I Wondered Why She Wanted Me to See Her Dying Brother
Her house is not handicapped accessible for someone like me. I was bringing some groceries to my friend Dawn who has been caring for her severely disabled brother for about three years. With the uneven ground and steps going into the house, I would not be able to carry anything inside. Dawn came out to the car in her nightgown and took the bags out and placed them by the front door.
She came to the driver’s side window and asked if I wanted to come in to see him. I told her I would do whatever she wanted. I didn’t see any reason why I should hike on uneven ground to see someone I didn’t have a relationship with who may not even know I was there. She said it would be easier for me to go in the back door since it went directly into his room. She clearly wanted me to go.
Dawn helped me get out of the car and hike down the steep hill to the door under the deck. It was easy enough to walk once we were inside. My focus was to be supportive of what Dawn was doing. I had no real need to see her brother who was just hanging on. I knew all about his condition including his recent bout with a severe seizure and hospitalization for pneumonia. I had seen photos of him on Facebook on his birthday and such so I knew about the clenched hands, vacant stare and extreme weight loss. When I saw him in his hospital bed in Dawn’s basement, there were no surprises.
She showed me the pile of drugs. She adjusted the tv at the foot of the bed that was playing music videos of Eric Clapton.
Dawn’s brother’s health started to mysteriously decline in his late 40’s. It seemed he was having a lot of little strokes which left him with brain damage. After a coupe of years in a nursing home, Dawn’s family decided he would get better care at home so he was moved in with Dawn. He continued to lose function. He couldn’t walk, toilet or feed himself.
His cognitive functions diminished as he lost the ability to speak clearly. He was no longer the guy we remembered.
His pneumonia was successfully treated and he was released from the hospital. They pressured Dawn to put him on hospice care before he left the hospital, but she didn’t feel it was right yet.
The test came on the afternoon he came home to see if he would be able to eat , drink and take his seizure medication. He wasn’t. The family slowly came to the realization that it was time for hospice to come in. He would not be given any nutrition or hydration since he had signed advance directives while he was still lucid. It would be a slow death from starvation unless another medical event happened first such as a bad seizure or stroke.
Hospice delivered a load of drugs that were supposed to keep him comfortable. It was clear that things weren’t ging to turn around for him. It was at this point that I asked Dawn to text me a shopping list so I could deliver the groceries. I knew she wouldn’t ask me to do anything so I took it upon myself to go bring her food.
She texted an odd list of seemingly random items. American cheese, Taylor ham, peaches, cat food, rye bread, bleach, chicken beasts, lemonade, grated Parmesan cheese.
After I said hello to her brother, I said I should have bought her more food. Her response was that she was not really able to think. She had gone out a few days before when a friend stayed in the house, and bought cat food in cans, but had forgotten the dry food.
I didn’t really know what to say or do. Dawn was alone in her house with her dog and her dying brother. It is such a profoundly fucked up situation that I think she just wanted someone to come in and validate and witness that this was really happening to her.
Her sister has since flown in from out of state. No one knows how long it will take for him to die.
Thank you for reading.