Today marks 14 years that my brother Seth died after his 5 year battle with a brain tumor. What? Sometimes even writing or saying that is still not even believable to me. That time frame in 2009 was hard; it was one of the darkest periods of my life and you will understand a little more as you read through this blog.
I remember exactly where I was at, when it was, and what followed during a very confusing time for our family. It was August 14, 2004, my first husband (Jack) and I were heading into a wedding reception for a family friend. Jack had a cell phone (which I still find strange, but he worked in the tech world at HP). He received a call from a fellow friend on the volunteer fire department who worked at Bike Masters with my brother Seth (Ryan also was Seth's bff). Jack motioned me inside, while he took the call. I remember him coming in and saying, we need to go now and that Ryan informed him Seth was on his way to the hospital via ambulance after he witnessed and saw Seth having a grand mal siezure at work. We dropped the gift off and said we had to leave to the bride and groom. Arriving at the hospital we didn't know what was going on, but I thought maybe we wait to call my parents, but decided against it. My parents are divorced, so I called my mom first hoping to catch her at home (because most people only still had land lines); luckily I got a hold of her and told her maybe she should come in to the hospital. I then did the same with my dad and caught him as he was walking out the door, he also said he would be coming in. I can't remember the details of who was all in the room when we found out, but I feel it was just me, Jack, & Seth; I'd have to ask my mom if she was there yet. Of course, the news was bad...after a CT scan they found a mass on Seth's brain. From there, fear settled in and the unknown was so very scary.
Days in the hospital turned into a full week, Seth had other seizures etc. We finally got to bring him home. See, Seth had just a week prior to this moved onto the farm where Jack and I lived. We had our house and then we had a small little house that Seth was living (rent free) there;) Because my parents were divorced and they really didn't get along very well and Seth was not seeing anyone or married at the time either, I felt the need to mother him. I did just that and I made him sleep at my house, I blew up the air mattress and made him sleep on it and I slept on the floor next to him. I was terrified he was going to have a seizure or something happen to him in the middle of the night. I was a VERY over protective sister. Well, that first night I did a horrible job watching him close enough as I almost killed him because I didn't want to turn on any bright lights to give him his medicine, etc.; so by the next morning Seth was swollen and a full blown rash, trouble breathing, etc. I was in shock and felt horrible. Luckily Jack was on the fire department and he called in a ride for Seth into the hospital. He was having an allergic reaction to a new medicine we just picked up. UGH...the feelings and emotions I had.
Anyways, this blog is not going to be all about his story. I'm saving that for my other project I'm working on. We know the end; Seth had brain surgery to remove his tumor, it was a grade 1...perfect. He met and married Joey, they still lived at the farm. I had a baby named Garret. Seth had another brain surgery. Garret died. Jack got diagnosed with cancer. Jack died February 8th, 2009. Seth was going to be my helper and supporter on the farm. Seth got sick again and had another brain surgery March 13, 2009. The tumor grew like the ugly beast it was and it ended his life on April 7, 2009. Exactly 2 months after my husband died.
It's extremely hard for me to explain or even put into words how I felt or feel about that time period. I just lost a sibling. BUT, I just lost a husband. BUT, I was still grieving the loss of my baby boy. How did I even separate my losses? Who was I actually grieving for? I have no idea and I am guessing to this day, I didn't do it properly or the right way.
I had Graci to worry about and help her grieve. My parents had lost a son (I knew how that felt), they just lost a son in law, they lost a grandson. Same for my sister and her family, they lost a sibling, they lost a brother in law, and a nephew. My in-laws had just lost a son, they lost a grandson, and now they lost a family member too as we were all very close. How does one family even lean on the other family member? How do we grieve so many losses in such a short amount of time? How do we show up for each other? I still don't know the answer to that. I'm not sure we did any of it right. We tried, we grieved, we got together. But were we "really" there for each other?
You see...we already had a scare with my sister back in late 2001, early 2002 when she was diagnosed with cancer (cervical cancer). Her's was not typical of course, but she had surgery, she had her first chemo treatment the day Graci left the hospital after being born. I remember telling Jack to go down and see how Marcy is doing, while we pack up here. She did all she needed to do to win and beat the cancer beast and I'm proud and happy that she is still thriving and alive today. Then there is my brother Nathan who was just so young. He comes from my mom's second marriage and he was in High School when Seth (his brother) was going through the fight of his life. So how do you deal with that? (well, he did end up winning the high school state basketball championship that year (2009) and Seth had to watch from his hospital bed). AND let's not forget my sweet daughter Graci who was just 4 years old when her sibling died. How do you process and honor her feelings when it's impossible to understand ourselves?
So, it's more than just me as a grieving sibling. There's 3 of us grieving our brother and Marcy & Nathan, also grieving a brother in law. Our family was torn apart in an instant in a 2 month period from cancer. I HATE CANCER!! It has stolen so much from all of us and so many of you as well.
Sibling grief does not get recognized hardly at all. They reference it as the silent grievers. People are more concerned about the grieving parents of the child that died and then the grieving sibling is just left alone in their own grief. We grieve our childhood and all the rotten things we did to each other. We grieve what it would be like to see him have a family of his own and give us a legacy to build our family tree with. It is so true that when you lose a sibling to death, you lose a part of your past, your present, and your future. I think for me, a part of me feels like I failed to protect my brother Seth from pain and cancer; and then I also feel guilt that I couldn't be there for my sister and my other brother during the grief process.
There is also no word for a sibling loss or a child loss; when a spouse dies you are a widow or widower. They say (whoever the hell "they" are), that the word is "bereaved". So I'm a bereaved sister or I'm a bereaved mom. Baloney...I'm pissed that my brother died, I'm pissed my son died. Let's find a word for these deaths because it happens every day. (although I hate the word widow too). So, see there really is no right or wrong word I guess.
To end my sibling death talk, I would apologize to my sister Marcy and my brother Nathan, that I couldn't be a better sister during your sibling grief because I was so broken already from all the other deaths. I hope you know that you can come to me now and share your grief and feelings towards all that time period when no one was there for most of us (but yet we still had a community of people surrounding us). I would also highly suggest to all of YOU, if you have sibling indifferences or you are annoyed with a sibling, call them, love them, text them. You don't have to be super close and go out together always, but let them know you appreciate them as a sibling. Help be an advocate for a sibling going through tough times either through illness or through adversity.
My hope always is to give YOU all HOPE! I know that my blog might sound bitter, it might sound so very broken and sad. It was and that was our life then. It is still our life grieving all our losses. BUT...I'm sharing with you the vision you get to see that we can all overcome and move through the pain of grief with purpose. By me sharing the darkest moments, I know I am helping someone out there overcome some dark moments. Share the pain with those around you and watch your mind and soul transform.
We only get this one life folks, so let's do what I preach and let us all "BE BETTER TOGETHER".