“I’ll come with you, if that’s what you need.” My sister looked relieved at my words.
Within hours, we stepped from freezing cold and fog bound planes, out onto the tarmac, into humidity dripping heat.
A strange and estranged lot, pulled in all directions, it had been years since we had all been in one place together; lives shredded.
Now our brother lay on his death bed and there was a compulsion to be there; to see him again; to say the unsaid things; to touch again; perhaps to mend or be mended.
Six of us, birthed from the one union; the seventh gathered as a babe when his own mother died. Our parents had lived a life long commitment; till death had parted them and then parted us from them. After our mother had died the strong fabric of family disintegrated and our lost father spent the last of his days wandering the country. And one by one we fell apart, disjointed.
There we came together in our brother’s tiny Donga, tucked between his two worlds; to the west, his labor of years, a luxury resort and golf club and at his very back door the untouched bush meeting the sea.
The awkwardness of our fragmentation was tangible as we took turns to sit at his bedside. All those things to be said; who would say them; how could you start; when would be the right time?
He roused at sunrise and signaled his desire to be at his little window. We carefully guided his feeble frame and stood with him as he gazed through the bush land to watch the sun rise over the horizon. White cockatoos made their noisy entrance into the day and a couple of kangaroos perched silently enjoying the dew laden grasses. This was the place he had made home and this is where his heart had been.
With a new appreciation, our eldest sister began to reminisce of their times together when they were young; the three oldest together. She wove her memories story by story, with our brother nodding gently in remembrance; remembrance of times spent scrounging through old buildings; playing in the pig pens; a time at wars end. Memories of our dad desperate for work, an unknown time for us younger ones.
Then my older brother picked up the thread and spoke of their sporting days together and their prowess with the local girls; ending in naught for either of them and how they had become a strange Darby and Joan for themselves.
My next sister and I had another generation of memories wafted and woven into the lives of the older ones. Remembering how my brother had been my hero and my protector well into my teens and would accompany me when no one else was around. He had taught my sister to drive and to play golf, which is still her passion.
Then the ‘little boys’ had memories that had connections with only the older boys as they had been taken off with our dad for years away from the sisters; stories of brokenness and aloneness and wild pranks, to which our brother nodded silently.
There was no sleep, we sat at the bedside, or the tiny table, or at the fire out back; rotating in warmth and acceptance of each other; almost tenderness as we waited for his passing.
At sunrise I walked along the dirt path in the bush, the clouds rolled over the mountain range fingerlike reflecting the pink hues of the coming sun, ribbons of promise across the grey morning sky. “Lord, Lord! What do I say? Give me the opportunity to bring him into you.”
“Just love them.” That’s all I heard in my heart.
We rolled him over and sponged him gently, whispering words of comfort, of love and support. We had a clean up day and our youngest brother brought the first rose from his garden and stood it in an old glass.
In those few short days, God had picked up our tattered lives and woven them into a tapestry; we were united; we were family.
A long time friend rang him, we put the phone to his ear. His friend spoke to him gently and asked if he was ready to meet Jesus, if he was ready to go home.
Early on Friday morning our brother made his peace with the Lord and went to be with him. And we left in peace, connected.
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