Life certainly has a way to throw you a curveball at times. The old adage ‘Life is short, do not wait,’ is certainly truer than you can imagine, but I already know you understand that. The year 2020 has shown many of us that we should take that quote to heart before it is too late.
The influx of the COVID-19 Pandemic has strained the lives of so many, as they were separated from loved ones they could no longer visit in retirement homes, or hospitals when a family member or good friend was afflicted by a deadly disease or serious injury.
Such was the case for me earlier this year when I received a call from New Hampshire. My younger brother, who was only 63 called and said he was going into the hospital for some tests. We chatted some and I assured him he would be simply fine. Initially, the diagnosis came back that he had a blocked bile-duct in his gallbladder. The doctor scheduled him for a surgical procedure to unblock that obstruction.
Needless to say, that was not successful, and while investigating further, Bill was diagnosed with a problem involving his pancreas. Further trips and procedures revealed he was suffering from a tumor on that organ and he was transferred to another facility.
By this time, the COVID-19 Pandemic began shutting down the nation. Visits to healthcare facilities were banned and travel bans were being enforced. Thank God for technology as he and I were able to communicate via “Facetime” and other means of video communications.
He was now at one of the most prestigious health care facilities in the United States. As luck might have it, one of my college roommates’ wives had been a former high-ranking nursing administrator at the facility. A call to her resulted in an ease of my anxiety over Bill’s condition. She contacted some of her friends still working there and Bill received some good-natured ribbing from his nurses and assurances he was in good hands with his surgeon.
A subsequent surgery to perform the complicated Whipple procedure to remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine and the gallbladder and bile duct. The remaining organs would be reattached to allow normal digestion of food. It has proven to be a lifesaver for many patients, so long as the problem is diagnosed in the early stages.
Unfortunately for Bill, the cancer had spread to his liver, impacting that vital organ. There was not much anyone could do given the spread of this terrible disease. Cancer is a disease that has visited my family twice before. One when my father was taken by it at 45 years of age. It also took my mother six months after her retirement at 66. It has now stricken my family for the third time.
My sister traveled there last Wednesday, and I joined her on Friday. I had reached out to a great friend who visited with Bill earlier last week on my request and advised me that his time was short. I had been scheduled to be in New Hampshire for his birthday on July 22nd, a milestone he was determined to make.
Bill wanted to pass in the home we all grew up in. I made arrangements to have him and his new wife move there when I moved to Florida 30 years ago. I had purchased it years ago from my mother, allowing me to make upgrades to it as she was entering retirement. We had lived there since 1958 when I was in the 4th grade and Bill and Ellen would eventually purchase that homestead from me.
It was very emotional for me to walk into the room where my dad once laid in a hospital bed fighting for his life. Now, my brother laid in that same room and would be lovingly cared for by his wife during his moment of need. She and my sister did an outstanding job, ensuring he wanted for nothing during this terrible time.
I cannot say enough about the wonderful people at the hospice who provided the equipment and care for him when he needed it most. We on Marco have also seen that same level of care by the professional and caring folks from hospice that have served our residents during their trying times.
I wish I could have been there when Bill was admitted to the hospital, but that was never to be due to the restrictions caused by the terrible pandemic which has upset all segments of our lives throughout the nation and here on Marco.
Bill was blessed with a beautiful daughter, Gina. She in turn was blessed with the cutest little boy, Yeshua, who today is 5 years old. Bill understood what he was facing. He had no illusions as to what the future would bring and would confirm that when he told me he had accomplished a major item on his bucket list. He had taken little Yeshua to his first Red Sox game last year. Got to take him on a tour, had him touch the infield and experienced a day at the ballpark with his grandfather, one of the most dedicated Red Sox fans I have ever met.
You have got one of the best seats in the stands anyone could ask for little brother, say hello to everyone. We love you and miss you.