Two of my brothers and I stood atop Grandad Bluff, watching the sunset fade. The temperature was warm, and the wind whipped my hair. The twilight colors set a peaceful mood. We had just lost another one of our older brothers and we soaked in the moment, in remembrance.
We had wanted to spend time with him this weekend, as we knew his time was short. He had just found out he had pancreatic and liver cancer a few days prior. The oncologist had warned us the day before, when some of us had visited him, that he only had hours, perhaps days left. We traveled the 4-hour drive on Saturday, to La Crosse WI, only to come up 15 minutes short of his passing. He died alone.
How does one give tribute to a brother who lived the life of a wild man? He had a magnetic personality and charmed people easily. He had a dry wit inherited from my father, that never failed to make us laugh. The day before he died, he was heavily medicated with Fentanyl to control the pain. There were 5 of us visiting him that day,standing around his bed, along with the doctor. He suddenly sat straight up in the hospital bed and exclaimed “What, am I putting on a show?” before tumbling back in a stupor. Or a few days before, he had been on the phone with another one of my brothers (I have 7) and jokingly, yet perhaps prophetically, told him “You’re next.”
The stories I could tell about my brother Mike are truly legendary, I can’t begin to count the times he’s cheated death in the past, in dramatic fashion. Broken hips, losing an eye, police encounters, crazy stunts. The stories he was able to tell, made it sound like he had the rock star life! Life catches up to you though. He was only 59 and the drinking and smoking dope finally caught up to him in the form of two primary cancers.
I ask all of you, do you surround yourself with people who are making you a better person? Or are they causing you to compromise your values? A drink or two and a little weed never hurt nobody. Lies! My brother could have been so much more but instead, chose the “fun life” and it ever-so-slowly took all he held dear. Wife, children, jobs… I ask you seriously, where will your lifestyle lead to, when you look down the road?
Still, he was a good man, behind all the madness; he was fiercely loyal to all of his family and there was nobody I’d rather have at my back. I loved my brother and he made it right in the end. Our mother prayed the Sinner’s Prayer with him before the pain meds took his mind. Luke 15:10 tells us “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Matthew 20:1-16 ensures that his wages in the final hour will be equal to those who had worked a full day.
I don’t recommend waiting until that final hour, you may not get that chance.
Rest, my brother and tell Dad and Bill I love them, too.