A Hole in the Universe

My brother with our dog, by the tractor. This was taken on our fruit farm in Niagara the summer of 1957.
1957brother

How many times I have written this entry, how many times minus one I have been overwhelmed with emotion, deleted it, closed the program, risen from my chair, and wandered away to do something, anything, to keep my conscious mind busy.

There is a hole in my universe, an empty space where there was once an energy, a voice, bedrock, a known corner of the world. I find myself leaking, emotions, tears, thoughts…

My eldest brother died on Sunday, July 17, at 11:20 a.m. We were there by his side, Attila and I, my Mom, my sisters and their partners, my brothers, one in person and one in spirit who could not be there. For four days we kept watch at my brother’s bedside, hoping against the odds that he would show signs of life, the fluttering of an eyelid, an attempt to talk, a movement of the hand. Attila and I sat quietly with him the day they raised his body temperature, suspended the sedation, waiting for him to open his eyes, to know we were there. But it was his time, and no matter how hard we hoped for his company, it was not to be. I will be forever grateful that I got to hold his hand at the end of his life, as I held it when he first appeared in my life, so many decades ago.

He had had a heart attack. He collapsed just after the ambulance arrived after having trouble catching his brea†h. He was unconscious and without a pulse for ten minutes on his way into the Emergency department at the hospital, and his pulse was lost a second time. After four days on life support, and extensive testing, we had to accept that he had suffered brain death, and would not recover. I found it very hard to accept, he looked so rosy and heathy and peaceful; his body was being kept alive by the life support measures that were in place.

The doctor and nurses Joseph and Sharon in the ICU were wonderful. The doctor talked to us daily, answered any and all questions with gentleness and patience, and kept my Mom informed up to the minute. My brother became an organ donor, making it possible for three people to live healthy lives.

We said our goodbyes. All of our lives there have been the six of us, and it just feels wrong that now we are five.

There are many ways in which I am mourning my little brother, some of them bittersweet, some of them are soft and glowing, and some of them are involved and difficult. He was a complex and intelligent man, courageous in all circumstances, fiercely protective of family, and he has left an indelible mark on the lives of those who loved him.

Safe journey little brother, walk with the angels.

22 Comments

  1. Sandy

    Maggie I am so sorry to hear this. I’m sending prayers asking for strength for you and your family. I know that your brother knew that you all were there holding his hand and being with him.

  2. Maggie, I’m searching for any words that might comfort you, but I know that you can’t find any comfort right now. I know that deep, deep sorrow is present in your heart, and that you will feel it for a time. Allow yourself to feel it, just as you allow your love for him to flow. I am so sorry for your loss. We are all thinking about you, and the many years he was in your life.

  3. TopsyTurvy (Teri)

    I wish there was a way none of us ever had to go through these kinds of losses, but it’s not to be. I’m glad you were able to be there with your brother and so much of your family. There’s a strength to be found in togetherness, even when someone is missing. I’m glad the majority of your family is nearby, so you have each other for support and to share memories.

    My condolences to your mom, it’s especially hard to lose a child. And condolences to you and your family. *hugs*

  4. I was just thinking of you yesterday, wondering why you’d been absent from here for a while. I am so sorry. Those holes that exist when a loved one moves away from our visible consciousness are so hard to bear. I firmly believe that “we do not die” – and that includes every living thing on this Earth. We only change shapes, shells, bodies, structures. That which made us beloved in the first place will never be gone, because it always was invisible to the naked eye anyway… we can’t “see” love, even now, even among those who haven’t passed. Invisible doesn’t mean gone. Just harder to see. Sorry… Maggie… I am so sorry you are in this place, and I totally empathize with you.

  5. Bex, thank you for sharing your perspective on loss of loved ones, it is totally in sync with my own, and your words remind me of these things at this time, when I most need to remember them, and am most likely to forget them.

  6. It’s a beautiful thing, the way family members come running when one of their own is ill. We go about our daily lives as if we have forever, but the moment one person is at serious risk, and it doesn’t matter what has gone on before, everyone is reminded how important that person is to them. This is the silver lining, if there is one, to our time of passing from this world: our loved ones remember what matters.
    My condolences to you and your family, and especially your mom for the unimaginable, unbearable loss she is feeling in her private moments. I wish you all strength.

  7. Kate, so beautifully spoken, in the end our love and our connection are all that really matter in this world. It is the thread of love that weaves the strongest networks of human existence. Thank you for your kind thoughts, escpecially for my Mom.

  8. NORA

    Dear Maggie,
    I’m so very sorry to hear about your younger brother’s transition. You wrote so kindly and lovingly about him and the family. He was obviously so lucky to have such a warm hearted, caring family.

    Love the photo of him as a youngster. I was moved by the image of you holding his hand both when he was born and when he journeyed on. I’ve yet to lose a sibling and can not imagine what it must be like. And for a parent to lose a child there are no words.

    I send my love and sympathy to you and your family Maggie. x0x0x0x Nora

  9. Thank you Nora for your kind thoughts. The pain of losing my brother is a slow leak.

    I was the oldest, my brother was born when I was 18 months old, and he was the sunshine of my life when he came home from the hospital all those years ago. I was his only big sister, and we both carried our affection from that time throughout our lives.

    Mom has said very little about her feelings, I think it is because, as you put it, “there are not words.”

    I hope all is well in your world Nora, I miss your blog!

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