Sunday, September 6, 2015
This is my brother. His name is Jerry. He died yesterday at the age of 66.
Quick background: my father was a widower with four children. My mother was divorced with six. They married when Jerry, my father's youngest, was 14. I was born when he was 15. I don't have memories of living in the same house with him, but I do have memories of spending time with him. He loved to go fishing and would take me with him sometimes. I would hand him worms to bait the hook. When he got married he would let me come to the apartment complex where he and his wife lived and stay the night and swim in his pool. When I got a little older I babysat his daughter, my niece, sometimes.
I have several vivid memories of Jerry helping me when I was little. Once when I was swimming in his pool I panicked in the deep water. Before I even started to go under, he was there, pulling me out. Another time something started biting me inside my pants leg. Jerry was the first to hear my screams and come and help me get the pants off so as not to get more stings from the scorpion that had apparently crawled inside.
I remember Jerry's smile and his hearty laugh. He was mischievous and playful and loved to play horseshoes.
Like my dad, Jerry was a smoker and drinker. He contracted lung cancer a few years ago and underwent treatment and surgery that stemmed the cancer's progress. Last month his daughter let me know that he was going to see the doctor due to a return of symptoms. Last week he went in for a biopsy but a few days later had to be admitted to the hospital due to fluid on his bad lung. In rapid succession he was put on a ventilator and went into sepsis before dying yesterday.
My family is a patchwork. I am the only "ours" of a "his, mine and ours" family. To some extent my dad's children seemed more like aunts and uncles to me than siblings. On my mom's "side" the youngest was 7 when I was born, so I spent a good chunk of my childhood living like an only child. Once I grew up, got married and moved to another state, and my dad died, it became harder to maintain a connection with all the pieces of my family, and there have been long stretches where we haven't kept in close contact. I haven't been a very good thread to try to hold this family quilt together.
My brother Jerry is the second of my siblings to die. My father's oldest son died three years ago. I wish I had called Jerry when I first got word that he was not feeling well. I thought there was more time. There wasn't.
I have been looking through old pictures to try to find a picture of me and Jerry together. I haven't found one yet. I will keep looking.
Jerry wasn't a churchgoer but I take comfort in the knowledge that he was baptized into Jesus Christ when he was a child. I pray he was able to cling to that faith at the last. I love you, Jerry. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.