 years.
My brother is an artist, self-taught and also university educated. He has been a successful commercial artist but gave up his art some years ago. I was sad to learn that because his talent was huge. He was even commissioned to paint a wall of history in a small museum in Southwest Colorado. Seeing the news article about this made me extremely proud, but I have always been proud of him. This actually began when we were small children. I think he was five, so that made me three years of age. I remember, quite clearly, when he first sketched Mickey Mouse. I was in awe, and I still am.
I have seen many of his paintings and have looked through them, not just at them, because every subject has a story behind it. There was the blue painting: a blue hued swan, gently floating atop the slow rippling effect of a bluish colored lake with a mist in varying shades of blue, making the entire painting surreal. My brother, at this time, I believe, was at peace in his life. I saw that in his painting.
That painting would later take on the pain of losing our Father at the young age of 44, and our beloved grandmother, who raised us, just three days after we buried our Dad. You see, my brother retrieved the swan painting from my grandmother’s home, and he painted over it using red and black and gray as the main color pallet. The swan became a facsimile of a painfully looking Jesus Christ. A painting that when looked at would follow you no matter where you were in the room. The painting actually frightened my young children.
I try to remember that painting in my minds eye (for it has been lost for many years) and look past the intense uncomfortable feeling I always got, and see the true meaning of it. I now realize this was my brothers’ way of coping with the loss of our Dad and Grandmother. I honestly believe he was asking God for answers. Why did they die, both so young it would seem.
As I look back over the years I realize we both have faced many obstacles, much heartache, but so have we had joy and happiness in our life. We are simply living out the cycle of our lives. Some have shorter cycles than others. I have finally decided that God needs a really good artist in Heaven, one who can use the same canvas over and over again and provide a story in the painting that might bring comfort to some or an answer some have been seeking.
I am still not resigned to the fact that my brother has so short a time on earth, but I am consoled by the fact that his life is not over; he will continue to live in the afterlife. So too will I when it is my time to say goodbye to Mother Earth.