He would chase me around the house, call me names and spy on my friends and me. I wasn’t innocent either, after all, we were siblings. He got me and I got him. There was one time, I think I was 14 and he was 11, while I was on the bed minding my own business (reading a book I think), he pulled the back of my bra strap and my shirt over the top of my head. I was irate, screaming “I’m telling” while giving him some good whacks. Those were the days we loathed each other.
It was shortly after that, my brother Patrick was diagnosed with a rare cancer. C A N C E R. Just the word when I was 14 was confusing and scary. Something that happened to people I didn’t know. I’ll never forget being called down to the counselors office in school and having them talk to me like I had lost a family member. I remember thinking, “he’ll go to the hospital and he will get better, no worries. Everything will be alright.”
That summer my sisters and I went to my grandparents’ house while mom and my brother went to Seattle Children’s Hospital. At 14, leaving behind friends and my mom was hard. I didn’t really think much about what they were going through because I didn’t really understand the severity of the situation.
Summer went by and we were given a choice to go to Seattle and live in and around the Ronald McDonald house or we could stay at my grandparents. We chose living in Seattle. We were around other siblings who were going through what we were going through. Best of all we were with my bother while he was in the hospital.
I’ll forever remember the night I got to sleep at the hospital with Patrick. He actually asked me to lay in his bed next to him. This was shocking because I was “gross and annoying”. I tried not to make it a big deal and said, “okay, fine.” He slipped his blanket over my legs, put his arms around me and told me he loved me. I am so grateful for that moment.
A year went by and after a big surgery, learning to walk again, and lots of chemo and radiation he was sent home. His scans were clear. YES! Clear scans. I knew it; he was fine after all. We all got to go home and we could start a “normal life.”
But that dream was short lived. Not long after he was home, he was in pain. Lots of pain. A medical flight back to Seattle was required to check him out. His scans were not clear; he was covered in tumors. At this point there was nothing they could do but try to keep him pain free. I still can’t put in to words what that felt like to me. I questioned why would God do that or if there really was a God. For a long time I was unsure of everything. I was hardened. I tried to ignore it, so it would go away.
A few days later he passed away and we all said goodbye. The growth that has happened since, in every aspect of my life is a gift. For those of you who have loved and lost, I hope you find a way to discover the blessings buried in your struggle. It is so hard, and the pain leaks out everywhere, but in my case at least, it did make me stronger.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of my brother’s passing, and while time does heal some wounds, it does not erase the scars entirely. I still find myself wanting to do more to remember him, so I sat down and wrote this post because telling his story is one way I can carry him with me. Other days, I do it by smiling to myself at the bittersweet memories of him chasing me around the house, or making fun of me, or being silly with me. And other days, I allow my heart to be filled with joy as I watch my own kids do the same to each other.
I now know there’s a reason for everything.
Patrick’s life will forever have a huge impact on my family, including my kids, who will only know him through my wonderful memories.