My brother is dying by inches…

I wish I could say something wise about the process of dying, but I cannot. I love my brother – my brother-in-law, really, but a true brother as all of my husband’s family are very much my own. He has been, for all of these years, the kindest man I have ever known – the sort of man who, suffering and weighing less than 100 lbs, wonders when you arrive if he can get you a cool drink.

He is kind. Christ-kind. Always quick to turn the other cheek, to extend hospitality and generosity to people who have routinely taken advantage of him. He has always been willing to be vulnerable, he is comfortable being naive and innocent and open. He never speaks a bad word against anyone, although he has from time to time wondered why people can be so cold. I’ve watched this man I’ve known for 25 years get taken advantage of, over and over again, by people who cared quite a lot for the good times he could supply and next-to-nothing for him. All those summers on Fire Island. All the parties and the raucous times. As soon as he got sick, all the friends went away. I’ve learned a lot about Christ from my dying brother. I’ve also learned some harder lessons that are not easy to express, and I’m sure won’t be easy for others to read.

I can’t write them yet. We are still in this midst of this dying. Tonight, my brother was finally anointed – I’d been pushing for it for over a month, but there was some resistance within the family – a feeling that anointing, rather than bringing healing might hasten death. He was anointed and given communion – food for the unfathomable journey ahead. We are all in prayer, all in love, all in grief. There is laughter, there is tenderness both of the best and the worst kind. There are too many questions, old hurts being sorted out. Mostly there is silence. The dog barely barks, the television and radio are only intrusive. We listen as he sleeps. We hear each others hearts as they crack and shatter.

Please pray for my brother, and for his parents. In a world where there is so much that needs praying for, so many who need to be covered in prayer, it almost feels extravagant to ask for prayers for our puny selves, and our small unimportant lives. But if you are of a mind to pray, please ask that my brother’s death might be gentle, that my parents may receive the grace to endure it. I thank you with all humility and bottomless gratitude.

That’s all for now. When this is over, I’m hoping I can write it. There is much to say. Peace be with you.

About Elizabeth Scalia

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