That’s the law.
I just wasn’t ready for my brother to die and that’s the truth.
I suppose it’s because he’s bounced back from adversity so many times during his 72 years, we..his family and friends..just figured he wouldn’t let Parkinson’s, COPD, a heart that wouldn’t stay in rhythm, CREST Syndrome and a few other physical ailments stand in his way of recovery this time.
It was too much, of course, and it turned out that Saturday August 16th would be Dennis Lund’s last day on earth. He tried to hang on so everyone could be there but he was hurting and breathing was such a chore. Totally aware of everything going on, Denny accepted our expressions of love and offered his to all of us in the room, then gave the green light for nurse Charlie to administer the morphine and end his agony.
As requested, Denny’s memorial service at Boom’s wasn’t real traditional. Pastor, Dennis Ellingson..a family friend..agreed to come out of retirement to lead the proceedings that included a memorable eulogy from Denny’s wife, Judy who recounted that final day in the hospital and some of the wonderful and witty things my brother said before dying. Judy was well aware that her husband loved the game of golf almost as much as he loved her yet she made sure there was a definite golf theme to his service; the most obvious being my brother’s ashes contained in a golf-ball shaped urn.
I got up next trying to keep the mood light telling tales of growing up together..sharing a bed..me wetting that bed and he accidentally rolling into the puddle. That haunted me through the years when Denny would bring it up in front of people who’d recognize me from TV. I also got some chuckles talking about my brother’s various business adventures..especially raising Llamas and how I’d cringe when people would ask me to explain what in the world he was doing that for. My younger brother, Tom was next and, again, with humor through the pauses for swallowing, talked of Denny’s influence on our lives; his bravado, his lightening-fast wit and his surprising tender side. Then Denny and Judy’s son, Jay summoned up the emotional stamina to tell one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard about he and his dad digging fence posts at the Llama farm on a cold autumn day.
There was actually applause after it was over and, as the overflow crowd slowly exited from the room to the music of Blood, Sweat and Tears “When I Die,” I couldn’t help overhear many people saying it was one of the best funerals they’d ever attended. Others said the weirdest. Still others mentioned an hour long roller coaster ride of emotions.
In keeping with the theme of celebration over melancholy, everyone gathered at the VFW where a special room was set aside for us to meet and enjoy pizza from Denny and Judy’s favorite place, Tomacelli’s, along with beverages and an open mic for sharing Denny stories.
Denny and Judy’s first born son, Mitchell, along with his wife, Jodi, hardly left his dad’s side throughout the entire stay in the hospital and Good Sam. But, being even more emotional than the rest of us, Mitch chose not to speak at the service. But later at the VFW gathering, he absolutely brought hysterical laughter telling the story of once running into his dad at one of Mitchell, South Dakota’s more notorious night spots. Father and son used to joke about the incident with Mitch suggesting he was named after the city to our west. But there was no kidding around on the Saturday of Denny’s passing, though, when..for the first time ever, he called his eldest boy..”sweetheart.”
The next day was going through sympathy cards and sending “Thank-you’s.”
The last two days I haven’t left the house except to pick up a few essentials. It’s been mostly sleeping and feeling sorry for myself.
My brother’s passing isn’t about me and yet he was such a part of who I am, the reality of what’s transpired seems unacceptable. We didn’t see each other every “month” much less every day yet I always knew he was there to answer a question or offer advice; my one true blood source that I trusted.
As I stood over him last Saturday, I told him again how much I’ve loved and idolized him all my life and what an influence he’s been on nearly everything I’ve done. What I didn’t ask, though, is about dying itself. I selfishly wanted to know what he’s experiencing…if he could lead the way again and let me know that he sees the light and everything would be okay on the other side.
But it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway; morphine, by that time, had numbed his reality and within a short time a single tear slid down his cheek and, with a room full of sobbing loved ones looking on, Denny drew his last breath.
Okay, this next part might be what journalists call “burying the lead” but then most journalists probably wouldn’t accept what I’m about to relate as anything but pure fiction anyway but here goes.
Facebook is not everybody’s cup of tea but I like it. Of course you have to overlook the political rambling, silly game requests and other hooey, but it has allowed me to hook up with old friends and new who have been fun to play and celebrate with as well as offer council and sympathy to. Lord knows I’ve been on the receiving end of that a lot lately for which I’m profoundly grateful.
One of those friends is a woman I’ve never met; Greg Latza’s mom, Carol. She posted this on her timeline just as I sat down to my computer feeling very depressed.
A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. When you see one, it means they are visiting you. They usually show up when you most need them or miss them. They also make an appearance during times of celebration as well as despair to let you know they will always be with you. Look for them, they’ll appear.
My first thought was chain letter or one of those religious ultimatum sayings that pop up now and again on social media but, there were no demands here. Just a declarative statement that says look for them..they’ll appear. So I said, “Oh yeah?” “Appear then!” and looked out my window at the tree.
Within 5 seconds a beautiful red cardinal landed and paraded around on the branch not 15 feet from the window! I’ve seen them in my tree before..maybe a couple times a year..usually hidden in the leaves. This beautiful representative hopped proudly in full view. When my heart finally left my throat, I hollered for Linda to come quick. But by the time she got here, the scarlet messenger had taken flight.
I only hope that the passage of time and the inevitable skepticism that haunts my being will not dilute this experience..this reassurance I’ve been given..expressed best in words from a favorite hymn: “It is well…it is well..with my soul.”