June 12, 2010
Dear Dr. K,
This letter may prove to be the biggest writing challenge of my life. It requires that I relive one of the most painful moments I’ve experienced, the death of my brother. You met my brother, but you never really knew him, so I’d like to introduce him to you.
He was born on June 30, 1972, the youngest of two siblings and the only boy. He played the role of third-born quite well. He was full of humor and often the center of attention. He always knew exactly when to say, “Pull my finger.” He made the funniest faces, the best forts, and kicked our pants in games of chess.
There is no shortage of funny memories for my family and I to relive. He once made a rap sheet with all the things my sister had done wrong in a day. On his list was, “She put three heaping teaspoons of cocoa in her hot chocolate and one in her mouth.” We still laugh about that one.
He loved to hunt and fish. He gutted his first deer at the age of ten and as an adult became an avid fly-fisherman. He had a favorite fishing-hole from which he claimed to have caught the same pike three times. He would hold it up, and just before releasing it look it in the eye and say, “See you next time buddy.”
He was quite an artist. He could out sketch the best and became a top-notch commercial painter. My family room walls still bear the touch of his artistry.
He thrived on words of affirmation, and enjoyed the simple things in life. Unfortunately, his life was not without pain, and alcohol became his friend. Some would think he was just a loser who drank too much, but they didn’t know the real man. He was simply a person in pain.
His friend caused him some legal problems, and the courts gave him an ultimatum; either submit to a daily Breathalyzer or take the drug Antabuse. He opted for the drug and you were the doctor who wrote his prescription. Unfortunately, he became part of the statistics described on the fact sheet attached to the medicine bottle, and his liver began to fail. He called your office numerous times to no avail. Once an appointment was finally scheduled, his blood work showed full-blown liver failure. Your only action was to take him off the medication. He should have been referred to a specialist that day. If he had, there would’ve been more time for treatment, and he might still be alive.
Have you watched someone you love die? Have you watched him deteriorate into a state of unconsciousness until he breaths his last breath, and his skin turns to wax before your very eyes? Have you heard the wail of his family when the realization hits that he is dieing, and they cannot save him? Words fail to capture the ache, the sorrow, and the depth of what I felt at that moment and in the weeks that followed. Words only come in senseless, overused clichés that have lost their meaning. My brother is gone, torn away just two weeks before his 35th birthday. It is senseless, no doubt. No more will I hear his laughter. It only lingers in my memory, a faint echo in the corridors of my heart. His smile no longer radiates from living flesh, but is only seen in photographs, snapshots of split seconds in time. It is just ink on a page. He and I will never share another hug, and I’ll never again see him flex his arms in a body builder pose as he tells me, “Feel my pecs.”
My brother’s name was Michael, which means gift from God. He was truly that, a gift that God let us share for nearly 35 years.
In my heart, I have shaken my fists at you. I’ve blamed you for inadequate care and have held you accountable for my brother’s death. But I’ve come to realize that God has appointed each one a time to die, and it was simply my brother’s time. I forgive you for the part you played in all of it. I release my anger to God and offer you the hand of grace. Today on the anniversary of his death, I pray that God grants you success in your practice and that his hand guides you in your future endeavors.
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