I don’t know when my brother’s final breath will be. He just had a heart attack last night while in hospital after a fall that left his ankle fractured in three places.
My role right now is to sit in another city waiting for texts from his wife relaying any change in his condition. I am also being my mother’s main support as her 92-year-old mind is working overtime imagining the worst scenarios this will end in. She has lots of time on her hands and wonders if her son will die before her – she keeps reminding me that this has always been her worst fear.
Being a nurse with over 30 years of Palliative and Oncology experience, I want to be there. I want to make sure the care he is receiving is optimal. I want to be doing something other than sitting and waiting. Making a difference was my calling since I was 17 years old working as a Patient Care attendant in a nursing home for the summer . I realized I could support those that were facing Death’s Knock and were in the space of confusion and fear.
The sound of Death’s knock is not unfamiliar to my brother. He was only 10 days old when an inguinal hernia had to be repaired and the doctors were not optimistic as to the outcome. Those many years ago they did not do surgery on little ones that young.
Death knocked again on his door when he was 26 years old. Shortness of breath had brought him to the doctor and a diagnosis of cancer of the trachea, oesophagus, his left lung and the top lobe of his right lung was made. Surgery was not an option in Canada due to the extensiveness of the tumour spread. A trip to Boston saved his life and had him written up in the New England Journal of Medicine for his miraculous response.
Now almost 40 years later he hears Death knocking on his door again.
My brother and I did not always get along. Even as young children I remember the fighting, arguing and time outs that was our punishment for our verbal and physical alterations.
As the years went by we found a mutual respect and admiration for who we became in life. I continued with my nursing career and became an author and he continued in my father’s business ensuring it flourished. We also came to the realization that success is not measured by the number of toys we have accumulated or trips we have taken. It is measured by the depth of our relationships. The times we were able to put our own feelings aside and make sure the other person is heard and understood. We learned to hold our tongues and listen to what would be possible by getting into the other person’s world. Imagine ourselves as them and what they are faced with. Become connected to another’s situation.
I don’t even want to think about the worst scenario of this event. I won’t allow myself to go there. It serves no purpose other then to bring fear and upset not only to myself but for those around me. My brother will hear it in my voice. He will sense the hopelessness that will shift the energy in our conversation and alter any hope that he has.
At this moment I am present to love. The love I have for him and the gift he is in my life. The past is where it needs to be – in the past. The future has not happened yet. This is where fear lives. All I have right now is the present and the knowledge that he is in the care of trained professionals who will support him. I feel at peace that I don’t have to apologize for any wrongs – for that has been done. He knows I love him – as he has heard these words from me many times.
What there is – is right now – a space where miracles can show up and where love is present.
Meina J. Dubetz RN
Author of “When Death Comes Knocking for Your Patient”
Life/Death Coach, Hypnotherapy and a Reiki Master.