Death rarely calls ahead for an appointment.
This week my wife got behind the wheel of her car to go see her brother for the last time. After years of cancer treatments — ones where he fought the cancer with a remarkable stubbornness — his doctors have decided the treatments are no longer going to be effective. The big ugly C is coming to take another beautiful person from our world.
Originally, my wife’s brother was given a few years — a prognosis based on the results of what years of treatment experience might predict. In these difficult situations both doctors and families are searching for answers — and past experiences are all anyone has to go on.
But then there is the other factor. My wife’s brother is a fighter like no one’s business. And to his credit, he has wrestled this ugly monster to the mat time after time over the past decade or so. But in the end, the battle became a match of endurance. And as we know time does not wait for any of us. Age and fatigue compound making treatments more difficult, less effective.
As I write this, my wife’s brother is at home and resting comfortably. He is under the care of hospice and his family. But I also know he is continuing to fight each and every day. And surrounded by his family, he is where he needs to be.
But death does not set an appointment. The days could be hours. The minutes could be moments. Waiting for the inevitable is the most painful.
My wife opted for driving the 14-hour distance to where her brother is resting. Loading up the car, she and our daughter decided the decompression time together would be good for them both. And I know she is right. The open road can be a healing place for a wounded heart.
Bright eyes, a sheepish smile and a generous heart. This is what I see when I think of my wife’s brother. He is a good man surrounded by an army of close family who have walked this journey alongside him. He is not alone.
But in the end, the battle becomes one of who can outlast the other. And in too many cases, the ugly monster wins. The human spirit, while our most powerful tool in life, is still contained inside an organic vessel susceptible to the natural decay of time.
I hurt for my wife. I hurt for her brother and the family at his side. I hurt for anyone who experiences similar moments in life.
Cancer sucks. Lurking like an invisible villain waiting to disrupt or destroy an unsuspecting life. I pray to God we one day are able to contain this ugly monster. The pain, the suffering, the loss of good people must stop. We can never stop fighting.
My wife will kiss her brother goodbye, squeeze his hand one final time, and then head back home. But she is not alone — nor is her brother.