If my brother was still alive, today would be his 49th birthday.
He was born on a snowy February morning in 1960. The labor was long and hard and his heart rate kept dropping over and over. When he was born, he was blue and his head was too small for his body. He was put into an oxygen tank and it is thought that he got too much oxygen for his too little head.
He was a beautiful baby with a full head of jet black hair. But he had issues from the very beginning. Unable to suckle, he could not breast or bottle feed. Mom fed him with an eyedropper around the clock. He cried constantly.
In those days when you left the hospital, you paid for the six weeks checkup. The nurse told mom not to bother, he wouldn’t live that long.
When he was a few weeks old, mom got baby powder in his eye. He did not blink or cry. She called the doctor, frantic. His blunt reply, “Oh, I thought you knew your baby was blind.” It was the first the 18 year old mother had heard that her baby was blind.
But those doctors never understood my brother’s will to live, or my mother’s stubbornness that he would.
One Christmas, my little cousin who lived with us became sick. Mom took him to the doctor. He had the mumps. I was about 11 and would have loved to have the mumps. I could stay home for days and do nothing. But it was my brother who go the mumps. Mumps and 16 year old boys do not go together well. Especially not 16 year old boys with cerebral palsy. Mom never left the hospital when he was there. It was if she believed if she didn’t stop watching, he wouldn’t die.
But after a week in the hospital, he came home fine. This was repeated again and again as I went through school. I could go to school in the morning and come home in the afternoon with the first friend mom could find for me to stay with, knowing I might never see my brother alive again. Death was a constant companion growing up.
But mom and dad were insistent that I have a normal life. I was a girl scout, I went caving, rock climbing, deep sea fishing, and every where I went, my brother went too. I was his eyes. He was my joy.
When I got married, leaving my brother behind was the hardest thing I ever did. I would have taken him with us if Mom had allowed it, but she would only let him come for over night visits. He was there for each child’s birth and each one was his favorite. The kids adored him.
Then one day, Mom called and said he was in the hospital. He had choked on his dinner and was on a respirator. He needed a tracheotomy. I drove to Nashville in a frantic fog (we did it so much in those days, we kept suitcases for five all packed and ready to go). He got a tracheotomy that night. We weren’t sure he would live, but he did. (For five more years.) He never got rid of the tracheotomy and a few months later, it was followed with a feeding tube. But as bad a that seems, the feeding tube was a Godsend. He gained weight. He could take meds without having to swallow them. The trache made it easier to breathe, though it also came with a bacterial infection called psuedomonas, which he never got over. He took antibiotics daily for that for the rest of his life. Soon my girls, who were very young (3 and 9), learned to take the trache out, clean it, and put it back in. They learned to clean the feeding tube and give him his meds. They learned to help with diaper changes, and drool, and even learned to “pick Bubba’s nose” their term for suctioning his trache. At our house, this was normal behavior. When at Granny’s and Pa’s we all slept in one room (all 8 of us) and we all danced around Bubba’s bed. What Bubba wanted, Bubba got.
#2 Dancing around Bubba’s bed.
So you are probably wondering what horrible disease killed my brother. None. He died from a fall out of a recliner. Broke his leg. Died three days later. Simple accident. He’d been a professional bed faller for years and never broke anything, though once in Warm Springs, GA he had given us quite a fit when he fell off the bed onto a concrete floor at a hotel.
I think God knew Mom needed a break. She’d fought and fought and fought. As a family we had agreed on no machines, no dramatic efforts, no life support. The hospital kept him comfortable, but in the end, he died at home, with mom watching over him in her arms. She never stopped keeping a watch over him. From cradle to grave, she left him only to have me, and a few times after I married with me and Hubby for a few nights at a time. I was glad she was watching him when he died. I didn’t want her to spend the rest of her life thinking it was her fault because she looked away. Because for forty-five years, mom never looked away. She kept her eyes on the gift that God had given her. She treasured it. She loved it. And in His time, God took him home.
Today, my brother runs with angels. His legs that never walked are able to jump and run. His voice that could only say “I’m good” and my name, now sings with the heavenly chorus. Today he is watched over by his earthly and heavenly fathers. Mom doesn’t have to keep constant watch these days. She doesn’t have to check to see if he’s alive when the house gets too quiet. She can sleep all night and not worry why wasn’t she woken. For you see, today angels dance around my brother’s bed.