Remembering my brother
Those of you who have been reading my entries for a while might remember my brother Toby (the other brother). Toby felt himself a misfit in this world his whole life.
Toby died in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 11. I was still in Honduras, on the mission trip.
A friend was checking phone messages for me while I was gone. She found a message to call the hospital, but when she did, they wouldn't tell her anything. She called the rector at my church, who talked to the hospital and was able to obtain the fact Toby had died. The rector contacted the priest leading the mission trip, who is also a dear friend, and she told me the news in the early morning hours last Monday, before we departed for the return trip home.
I'm glad I was surrounded by caring people when I found out.
I knew Toby's alcoholism would kill him eventually, because it didn't look like he would ever be sober for more than a brief period now and then. But I was thinking in terms of several years or so, not in months. I didn't expect it to get him this quickly.
Toby had a condition called esophageal varices. It's a complication of cirrhosis of the liver: the organ becomes so scarred that the portal vein and others that flow into it from the stomach and spleen, etc. become blocked. The distended vessels eventually start bleeding.
Toby had been admitted to the hospital a couple of days earlier, then apparently took a nose dive -- started hemorrhaging -- on that Friday evening. He was transferred to intensive care, where he died at 1:58 a.m. Saturday. Someone told me they tried to resuscitate him a couple of times.
I spent a long, hard day travelling. We left the hotel at 2 a.m. EDT, on a three-hour chartered bus from Copan to San Pedro Sula, took a plane to Tegucigalpa, then flew to Miami and Orlando, then travelled by van. I got home about 11 p.m. that night, driven the last leg by a church friend, as they wouldn't let me go home alone. I talked to the hospital, then called my other two brothers and told them the news.
I also suggested they should handle Toby's burial. I was tired and grieving and felt like they could handle something, for a change.
Anyway, they set Toby up to be cremated, then have his ashes shipped up north to be buried in a plot my parents bought when they purchased their own plots.
I went to the crematorium and said prayers over Toby's body,using prayers for the dead from the Book of Common Prayer, and also some words of baptism. (I don't think Toby had ever been baptized, as I hadn't been, either, until I came into the church as an adult.)
I don't think Toby should be just dumped in a cardboard box, then shoved into an oven, without any prayers. Again, a friend from church went with me.
The one good thing that's come out of this mess is I have experienced the love my surrogate family of friends and church members have for me. They have been there for me every step of the way. The priests at my church interrupted their busy schedules, and one came out of a sick bed to celebrate a full memorial/funeral service for Toby. They didn't know him, but they did it out of caring for me. As did other members of the church, my friends and my co-workers.
A couple of Toby's co-workers came to the service, too, and his supervisor talked about how Toby was always friendly and was patient and generous in helping train new staff.
I had attended a brief memorial held at Toby's workplace, and it was obvious they were all stunned by his death. They all liked Toby, although he was private and secretive, and didn't let anyone get close. No one even knew where he lived. His supervisor dubbed him "Secret Squirrel."
A friend of mine who had gotten to know Toby a little talked about him at the service, too, and told of a funny experience we all shared.
These remembrances all made me feel much better. Toby won't just be disposed of, as if his life had no meaning and he had no value. Even the people at the service who never met him will have some memory of him, and they know his face -- I had some photos of him blown up and displayed them in the back of the chapel for the the service.
Although Toby was a restless seeker, I don't think he ever found God before he died. I know though, he has stood before God and seen the truth, and the truth set him free. He is free of all the things that bound him, and he is healed.
Toby has a room in the Kingdom that was prepared just for him. (I chose that Gospel reading for the service. Toby may not have known the way to that Kingdom, but Christ helped him get there.) I chose the second reading from Paul's letter to the Romans: Nothing can separate Toby from the love of God.
About 15 people went with me to a local Mexican restaurant after the church service, to continue a celebration of Toby's life. He would have liked that very much.
I reminded my friends that what we were sharing was just a foretaste of that heavenly banquet of which Toby is already partaking.
Toby, I'm sorry life was so hard for you. At the core, you had a gentle and sensitive soul, and the slings and arrows of life cut such people more deeply than others.
I'm sorry I wasn't there when you died. I wish I had tried harder to stay in contact with you these last months. But I'm sure you know I love you.