Saturday, December 18, 2010

"A Brother's Homecoming"

Today, I make my way to mother's house with a heavy heart. I will come as a messenger of bad news, instead of a helper. This isn't the first time this year that I have brought the news to mother of a loved one who has gone to be with the Lord. Back in July, my oldest sister Doris, lost her fight with lung cancer and it fell on me to deliver the news that mother's oldest child had died. I can't imagine ever hearing those words about one of my children. That day in mother's kitchen, I reluctantly called dementia, my friend. Had mother been about her normal self, the grief would have been unbearable.

As I step through the door, she can already sense my uneasiness. For as long as I can remember, mother has always been able to look in my eyes and know that something is wrong. "What' s the matter" she asks. "Nothings wrong," I say. Not wanting to tell her so soon that her brother Arnold, the last of her eight siblings, had passed, I fib a little until I'm sure she's awake enough to grasp the pain which will soon come.

Mother always had a special bond with Uncle Arnold for as long as I can remember. After the passing of her husband Yates several years ago, mother began to lean on him for good advice about anything from doctors to cars. The family knew that Uncle Arnold was in failing health, but had avoided telling mother as long as possible.

Several weeks ago, I had asked mother to talk to me about him when mother had drug out a picture of her and some of her siblings the day of her sister Louise's funeral. (Mother is to the far left and Arnold the far right) Mother told me that Uncle Arnold was very handsome in his younger years, more so than any of her other brothers. She told me of his heroism in World War II, and how proud he made her father, John. I only found out the extent of his bravery by reading his obituary this week where it listed his Bronze Medal and Purple Heart.

I glance over at the kitchen table and see mother taking sips of water as she swallows her last morning pill. I decide to walk over and have a seat at the end of the table as I do every morning, prior to my saying goodbye and heading to work. "Mother" I begin, "I have a little bit of bad news for you this morning..."

It's been four days now since Uncle Arnold's death which came only five days prior to his 91st birthday. The family has chosen to hold his going home celebration (funeral) on his birthday. Mother seems to be adjusting to the loss now. Every morning since I had given her the news, she would greet me at the door with a silly look on her face and say she had dreamed that Arnold had died. Unfortunately, I would have to tell her that it wasn't a dream but instead, reality. The grieving process would repeat itself, over and over again each morning, forcing mother to experience his loss each day. I truly believe that Dementia is an illness straight from the gates of Hell, grasping its victims, torturing them and the ones they love.

Tomorrow, a brother, father, grandfather, Uncle, war hero and friend will be buried in the Williams Cemetery which lies just adjacent to where he was born, raised and lived for some 91 years. Rest in peace Uncle Arnold.

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