I was warned. Four months ago, when my youngest brother, Jeremy (41), was first diagnosed with lymphoma, a compassionate friend who works in pharmaceuticals tried to prepare us for what might lie ahead. “Sometime during this battle with cancer, Jeremy will most likely get closer to death than you could ever imagine possible.” i’ve thought about that warning countless times, especially during these past two weeks as Jeremy has become alarmingly weaker. My brother is extremely frail. Lymphoma has raged havoc on his body. He is fighting desperately for his life.
I’m here in the hospital having taken the night shift last night. Jeremy is sleeping now, breathing heavily as he constantly wakes himself up in an ongoing cycle of coughing up phlegm. I don’t like Jeremy ever being here alone. I want those who love him deeply to be in his room caring for him. I’m concerned he’ll need something that the nurses won’t be able to decipher through his barely audible mumblings–a cool cloth for his forehead, a foot massage, a comforting report that his 3 small children are all okay, a swab for his mouth, a bedpan, prayer over him, scripture read.
As I sit besides his bed, I tearfully find myself asking how could it even be possible for Jeremy to get any closer to death than this? Last night, we were informed of the dire news that the lymphoma has moved to both Jeremy’s spinal fluid and to his brain. Devastating news, Heartbreaking. An urgent radiation treatment is scheduled to take place ASAP.
Each day as I’m with Jeremy I’m noticing that it’s becoming more difficult for me to leave him. My planned 3 hour visits continually stretched to 7 or 9 hours. It’s getting hard to walk away and go back home. I can feel myself somehow clinging to irrational idea that if I’m here with him then somehow, somehow I can hold onto him, make sure he stays here with us and doesn’t leave.
Last night someone encouraged me to not give up hope, to keep fighting, to keep trusting, believing, and praying. I wholeheartedly agree and am present to being in all of those places. I know that God is, beyond a doubt, completely able. I was also compassionately cautioned that it might be wise to prepare myself to “let Jeremy go”. There is certainly wisdom in these words and I wish I could say I’m mature enough, wise enough, experienced enough, brave enough, what-ever-enough to be able to do that, but quite honestly, I am not. I’m not ready. Not even close. How exactly does one “prepare”? Odd-I know God is here, I feel His abundant presence in the midst of these heartbreaking circumstances. I feel such peace knowing that God is completely in control, and yet every ounce of my being resists the thought of letting my baby brother go. I want him to get better, to be here with us, to be able to watch his 3 kids grow. I want Jeremy and his beautiful wife, Angela, to have many happy years together. I want Jeremy’s laughter in my life, his contagious enthusiasm for learning, his compassion and care for the world, his inspiring faith. I want him to be with us at family gatherings–birthday celebrations and holidays. I want him to live. To live. And, most certainly, I know without a doubt I just don’t ever want to let him go.
~~ Melissa Mains-Timberlake