May 18, 2011


It was a very short trip which contrasted with the immensity of it.  My dad roused me from sleep Tuesday morning with a phone call.  My phone is never more than a few feet away from me day or night.  He wished to go see his son one last time.  My dad's chemo treatment is a three day affair which starts Wednesday and we both knew it was unlikely my brother would still be alive after that.  My dad wrestled with postponing his chemo a second time.  But he knew that is not what my brother would want.  My brother would want our dad to have every chance at life, the chance at success that so cruelly eluded him.  So if my dad wanted to see his son alive in this world, the time was now.  So we embarked upon that familiar route to Dallas.  I think I could drive it with my eyes closed by now.

We were there only seven hours before heading back down to Houston.  What can you do in seven hours?  You can see your brother no longer lucid and barely conscious.  You can struggle to get into him even a milliliter of morphine either under his tongue or against his cheek as his jaw remained clampled shut.  You can watch him writhe in pain as you help maneuver his frail body so that the nurse can change the bandage over his bed sore.  You can try to help get him to urinate when very little of his body is functioning.  You can see everything that is death's triumph over life.  You can say good-bye while holding his twitching, cold hand.  You can watch his eyes flitter open at your voice with the briefest of expectation that he might recognize you.  You can then see that naive expectation was in vain as the spark of recognition is no longer there.  And then you can watch your dad break down over the imminent death his son.

You can then get into the car and drive away with the setting sun struggling to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other.  I have my last final exam to take today.  I could care less about it.  I have honors in the class, at least until I bomb the final.  It seems such a small, stupid and insignificant sacrifice to make in order to watch my brother die.  Maybe it's my own form of penance.  I only take it because I'm going through the motions.  That and it conveniently happens to fall on the day my dad has chemotherapy.  I get home shortly before midnight.  I say hello to my son.  He's a night owl like his mom.  At least like she used to be because she's fast asleep.  I quietly creep into our room and lean over to place a gentle kiss on her cheek.  A slow smile graces her face.  So how do I keep going?  It's moment to moment and each one is an eternal struggle.  But seeing my son, seeing my wife smile in her sleep, hell, even seeing my dog's wagging tail all allow that particular moment to exist and then pass into the next.  And I do care about getting my dad to chemo so that's what gets me out of bed, at least for today.  But what will I care enough about to get me out of bed the next day or the next month or the next year?  I just don't know....


Nancy said...

There is nothing to say but that we are praying for peace. Your family is always in our thoughts.

Kathy Spann said...

Our thoughts have been with your whole family throughout this journey. We wish quiet, pain free moments of peace. Although Josh has shown incredible bravery, I know the rest of the family has endured much and our prayers will be with them in the days ahead. Bless you all,
The Spann Family

Steve Parker, M.D. said...

I know this doesn't matter to you now, but what you're going through will make you a better doctor than most of your classmates, by light-years. Regardless of test scores.