My younger brother became gravely ill less than a year after the birth of his son (who had entered the world three months early). It was an emotional time for all…first pulling for the little one and then pulling for his daddy.
Without going into details of my brother’s illness, he fought for his health and for his life over the next five years. He had numerous transfusions, sat on a transplant list, and had complications with multiple organs. His body seemed to be crumbling a bit at a time. Each time I saw him, he was thinner, becoming skeletal. Eventually, his appearance reminded me of the haunting images of Auschwitz’s prisoners. Eyes sunken in, arms gangly. Remaining properly nourished was a challenge when he couldn’t keep much down. In August 2016, I traveled to Colorado to visit him in the hospital. I didn’t realize these few days would be the last days of conversations between us. During that week, I spent every night in his hospital room. We talked and talked and talked: about life, about memories, about hopes for the future, about marriage, children, and family.
Surgery was scheduled for that week. Not only would this procedure improve current complications, it would also bump him up on the transplant list. Before rolling away for surgery, I leaned over and kissed his forehead. He gave me his quirky smile that said, “You’re my weird sister,” and I chuckled. However, I became startled when my lips met his forehead. He had no fat on his bones, I knew, but I wasn’t expecting the feeling that I was kissing his skull. His skin was so dry and so thin and stretched tightly across his forehead.