My Late Brother, Three Years Later

My son Aaron was born on December 7th. My friend Doug was also born on December 7th. My friend Sam was born on December 10th. My friend Nathan was born on December 13th.

Three years ago, 2012, my brother Michael died on December 14th.

December 14th was the worst day of my life; a terrible day, a day lived at light speed and frame-by-frame slow motion replay. The evening of December 13th, 7:30 pm, Mikey and I texted about a visit on Friday morning. Instead, on Friday morning, I received a 6:15 am phone call from our mother that Michael was at his last. I walked into his home just before 7:00 am to see him finally at rest, on his couch, with his black and gray Labrador retriever Sadie lying at his side. Already, I missed him more than can be expressed, yet I felt nothing but a blessed wave of thankfulness that his suffering was done.

Michael had been stricken with an aggressively virulent form of squamous cell cancer. He had a small sore on his tongue, not much bigger than a cold sore, and by the end, it engulfed his head, neck, jaw, chest, and throat. Surgery. Chemotherapy. Radiation. More surgery. Technology was no match for the relentless march of cancer. In the end, it took his life.

I saw a man be as brave as it is possible to be brave. I saw a woman, his incredible wife Amy, stand beside her man with a courage beyond belief. I saw his two teenaged sons as they learned lessons that no teenaged boys should be forced to learn. I saw my parents and my sister suffer the worst of all possible losses.

I have witnessed joy in the smallest of things. I have witnessed terror which still haunts me at the oddest of times. I have witnessed the astounding power of love and friendship as it lifted Michael, just like the Spartans at Thermopylae, into battle.

From Michael’s friends, I have learned how to stand with a friend as he or she battles for a life. I have learned of the strength found in silence. I have learned how to absorb waves of fear so that a friend may fight on. I have learned how to sow waves of compassion that wrap someone in love.

I have learned of astonishing random acts of kindness done in my brother’s honor. I have learned that people across the USA are cooking with my brother’s recipes. I have learned that men and women have prayed for my brother at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, in the Vatican in Rome, in a Hindi mandir in Assam, and in countless synagogues, churches, and mosques across the USA and Europe.

Three years later, I still drive my brother’s Jeep, in which I still can’t bring myself to change the radio presets. My finest dress shirts are now those which Amy allowed me choose from his closet. I’ve a few pair of ugly socks which I’d like to show Michael one more time.

And the next time I hear a certain sports announcer say something truly stupid on TV, I’d love to get just one more text from Michael – “Good thing Joe Buck’s dad got him this gig.”
Just one more text…

A version of this appeared on Rants & Mutters on 11 December 2013.

David Stanley

View posts by David Stanley

David Stanley, B.S., M.A., is a writer and voice-over actor. His book, Melanoma; It Started with a Freckle is due out in spring 2016 via McGann Publishing. Follow @MelanomaBook for updates. Stanley writes regularly for Dads Roundtable. His freelance work has appeared in Velo, Peloton, ROAD, and magazines. His VO work can be heard at Follow him on Twitter @dstan58. He tweets early and often.

1 Comment

  1. LarryNovember 10, 2015

    I’m sorry for the loss of your brother. The fact that you gained so much from him speaks to him as a person.
    I can’t imagine a situation that is much harder than when a loved one gets to the point where we pray for them to pass to relieve the pain.

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